Apparently taken to its limits by modernist writers such as Joyce, Woolf or Beckett, the novel undergoes a renaissance by the turn of the twenty-first century as it starts to address issues of paramount importance for the contemporary world. The exploration of identity, national and individual, becomes a central concern of contemporary British and American fiction. By means of a temporally multi-layered narrative, Ian McEwan explores the process of identity making in the contemporary society. Focusing on various, sometimes unconnected, personal histories, Ian McEwan tries to make sense of mankind's history and sees identity as indissolubly linked to the past. McEwan's main point is that only by a lucid understanding of the past can one imagine one's present identity and properly delimit one's liveable future.