On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan

on-chesil-beach1

READ FOR BOOKERTHON

In this novella a newly married couple reflect on their pasts and as a result question their marriage while honeymooning on Chesil Beach.

“The opening line of On Chesil Beach sums up the rest of the content: ‘They were young, educated, and both virgins on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible.’

“It is 1962, the cusp of the sexual revolution, and two very English characters are contemplating the role of sex in their newly declared marriage. There are many factors that contribute to their differing views, not contained to the time and place, but also societal class systems and other goings on in their familial histories.

“The real-life Chesil Beach in Dorset, on the south-west coast of England, is alive and relevant to the storyline. The beach is one of the few shingle beaches in the UK. Its view of the ocean and rocky composition represent both openness but also difficulty/slippery footing associated with reaching that openness.”

A sudden space began to open out, not only between Edward and his mother, but also between himself and his immediate circumstances, and he felt his own being, the buried core of it he had never attended to before, come to sudden, hard-edged existence, a glowing pinpoint that he wanted no-one else to know about.

“While I am an Ian McEwan fan of the highest order, On Chesil Beach left me wanting. There was his usual mastery of prose but somehow it seemed too easy. I’m being critical, obviously, because even a bad Ian McEwen book would be better than most texts on the bookshop shelves!, but I guess being the huge fan that I am means I am being extra tough on him. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a great read, I just didn’t feel overwhelmed with fervour and emotion as I have with his other masterpieces. Edit: Now years later, I look back on this book with fondness and admiration. Without a re-read. I’m not sure what changed but it’s funny how hindsight and time to reflect can change one’s opinions.” – Rachel

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Published 2007
Jonathan Cape
166 pages

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