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On Chesil Beach Hardcover – Apr 3 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Canada; 1st edition (April 3 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0676978819
  • ISBN-13: 978-0676978810
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 2.1 x 20.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #362,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

As powerful as it is slender, Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach--a gripping rumination on what the pact of marriage really means--is proof that even in this electronic age, few things are as captivating as a good story that's told well.

Laid across five slight chapters, On Chesil Beach begins in the honeymoon suite of Florence and Edward as they hover at the edge of the first-time intimacy that will corroborate, legally and spiritually, the vows they have already exchanged.

But simple sex is not so simple--unknown to Edward, who is delirious with lust, his bride harbors absolute revulsion for the act. Naturally, this is not news to Florence, who nevertheless pledged, before family and community, "With my body I thee worship! That's what you promised today," Edward reminds her at the book's paralyzing climax. "In front of everybody. Don't you realize how disgusting and ridiculous your idea is? And what an insult it is?"

Yet that idea--Florence's preconceived response to the inevitable mess she finds herself in on her wedding night--forms the tale's central question: when we wed, how much of ourselves are we obliged to reveal to our prospective mates?

If that sounds straightforward enough, you can bet a master novelist like McEwan spins it off in a million complex directions, tapping every available emotion. The plight of Florence and Edward resonates deeply long after readers have zoomed through the book's scant 166 pages.

Ironically, part of what makes the book so powerful is McEwan's delicate touch. As he tiptoes through Florence and Edward's respective back stories, we forget he's there, instead focusing on the almost palpable scenes he lays before us. This is storytelling at its most dynamic--vivid, persuasive and completely fluid. Though rendered in figurative watercolors, On Chesil Beach is a tiny, perfect masterpiece as lasting as a canvas infused with oils. --Kim Hughes

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Not quite novel or novella, McEwan's masterful 13th work of fiction most resembles a five-part classical drama rendered in prose. It opens on the anxious Dorset Coast wedding suite dinner of Edward Mayhew and the former Florence Ponting, married in the summer of 1963 at 23 and 22 respectively; the looming dramatic crisis is the marriage's impending consummation, or lack of it. Edward is a rough-hewn but sweet student of history, son of an Oxfordshire primary school headmaster and a mother who was brain damaged in an accident when Edward was five. Florence, daughter of a businessman and (a rarity then) a female Oxford philosophy professor, is intense but warm and has founded a string quartet. Their fears about sex and their inability to discuss them form the story's center. At the book's midpoint, McEwan (Atonement, etc.) goes into forensic detail about their naïve and disastrous efforts on the marriage bed, and the final chapter presents the couple's explosive postcoital confrontation on Chesil Beach. Staying very close to this marital trauma and the circumstances surrounding it (particularly class), McEwan's flawless omniscient narration has a curious (and not unpleasantly condescending) fable-like quality, as if an older self were simultaneously disavowing and affirming a younger. The story itself isn't arresting, but the narrator's journey through it is. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Linda Bulger on Nov. 21 2007
Format: Hardcover
Was anyone ever as naive and blundering as Florence and Edward? These two young people in their early twenties demonstrate a depth of ignorance that dooms their wedding night. Ian McEwan's novella ON CHESIL BEACH covers the few hours in 1962 during which Florence and Edward eat a mediocre wedding dinner in a hotel suite, move to the bedroom where they botch the whole thing badly, and fail to say the one thing, offer the one reconciliaton that could have saved them.

The overriding gift of this little book is McEwan's beautiful writing, which truly takes center stage. The plot is closely contained within Florence and Edward's relationship and the events of their wedding night, and there is barely enough supporting documentation to justify his clumsiness and her terror.

The point is universally made by reviewers that all this was before the Sexual Revolution of the sixties and early seventies. It hardly seems enough to explain the complete lack of communication between these two, and especially Florence's fear of sex. McEwan throws out a few clues about the relationship between Florence and her father but chooses not to develop them, and it's a noticeable choice in such a short book.

Another choice McEwan made was to define the story so closely. ON CHESIL BEACH is unusual in this regard: it's a book that could have been longer. After the fine dissection of the wedding night, the last section pelts through several decades, as if the only thing about these two worth discussing was over and done with. The harsh last minutes of the wedding night, on the beach, might have been a fulcrum point for a longer story. That was not McEwans' choice, however.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Troy Parfitt on Oct. 22 2013
Format: Paperback
It’s pre-Sexual Revolution England, the early 1960s, and Florence and Edward are in a hotel room in southern England about to consummate their marriage. He seems keen, she not so much. The author uses a series of flashbacks to show what came before this fateful night, and he does so with sparse, crisp prose and by realistically setting his fiction against the climate and history of the time. It’s hard, really, to say any more about the novel without including a spoiler, so I’ll just say that I enjoyed and recommend it. This was my first Ian McEwan novel. I picked it up without knowing anything about it except that it was one of his more recent efforts. I will try to read more of McEwan’s work in the future. He’s a very good writer and yarn spinner.

Troy Parfitt is the author of Why China Will Never Rule the World
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By Reader Writer Runner TOP 50 REVIEWER on May 30 2011
Format: Paperback
I currently count Ian McEwan among my favourite novelists so I was excited to read his latest work, On Chesil Beach. Above all, this book highlights McEwan's genius at manipulating language; the sentences flow seamlessly and vividly capture the points of view of both protagonists. The short novel does lack in plot development but it's not meant to be an action-packed book. McEwan describes a couple on their wedding night. The pair were born at WWII's conclusion and grew up during the decline of the British Empire. Florence and Edward come from different backgrounds but both are trying to depart from the norms they experienced as children. Both know what they think they want from life, but neither can truly understand the other's aims. This lack of understanding becomes clear as each character muses on the consummation of marriage. Florence has never had a person to share intimacies with; she feels wholly alone but disgusted at the thought of what is to come. Edward, however, has come to the conclusion that marriage leads automatically to connubial bliss. I enjoyed this book a lot; it emphasizes the need for open communication but also cherishes solitary pursuits and dreams. I wouldn't recommend the novel as a first exposure to McEwan but if you're already a fan, it won't disappoint. Besides, how bad can 166 pages be?
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By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on June 10 2007
Format: Hardcover
In this novel, McEwan creates a story that deals with the intricacies of human emotions in the protracted process of becoming married. There is nothing pleasant or exciting to look forward to in this tale. As the narrative unfolds, McEwan examines a very deep and troubling side to marital experience as it moves from the first flirtations to the numerous assignations leading up, to the wedding ceremony and ending in the failure to consummate the marriage. As the main characters, cast as virtual `babes in the wood', both Florence and Edward enter such a life-changing relationship as actors merely playing to somebody else's script. They know very little about each other's lack of capacity to truly love and cherish each other. Living in a stuffed-shirt environment where people are encouraged to conform to society's expectations for success, they are doomed. It will take an ultimate moment of reckoning to expose that reality. Being the master of plot that he is, McEwan chooses the backdrop of wedding night bliss as the critical moment for revealing that tragic, yet strangely liberating, flaw. Florence and Edward, as solitary characters, were never meant for each other. McEwan is perhaps saying that such a revelation bears witness to how little we really know about ourselves outside our little worlds. The book is worth the read simply because of its endearing story, great character description and polished prose.
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