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5.0 out of 5 stars Qualified Failure
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...
Published on June 10 2007 by Ian Gordon Malcomson

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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Talented Wordcrafter Describes an Improbable Honeymoon
If you are easily seduced by beautiful sentences, you'll feel On Chesil Beach is a five-star book. If you love exploring inner dialogue, you'll be even more pleased with this book.

If, however, you like your stories to be compelling because of their relevance and interest to your own life, you'll wonder why in the world Mr. McEwan chose to write about this...
Published on July 6 2007 by Donald Mitchell


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5.0 out of 5 stars Qualified Failure, June 10 2007
By 
Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On Chesil Beach (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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "They were prisoners of their time", June 21 2007
By 
Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On Chesil Beach (Hardcover)
The media reviews which have typified this book as symbolic of the "sexual revolution" of the 1960s are shortchanging McEwan's abilities as an observer and writer. He has managed to compress the life stories of two people within a meagre framework. The economy of his prose is only matched by his skill in conveying how two people develop into adults. That adulthood sits uncomfortably on both. Young, inexperienced and hestitant, McEwan's characters stand out as living refutations of 1960s stereotypes. As a testimonial to excellent writing, this book is without peer.

McEwan uses the setting of two people on their wedding night to weave an account of the post-war era. The pair were born at WWII's conclusion, but came to maturity in turbulent times. On the one hand, the long-standing British Empire was coming apart at the seams. India had already departed and African and Caribbean nations were struggling to follow suit. It was a time of seemingly great instability. On the other hand, it was also the age of John F. Kennedy. Kennedy seemed to offer fresh promise and the British people developed an ambition to follow that path. That attitude of hope was imbued in both Edward and Florence. Both, from vastly different backgrounds, groped through their young lives for means to depart from the norms they experienced as children. They have little tie to the "old values", but have only the vaguest notion of what new ones they should adopt. Britain, long in thrall of a class system, might cast off the shackles of conformity. Edward and Florence aren't truly aware of this shift in society, are inexperienced and fumbling in their sense of experiment. Both are aware of what they think they want from life, but neither is truly cognisant of the other's aims. Indeed, the two are so caught up in a vision of their future lives that they fail to comprehend each other. It's a scene set for tragedy.

The tragedy occurs, of course. Regrettably, it occurs over one of the most fundamental aspects of life - especially married life. Neither understands the adjustments two people living together must make. Florence has never had a person to share intimacies with, and she feels wholly alone until this night. Edward has been swept along by the male bombast about real or imagined associations with girls. Lacking the forceful personality that might have allowed him to use his looks as a weapon for conquest, he's remained alone, limited to what boys do who cannot bring themselves to chance romantic adventures. He's come to the conclusion that marriage will lead automatically to connubial bliss. He's not the first to suffer such disappointment, but with Florence, the flawed outlook turns into a catastrophe.

This is not a book to take lightly. Its brevity can be deceiving. The attentive reader, however, will discern McEwan possesses a singular ability to build characters. "No man [or woman] is an island" the saying goes. McEwan, however, knows how individuals can build their own worlds until circumstances force a more global outlook. If they aren't prepared to enter that wider environment or lack someone who can ease them into it, the result can be a quick withdrawal. It's like the story of the reseacher dropping a fly into the centre of a spider's web. The spider simply flees. Florence, who has woven a web of insecurity around herself, also takes flight. Can Edward bring her back from her escape? [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Suspenseful, Engaging, and Thought Provoking, Oct. 22 2013
By 
Troy Parfitt "Why China Will Never Rule the W... (Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On Chesil Beach (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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a difference a decade makes, Nov. 21 2007
By 
Linda Bulger (United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On Chesil Beach (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.

As a character study and an exquisitely disciplined exercise, ON CHESIL BEACH comes through beautifully and is a strong contender for another Booker Prize for McEwan. Yes, there are questions unanswered, but you have to suppose that was McEwan's intent all along. This is a book to be remembered and mused over for a long time.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Talented Wordcrafter Describes an Improbable Honeymoon, July 6 2007
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(#1 HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: On Chesil Beach (Hardcover)
If you are easily seduced by beautiful sentences, you'll feel On Chesil Beach is a five-star book. If you love exploring inner dialogue, you'll be even more pleased with this book.

If, however, you like your stories to be compelling because of their relevance and interest to your own life, you'll wonder why in the world Mr. McEwan chose to write about this particular problem of poor communications in the context of 1962. As you delve deeper into the book, you'll be even more puzzled by the book's pivotal event and the characters' reactions to it.

The short book (neither novella nor full novel) is organized in five parts that seem much like the acts in a Greek tragedy. The opening scene shows a couple dining in their room at an inn. "They were young, educated, and both virgins on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when a conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible." The second act describes how they met. The third act takes place in their bedroom in the inn. The fourth act describes their courtship. The fifth act takes place on the beach and in their lives afterward as they attempt and fail to communicate.

Mr. McEwan does a good job of capturing your attention through exploring the couple's growing tension as they move toward the consummation of their marriage. But past that point, the story seemed like a punctured balloon to me: My interest was gone. I suspect that reaction is because I didn't feel close to either character; they are more there to entertain me than to lead me into experiencing the story like the characters do.

Clearly, the story would have worked much better for me if focused around a more universal trial in marriage, such as handling both sets of parents during the birth of a first child. I also thought that Mr. McEwen played the role of the Greek chorus too often . . . telling us what was going on rather than letting us see and hear the action. The fourth part seems clearly out of place; it should have preceded the third part.

Unless you are drawn to beautiful sentences and images, I suggest you skip this book . . . it's a misdirected storytelling foray by a talented writer that is eminently avoidable.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bad "romantic" fiction...as if first night jitters the first in history..., Aug. 17 2007
By 
Daphne du Martine (Nova Scotia, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: On Chesil Beach (Hardcover)
Short-listed for Booker? Must be for author's reputation. A sloppy dull account of apparently the first night ever invented in history of a jittery couple, that reads like very bad English romantic fiction. The detailing of being so much in love (truly or for show) then being disappointed, is antithetical by the end of act 2 scene, especially when there is no whisper of concern prior except for lack of knowledge. The one authentic lovely scene on the beach does not redeem this surprisingly annoying read, and that scene's aftermath is written as if he had to stick to a deadline and word count. (For comparison/beauty, read a smilar account/first night scene, early in The Falls, by Joyce Carol Oates: it's superlative.) Also, a substantive editing error in reference to Internet commerce time frame.
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4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., May 30 2011
By 
Reader Writer Runner (Victoria, BC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On Chesil Beach (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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5.0 out of 5 stars glows with authenticity, July 31 2010
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This review is from: On Chesil Beach (Paperback)
This novel took me by storm. Not so much as I was reading it, but afterwards. "Chesil Beach" is a unique gem among many shiny stones. It glows with authenticity. It's about youth, innocence, coming of age, lack of communication and understanding, immaturity, and the life long impacts of some flawed decisions we make and actions we take when we are very young. Many books and movies deal with "coming of age" issues, but none have touched me like "On Chesil Beach". I lived and breathed this novel, and I suffered (for myself and for the characters in the book) long after the reading was done. From a perspective of 40 years hence, we are inspired to evaluate and reach some kind of understanding as to what we had (or might have had), what we lost, and why. This novel is a validation for the Enchantment and vulnerability of first loves, the kind where the heartache and longing are born forward in the quiet hours incognizant of the passage of time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars As worthwhile as it gets, March 28 2010
By 
Andrew Delong - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On Chesil Beach (Paperback)
Wonderful story, excellent writing, perfect ending. The subtle misunderstandings among people, especially friends -- the plausibility and complexity of it all -- is what made this story so great for me, and so sad to reflect on.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Very indifferent, Aug. 28 2009
By 
MD (Toronto, ON) - See all my reviews
This review is from: On Chesil Beach (Paperback)
My feelings about this book are of great indifference. I neither loved it nor hated it. There are aspects that just didn't do it for me - it is a dark story, and seemed to drag out quite a bit considering the length (only 166 pages), and the time period (most of the events take place over the course of only a few hours).

But there are also aspects I enjoyed - it is a romantic story about coming of age, falling in love, and of a first sexual experience. It is beautifully told, and reads like a classic. McEwan manages to really develop the characters, despite such a short story, and I felt that I well understood the predicament that each was in.

It didn't "wow" me, but I enjoyed it all the same.
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On Chesil Beach
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (Paperback - April 8 2008)
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