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On Chesil Beach by [Mcewan, Ian]
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On Chesil Beach Kindle Edition

3.1 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Length: 226 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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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.

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 405 KB
  • Print Length: 226 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (June 10 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000YJ6736
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback
One might expect that in a short 166-page book, major events would occur fairly early on, before the page numbers get too high into the double digits. Well, the action finally takes place after the page numbers hit the triple digits. Prior to that, one can experience the world's most drawn-out demonstration of sexual foreplay. Frankly, while it is wonderful to delve into the personal meaning and history of every shirt button that becomes undone, or the penetration depth of each kiss, most of my first hundred pages was spent wondering, "Is something going to happen here already?".
Well, it finally does, and the results of the activity help bring the book to a faster, more interesting close, but that's due to the post-carnal chain of events finally making the lead characters address (and run from) their issues, and permits decades of time to be covered in mere sentences.
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Format: Paperback
The Majority of this book focuses on the wedding night of Florence and Edward with flashbacks to their (well, mostly his) past as well as their pre-wedding relationship. Both are virgins and rather nervous, which creates several problems. The last part of the book offers snapshots of Edward through his late 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, with only a bit of information regarding Florence. At the end, the author does provide a comment about how life can be heavily influenced by an individual NOT doing, ie, by doing nothing. I suppose maybe that was the message, but it came across rather flat and while the earlier part of the book had a fair amount of emotion, the last portion left much to be desired. It kind of just putters out.
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