On Chesil Beach By Ian McEwan
I think there are more words in the many reviews written about On Chesil Beach than there are words in this beautiful little book - more a novella than a novel. A perfect little gem in appearance and content - delicious to read. I picked up On Chesil Beach and was immediately drawn into the compelling story of Edward and Florence. The story is about two young innocents in 1961, Edward and Florence, as they approach their wedding night - one with intense dread - the other with intense desire. This is a time just prior to the "sexual revolution" - not only do Edward and Florence know next to nothing about sex they are far from revolutionary in their outlook and upbringing. While the reader witnesses the wedding night, the past is also revealed, as we learn of the childhood and school years of both Edward and Florence. The writing is taut with the tension created between - and within - these two characters. This is the sort of novel where the reader is easily convinced that these are real people. We feel such compassion for each of them. They simply do not know how to be intimate.
The writing is embarrassingly descriptive at times - but never vulgar.
In each of his many novels Ian McEwan creates, with words, characters we come to see as real people - this is the magic of storytelling. We know that the characters are not real, but for the duration of this novel and in our memories afterward they are. And it is in the memory of the reader that this novel truly works. I read it several weeks ago now - when I finished I thought "oh, how sad, if only they could have talked to each other about how they truly felt!" All of the many reviews have been unanimous in praise, and it has stayed in my memory to be thought about and savoured.
There is absolutely no doubt that Ian McEwan is a beautifully skilled and talented writer. Atonement written in 2001 was one of the most popular literary novels published that year and I continue to recommend it to readers who may have missed it. It is the story of a family, spanning the years of the First and Second World Wars, the consequences of a young girl's accusation - her reaction to what she saw - and misunderstood - and the effect of her actions on all of those concerned. It is a book that, without exception, is a favorite of those who have read it. Followed by Saturday an altogether different sort of story - contemporary, set in London, England - a day in the life of a neurosurgeon - a day on which he goes about his work, his errands as he prepares a meal for his wife and his adult children - a day in which he visits his elderly mother who is disappearing into an increasingly lost world of Alzheimer's Disease - to a stunning and dramatic ending.
Each of Ian McEwan's books are unique in their content and perspective - he is not a writer who repeats himself - his novels are very much individual works, a new pleasure for the reader with each book written.