On Chesil Beach

This was my first Ian McEwan book. I had originally wanted to start with Saturday, but this book was underhand and it had the advantage of being short, which suited me just fine since I wanted to catch up on my book count. Did I mention that my goal this year is 50+2 books, or 15,600 pages? I figured since I made it to 50 last year, I could probably cram in a couple more. It’s not a race, it’s just that with so many great books to read, I’d like to cover some ground.

I had no expectations at all when I started reading this book and was at first charmed by how beautifully McEwan writes. I knew the topic of the book involved a young couple, Florence and Edward, on their wedding night in the early 60’s, both at grips with their unspoken anxieties in regard to the consummation of their marriage. One thing I found interesting was how McEwan continually pointed out how different mentalities were before the sexual revolution—things we might easily forget nowadays when seemingly “anything goes”.

Also interesting to me were Florence’s thought about intimate physical acts such as kissing or groping which were described in great detail, almost clinically, rendering any mention of sex completely devoid of sensuality and making it sound grotesque even. I thought McEwan’s delving into the territory of carnal needs and fears illustrated perfectly what a great chasm there was between the two newlyweds before they had even tied the knot.

I found the ending disappointing. It was all too fast and there was too much information and I found myself wishing we hadn’t been told about any happenings at all beyond that wedding night. I felt it would have been better to leave it up to the reader’s imagination to decide what course their lives might have taken on after that night, but then of course, that would’t have been enough material even for a novella. Overall, I gave it three and a half stars—it was ok and I liked it in parts, but it definitely wasn’t one of my favourite books so far this year. Still, I’m happy I was able to start discovering Ian McEwan’s writing and I look forward now more than ever to reading Saturday, as I wanted to do all along.


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