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On Chesil Beach Paperback – 3 Jan 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 166 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (3 Jan 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099512793
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099512790
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (323 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 25,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ian McEwan is a critically acclaimed author of short stories and novels for adults, as well as The Daydreamer, a children's novel illustrated by Anthony Browne. His first published work, a collection of short stories, First Love, Last Rites, won the Somerset Maugham Award. His novels include The Child in Time, which won the 1987 Whitbread Novel of the Year Award, The Cement Garden, Enduring Love, Amsterdam, which won the 1998 Booker Prize, Atonement, Saturday and On Chesil Beach.

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"McEwan's brilliance as a novelist lies in his ability to isolate discrete moments in life and invest them with incredible significance"--Observer

"McEwan's style is lean and clear... every sentence feels carefully crafted, the words all perfectly in place"--Daily Mail

"A fine book, homing in with devastating precision on a kind of Englishness which McEwan understands better than any other living writer, the Englishness of deceit, evasion, repression and regret. In On Chesil Beach McEwan has combined the intensity of his narrowly focused early work with his more expansive later flowered to devastating effect"--Independent on Sunday

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The Sunday Times bestseller.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

85 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Suzie on 17 Mar 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This short book is a sensitive exploration of the consequences of thoughts not spoken and actions that are misunderstood. The fears and uncertainties at the centre of the novella might seem incomprehensible to younger readers, although deep down they may be as prevalent today as they were in the '50s and '60s.

As with all good short stories, the book is a snapshot of a few hours in the lives of its main characters, Florence and Edward. interspersed with flashbacks into their pasts, and how they met and fell in love. The writer alternates between viewpoints, so that the reader is privy to the build-up of misinterpretations that leads inexorably to the denouement. Such is Ian McEwan's skill as a writer that, despite so short an acquaintance with the young lovers, I really felt for them, and longed for something to release them from their tongue-tied misery and guide them to a happier conclusion.

McEwan is a master of the English language. His prose flows through the feelings and uncertainties of his characters, capturing every nuance of sensitivity. My only criticism is the last chapter. The book would perhaps have been stronger if the ending had been left in the air. The frenetic rush through another forty years left a feeling of breathlessness, although it did serve to underline the futility and waste that was all too avoidable - the hints and opportunities were there, but Florence and Edward were too young and naïve to realise their importance or the implications of ignoring them.

What remains after finishing the book is a sense of sadness and loss, but this is no deterrent to reading it. I loved it. Buy it and see what you think. Just don't expect a punchy story. Instead be prepared for a feast of sensitivities and emotions.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr. S. D. Halliday on 27 Mar 2009
Format: Paperback
On Chesil Beach is the first Ian McEwan book I've read. In it he describes a newly married couple's relationship and their struggle to culminate their wedding vows. McEwan maps their relationship up to their marriage: how their intimacy evolved, how they came to love each other, how personal taboos result in their inevitable repulsion.

Mostly, McEwan's prose is direct: it cuts you, sews you back up, then slices the sutures to expose the wound. Occasionally though his attempts to re-slice don't succeed - you get the sense a medical intern is fumbling with your wound and bungling the job, rather than having a doctor performing exact surgery.

I am thankful the book is short. I think it could have been shorter. McEwan, though developing the characters a bit, does not develop Flo and Ed as fully as I would have expected from a novel. If he intended to write spare prose, to be cutting, then this book could have been a lengthy short story in a collection, rather than a short novel. That said, I still enjoyed it and don't lament having read it as some reviewers did.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By DubaiReader VINE VOICE on 28 Jun 2008
Format: Hardcover
This was, thankfully, a short concise little book, though it does manage to meander in parts. It is because it had the sense to be short and sweet that I gave it 4 rather than 3 stars. (7 out of 10).

Edward and Florence are newly weds at the beginning of the 60's. Sex was still a taboo subject and sex before marriage was not yet the norm. The fears and preconceptions of the wedding night had built up to a pitch. Both parties had concerns but particularly Florence who had little more than a basic 'guide book' on the subject.
How they dealt with the situation is interspersed with gradual details of their restricted pasts to explain how such a relationship had evolved. As we get to know the characters we also progress through the evening and its denouement.

This is the era just prior to the contraceptive pill and 'free love'. I wonder if many of the book's critics were perhaps too young to grasp how huge the changes were that came about at the end of this decade.
We discussed this book at a (mixed) book group, many of whom vouched for the reality of the situation.
Living in Dubai, I would also comment that many other cultures would still be experiencing such First Nights and perhaps the book is not as dated as it might at first seem.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By M. G. Wilson on 13 Feb 2008
Format: Paperback
McEwan handles this tragic, doomed love affair beautifully: the awkwardness; the rapture; the misunderstanding; the fumbling; the devotion. Yet the final coda, telescoping 'the rest of their life' into seven pages, seems almost to be notes for a longer work that the author decided not to complete.
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful By John Self on 27 Mar 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ian McEwan has reached the status of a British John Updike or Philip Roth, where the publication of each new book is a notable event. It is an appropriate accolade for a writer who has matured from enfant terrible to elder statesman: from edgy stories of sexual irregularity and dramatic violence, to richer investigations of the social and psychological makeup of a people.

Chesil Beach in Dorset is famous to any geography student as being an example of the phenomenon of longshore drift, and drift of a sort is what McEwan's new book is about. It tells the story of Edward and Florence, and their first night of marriage in July 1962 (the year before "sexual intercourse began," as Philip Larkin told us), staying in a hotel near "Chesil Beach with its infinite shingle."

Both are virgins: Edward has first night nerves, and Florence worries that by marrying him she has brought on the physical intimacy she most fears. What McEwan does terribly well is to invigorate old staples that we thought we knew, such as Edward's reciting of political analysis to (as Alan Partridge would put it) `keep the wolf from the door,' which seems both fresh and funny.

Less successful are the pieces of the couple's past which McEwan gives us: the scenes set before they met seem particularly unnecessary, and have the air of having been spliced in later to fill the book out from story to novella. And there is a danger of imbalance, when the meticulously detailed account in the first nine-tenths of the book suddenly switches pace and rushes to a conclusion. Overall, On Chesil Beach is more Amsterdam than Atonement.
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