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On Chesil Beach [Paperback]

Ian McEwan
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (299 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

3 Jan 2008

It is July 1962. Edward and Florence, young innocents married that morning, arrive at a hotel on the Dorset coast. At dinner in their rooms they struggle to suppress their private fears of the wedding night to come...

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Product details

  • Paperback: 166 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (3 Jan 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099512793
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099512790
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (299 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 50,933 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
84 of 89 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sensitive and sad 17 Mar 2008
By Suzie
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 nave 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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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tragic, doomed 13 Feb 2008
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Shallower Waters 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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66 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful story about love and loss 13 Aug 2007
By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Having failed to connect with Ian McEwan's Saturday, I was in two minds about whether to bother with On Chesil Beach. All I can say is, I'm glad I did.

On Chesil Beach is a beautiful story about love and loss. I thought there was nothing new I could read about sex, but On Chesil Beach focuses on a 1962 pair of newlyweds, approaching their first night together with a mixture of fear and expectation. We learn that the couple barely know one another, and that marriage represents the traditional (but long forgotten) voyage of discovery for them. The couple are slightly anachronistic, perhaps, even in 1962; they know it. But their ignorance has a genuine charm and beauty to it.

Although both Edward and Florence had been to university in London, their backgrounds were different. Edward is from a humble background. He has never even slept in a hotel before and during the year of courtship, he has grown in experience and expectation. Florence is from a wealthy and intelligent home, but her family has embraced Edward with enthusiasm. Their marriage represents a time of great hope and joy.

And to add to the hope and joy, McEwan's language just drips from the page. There is barely a word out of place. He manages to combine effortless poetry with perfect lucidity. He controls the couple's emotions with delicate skill.

The novella as a whole is hard to fault. Being harsh, there is a moment of wavering and vacillation towards the end of Part 4 and start of Part 5 that sits a little awkwardly with the crystal clarity of the rest of the work, but ultimately it is a necessary price for the ultimate conclusion. And when that conclusion comes, it is so intense, so exquisite that it brings tears.

Can this win the Booker?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A reasonable book
Fairly good - very 'fifties' book - took me back - but to before my teens when things were pretty restrictive - and I think I preferred it. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars A nice gentle read
I had heard about this book from 2 different sources & decided to buy and read it. I had heard of Ian McEwan but did not know his work. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Kathrine davies
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving and beautifully written
On Chesil Beach tells the story of a young, newly married couple on their wedding night. Although it's a short story, McEwan beautifully captures their relationship, how they... Read more
Published 1 month ago by alice07
3.0 out of 5 stars Classic McEwan
If you are a fan of Ian McEwan's style and like a tragic love story then you'll like this. An McEwan classic.
Published 2 months ago by Ms. Rebecca Ryan
4.0 out of 5 stars It had only just begun!
So sad all that love all those thoughts, so much to misunderstand. If only they'd talked. lovely insights. Created a warm glow for a short while
Published 2 months ago by laraandgirls
4.0 out of 5 stars Bleak yet fascinating
Ian McEwan's style of writing is beautiful. He says so much by saying so little and really allows you to think about the characters in great detail. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Sophie
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful bad sex scene
It would be hard to deny that On Chesil Beach has various flaws. For one thing the two main characters, Edward and Florence, have some serious plausability issues. Read more
Published 3 months ago by James Abbott
5.0 out of 5 stars On chesil beach
in it's own time warp but powerful read - could not put it down- we are fortunate to have this author
Published 4 months ago by Judith Dibble
3.0 out of 5 stars ...she was a blurred needling point against the immense straight road...
It is the very early sixties, after a loving and happy, though not physical, courtship Florence and Edward have married and come on their honeymoon direct from the wedding to... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Eileen Shaw
5.0 out of 5 stars Full of really good words, in a very pleasing order.
Not long, but beautifully written and such a good evocation of the attitudes of a previous generation. Very moving book.
Published 4 months ago by Simon J. Bennett
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