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85 of 90 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sensitive and sad
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...
Published on 17 Mar 2008 by Suzie

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Would have made a good short story
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...
Published on 27 Mar 2009 by Mr. S. D. Halliday


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85 of 90 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sensitive and sad, 17 Mar 2008
By 
Suzie (Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On Chesil Beach (Paperback)
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
By 
M. G. Wilson (Eastbourne) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: On Chesil Beach (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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Would have made a good short story, 27 Mar 2009
By 
Mr. S. D. Halliday "Assistant Professor of Ec... (Northampton, MA, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: On Chesil Beach (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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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shallower Waters, 27 Mar 2007
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This review is from: On Chesil Beach (Hardcover)
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.

But at its best, McEwan's great achievement, here as in Saturday, is to make the reader feel that nothing could be more important, or urgent, right now than to read about whatever his chosen subject happens to be. In this case, he makes a vital cause out of a transitional period, for two anonymous young people, for a generation, and for a country; the era when "to be young was a social encumbrance, a mark of irrelevance, a faintly embarrassing condition for which marriage was the beginning of the cure," the time when "being childlike was not yet honourable, or in fashion."
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65 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful story about love and loss, 13 Aug 2007
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: On Chesil Beach (Hardcover)
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? My reservation is not in the quality of the work, but the quantity. It is short to the point of being an extended short story - a novella. This brevity means that character development is minimal - instead, we simply have an exploration of the characters as they find themselves on that single day in 1962. Please don't let that sound like damning with faint praise - it isn't. But I suspect that it might stand between McEwan and a second Booker Prize.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A glimpse of a bygone age, 18 Jan 2013
This review is from: On Chesil Beach (Kindle Edition)
I adored this book. I read it maybe five years ago so I can't write about it in any detail other than to say it was wonderful - a glimpse of a bygone age, with beautiful characterisation which shows the effect of innocence and repression not so far removed from my youth that I can't identify with the agonies this couple shared. A measured, deep, intense love story that was very moving.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My First, 13 Jan 2013
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This review is from: On Chesil Beach (Paperback)
This is the first book I read by this author and I loved it, It is a reminder that you must always discuss all issues with your loved one, if they really are your loved one, discuss your expectations , fears, loves or risk losing them and facing the consequences of losing that one real love
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Zzzzzzzz.............., 7 Sep 2012
This review is from: On Chesil Beach (Paperback)
Ian McEwan, born in 1948, is an English novelist and a devout atheist. He has a big reputation, and counts the Booker Prize - won for "Amsterdam" in 1998 - amongst his awards. "On Chesil Beach" was shortlisted for the 2007 Booker but, despite being the raging hot favourite, lost out to "The Gathering" by Anne Enright.

The book opens in July 1962, on the evening of Edward Mayhew and Florence Ponting's wedding. Having married that afternoon in Oxford - and, obviously, not wanting to hang about - they've travelled down the Dorset coast to begin their honeymoon. Sitting having dinner, they're both very nervous about their first night together. (Being 1962, they're still virgins). Although Edward's largely looking forward to it, he's nervous about being a little premature. Florence, on the other hand, is absolutely dreading it - although she does love Edward, the thought of having sex leaves her panic-stricken and feeling sick. As their wedding night moves forward, and with disaster apparently looming, their separate lives and the history of their relationship is told in flashback.

Short, with some nice passages - but some of the fawning reviews I've read are a bigger work of fiction that the book itself. It's full of wasted opportunities - I couldn't help thinking McEwan had simply focused on the wrong section of his characters' lives. Edward's mother, Florence's relationship with her father, their lives after the wedding day - there was so much that, properly developed, could have improved the book no end. Florence and Edward themselves were very poorly developed, and were little more than cliches at times. In spite of what the blurb claims, it's not wonderful, exquisite or devastating : it's a very ordinary book, is well short of amazing and it left me with the impression that McEwan was just going through the motions. 2007 must've been a thin year if this got nominated for the Booker.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great beginning, garbled ending, 23 July 2010
This review is from: On Chesil Beach (Paperback)
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story of Florence and Edwards' childhoods and courtship. I grew to like both characters, but could not identify them with the robots in that hotel room on their honeymoon night.
I'm happy/ fascinated to read about sex if it's well written and in context but I found that I actually turned away from the book a couple of times when it got really graphic as it just felt uncomfortable and voyeuristic, like walking in on your two close friends naked or something. It felt totally out of keeping with the restrained tone elsewhere.
I felt the tension rise as the action finally led on to the beach, but the subsequent chapter was so rushed and garbled that it made a mockery of all that had gone before, summing up an entire life in a few pages.
The timeline at this point ceased to make sense, and at one point it seemed that the author was telling us about a business being ruined by internet shopping in 1983.
This, along with the disappointing length of the book (ie it's basically a short story) made me feel fairly unsatisfied by the end, despite my earlier interest in the two well drawn characters.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My first Ian McEwan, 5 May 2008
By 
Jeni (Buckinghamshire, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: On Chesil Beach (Paperback)
What an interesting read! As many of the reviews have said before, McEwan has handled this sensitive situation with a fantastic amount of understanding from both parties of the main characters points of view. A beautiful piece of writing but also an opportunity to relate this to our lives.
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On Chesil Beach
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (Paperback - 3 Jan 2008)
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