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3.7 out of 5 stars372
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 25 March 2008
I loved this book and didn't expect any more or any less from it. I took it for what it was, which is the account of one tragic day. Beautifully written, this book should be given to all those people who on the verge of a break-up, just to make them think ... is this what I really want? It teaches couples to share your feelings with each other or else risk losing something so important... I think that's the really crucial message from this book. How many broken hearts could be avoided if we did that?? Am I being soft....?? That's Mr McEwan for you!

On one final note, I praise the author on his handling of the female point of view. Many times I have read a book and known it was written by a man... not in this case, beautifully done!
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on 17 July 2008
A very sad and sensitively written story, a young woman's innocence and naivety was to change the course of a couple's life irretrievably; when all it had needed was a little reassurance from her lover.

Edward and Florence young well educated and both virgins when they married are the protagonists of this emotional novel. It is the early sixties and they were both very much products of the era with all the inhibitions of that time. The swinging sixties had yet to arrive, had it been just a few years later this episode in their lives may have caused life to turn out very out very differently for them.
Younger readers may find it difficult to empathise with the characters as life in the C21st is rather different.

With Chesil Beach Ian McEwan has shown us once again what a talented writer he is. Hardly a novel at 166 pages but not disappointing in that to write more would certainly have spoilt the story.
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on 31 May 2009
Ian McEwan's novella opens in July 1962, and young couple Edward and Florence have recently married. Edward is a newly graduated historian, whilst Florence is a professional musician; playing the violin in a string quartet. The tragedy inherent in their relationship is summed up in the book's opening sentence: `They were young, educated, and both virgins on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible.' This tale of repression and silent anguish has already been told by the end of the first page; yet the unfolding of Edward and Florence's struggle to enact the physical side of their marriage remains utterly fascinating.
The couple's honeymoon begins in a Georgian hotel overlooking the eponymous waterfront. Everything from their drab and overcooked pre-nuptial meal, to the clumsy presence of the waiters, points to a painful and damaging experience to come; whilst the beach itself seems to represent the desolate wasteland that is to be their only attempt at coupling.
There is inevitability about this story that makes it both touching and faintly disturbing. McEwan's description of Florence's experiences reading her `wedding manual' are filled with black humour and inexpressible anguish; and it is this juxtaposition of conflicting emotions that make the writer a master of his craft.
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on 13 July 2008
Having read 'On Chesil Beach' & really enjoyed it I thought I would post a review. Before doing so I read the reviews here already & I am fascinated by the expectations & opinions of some reviewers.

I believe this is not a book about an era but about the emotional baggage that two people can bring to a situation where that baggage is no longer avoidable. Something has to give & it will either be a happy or sad ending.

In addition, as always, we reviewers seem to want to compare the authors new book to their previous ones which is unfair. Do we really want our favourite authors to stick with a formula that works or experiment with new ideas?

If this book was written by a new author I think the comparison reviewers would be saying something else.

The book is very good - end of!
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on 22 April 2008
This is the most powerful short book I have read in a long time. The slow, relentless pace is magical. How McEwan keeps the reader on the right side of sympathy and comedy - in what is a very melodramatic situation - is equally amazing. This is all down to the detail and pace. The ending is heartbreaking, though I have still not figured out how to take it. I am not sure I buy in to their enduring love, but I was totally convinced of the progress of their early love. The twists and turns of Edward's pusuit of Florence and her self-deceiving route to the slaughter were magnificently handled. I am deeply sorry to say I would have understood if he had murdered her - and still wonder if it is a cautionary tale of women's liberation. Or of men's inablitity to come to terms with it?
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on 27 March 2009
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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on 6 May 2007
Funny how this brilliant author's lesser works draw the greatest praise. "Amsterdam" won the Booker Prize but who would honestly rate it among his best? Now comes Chesil Beach and the reviewers are falling over themselves to tell us how subtle and perfect it is. Sorry, Mr McEwan, the best I can say about this book is: work in progress released too soon.

You are better than this, way better. There are passages in the book that are sublimely written. But there are others that are like rough architectural drawings by comparison. And then you spring a denouement on us that is at first banal (I do not refer to the bed scene but all that follows) then poorly executed before a throwaway wrap-up (like a summary of a Tony Parsons novel)that suggests you were bored and dinner had been called.

You haven't even taken the trouble to check your facts. Non-consummation was a ground for annulment, not divorce. The car was an Austin A35. They were known for that A. And the first Beatles recordings didn't appear until late 1962 and their Chuck Berry covers were later. The Rolling Stones didn't have a recording contract in July 62. But these are niggles. Your reviewers would all be too young to appreciate them, just as they are too young to know what it was really like in 1962. I do and so do you. And what we both know is that is that people were then as they are now. Whether they were trying to live within the confines of their culture or straining at its boundaries they made the best sense they could not the worst, unless they were deranged. Until you twist their tales to meet the plot, these people are not deranged. If you wanted them to be, you should have started sooner.

There is a story here, more poignant and more of its time, about compromise and submission and resignation, and I cannot think of anyone who could have told it better. And I wish you had.
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At the risk of being unpopular I would venture that this book didn't need to be published in hard back at a given price of £12.99. I have read, often more than once, everything written by Ian McEwan and always found something to catch my imagination and to think about long after the book was read. I have bought his books on publication, recommended his books, and felt really pleased at the coming of each new work. This time I felt a little cheated and depressed, the couple were both unlikeable and as others have pointed out, awkwardly named and unusual in their innocence even for the early 60's. It is a difficult read because I didn't really care what happened. The little spat that sealed the story was sparky and realistic but it was a brief firework in the very slow writing. Sorry! I wanted to love it and will perhaps read it again in case I have missed the particular beauty in the the phrases that other describe but for me - dare I say it - it was a case of The Emperor's New Clothes!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 July 2009
I confess at the outset to being a huge McEwan fan. He has an ability to draw you into the story - and this is no exception. Taking the reader back to the early 1960s (although it appears to be more 1950s to my eye) - set before the Summer of Love changed relationships forever. These are far more innocent times and McEwan brilliantly catches the sense of innocence and fear that must have existed in those days between lovers. It is only a novella - and is therefore irritatingly short - I would happily have stayed in the world he had created for far longer - but it is an exquisite example of this genre. It is a heart rending tale. Don't expect fast paced action - this is a slow piece but non the less beautiful for that.
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on 5 November 2013
What a strange little book. Ian McEwan has a reputation for well written books, and although this was beautifully written it did not have much substance and the actions of the characters Florence and Edward are just not believable enough. There are major problems in this couples communication, which lead to a disaster of a honeymoon, This in itself is interesting enough, but it all is just a bit too bleak and miserable for my taste. The ending only enlightens us on Edwards life and feelings and not that of Florence which leaves a rather unfinished feeling . As I said a strange and also depressing book.
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