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On Chesil Beach Paperback – 3 Jan 2008

3.7 out of 5 stars 373 customer reviews

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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: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (373 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"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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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's true what they say, beautiful things do come in small packages. 'On Chesil Beach' is an exquisite little work of art of many layers. Unlike other readers, I am perfectly content with its size (easier to force on my students, they invariably grumble at the sight of large books!) Yes, the final pages do go on for a bit and seem disjointed from the rest (and scope) of the story, until the very, very end when we finally get it - and realize that every addition which seemed superfluous was in fact necessary. Although it's a heart-breaker, I will happily read it again and again.

'On Chesil Beach' does a fantastic job at transcending its time, at making a point which remains just as valid years and years later. Once we finish reading and start thinking, we realize this obviously is a sad story about lack of communication, NOT lack of sexual experience or lack of love as such. The 1960s setting, the virgin newlyweds and their tale, are here to subtly and masterfully develop an altogether different, much grander theme: the way we seem to avoid at all cost telling the truth about our own feelings, and the repercussions of such avoidance. Nothing to do with the 1960s; today we can all still relate to this, we're all still doing it in 2015 and we will be doing the same probably for generations to come - because we've been brought up in the 'stiff upper lip' tradition, or because we're afraid we'll to look foolish, or hurt the other person; or because we simply don't know how to communicate effectively. That's why, for me, 'On Chesil Beach' packs such a complex punch. It shows how easy it is to misunderstand and mis-communicate, even in the most loving of relationships (thus, by extension, it also questions the definition of love...
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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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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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