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on 10 March 2015
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...) and how easy it is to fall into this trap even if you're otherwise very good with words, ie highly educated like the characters are. So the meanings we can extract from this book go way beyond the confines of its 1960s context and the story itself.

I won't even bother with praise for the superb structure, writing, psychological observation. Ian McEwan at his best.
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on 29 April 2015
This carefully constructed novel told from the alternating viewpoints of the only two protagonists almost, almost catches the feel of the times. It would not have worked unless, as is the case, the female protagonist were not something of a type, a highly musical but otherwise limited young woman. I knew examples of the type way back in the era he describes, when the problem pages of young women's magazines regularly dealt with the question of whether it was okay to kiss a young man at the end of a first date, and if not on the first then when?, though those who wrote such enquiries were a dying breed even then. But if I hadn't known such types — even as late as the 70s one engaged couple I knew managed to live together, in separate bedrooms, in complete and undoubted chastity for a year before their marriage — I might have struggled to believe in their existence. But once having accepted the plausibility of the idea it is easy to believe the inner workings of the characters in the rich depth n which McEwan writes of them. This is the great strength and satisfaction of the book.
Where the book is less richly engaging is in the tiny wrong details of the time it is set in. For example, no young man sliding his hand up the leg f his
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on 8 February 2018
I have to agree that the writing is beautiful and the author eloquent, but what a dull read!
It's far longer than it needs to be and i regret wasting my valuable time reading it when there are so many other books waiting for me.

80% of the book is about 1 day (with chapters of reminiscing interspersed) and then the last part if the book races through about 40 years or more.

I wouldn't 'recommend it to anyone unless they are really struggling to fill their time.
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on 30 April 2013
It is 1962, and for Edward and Florence it is the eve of their wedding night. Sitting at dinner together at their hotel in Dorset, however, they both struggle silently with their inner anxieties, unable to express their feelings to each other, afraid of the expectations ahead of them. As the evening moves on tensions continue to rise, threatening to tear husband and wife apart before their marriage has even begun.

This is a well observed and beautifully drawn story, with its multi-layered yet minimalist style and elegant prose. McEwan writes with thoughtful and sensitive insight, exploring the psychology of the central characters, drawing on their backgrounds and early experiences in the shaping of their makeup. The social landscape of the early 60s is well conveyed, but although the social constraints of the time undoubtedly play a part in the struggles the couple face, the story's main themes are relevant to today's society too. It is a story that highlights the dangers of repressed emotions and poor communication, of how events and actions misinterpreted as well as pride can have devastating consequences.

This is a touching story, but rather sad, its ending carrying too much of a sense of unfulfillment and disappointment for me personally. Also McEwan hints at certain darker undertones with regards to FLorence's upbringing, but this is never actually clarified. The length and pace of the story were also a little unsatisfying; it was too short for a novel, the ending in particular feeling rushed, yet other parts appeared quite stretched out in places.

Overall an interesting and unusual read; yet not quite as engaging as i had hoped it to be.
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on 1 March 2015
Edward, the male protagonist, was 'born' in 1940.
So was I and the world of the fifties McEwan describes is spot-on. This is important because it gives the story a sound and real basis. The first and last chapters are in fact the best, as well as those sections that tell of the heroes' formative years. The story has a whole coheres.
But three aspects spoil it.
Firstly, I could not believe in Edward. His love of violence and his bad temper fitted ill with what else we know about him.
Second, Edward's and Florence's inability/reluctance/refusal to talk about sex and their fears and insecurities about it come across as a mere narrative device.
Third, admirable though McEwan's step by step description of what happened physically and cognitively on the honeymoon evening is a third too long. Its impact is diluted. We are told more than we need to know.
On the other hand the book's essential sadness is touching and it even has a message - talk about what matters to you!
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on 9 September 2015
You can't help but admire the artistry in the writing, the intricacy and attention to detail. The beautiful prose. But, I'm minded that while looking over a beautiful manicured lawn and respecting the skill and effort involved in creating it, you are still watching grass grow. This book is just dull. As exciting as... well, you've got the idea. It just does not captivate. Clever writing does not a good read make.

The only time the book picks up pace and you start to feel for the characters is in the final 5 or 6 pages which acts as a sort of epilogue to the main story.
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on 2 December 2012
Despite being beautifully delicate and moving in its language and character portrayal, I finished a second reading still with a mild sense of disappointment. This centred on the character of Florence: I wanted to know more about her, about why she felt the way she did. There was just a hint of a suggestion that she had been abused by her father, which, of course, would explain her abhorrence of any sexual contact, but it was so faint that I wondered if I had brought this (pretty obvious) thought to the story myself. Also, it was unsatisfying at the end to find out so little about what the rest of her life had been like. Really, it was more what wasn't in the book than what was that engendered the sense of dis-satisfaction. Nonetheless, a beautiful and and intense book that is very well worth reading.
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on 20 September 2015
Philip Larkin is quoted as saying 'Sexual Intercourse began in 1963, between the end of the 'Chatterley' ban and the Beatles first L.P.' Too late to salvage the marriage of the characters Edward Mayhew and Florence Ponting. Ian McEwan writes a well-penned tale of their angst ridden romance and the messy first fumbling's of their wedding night in 1962. My first McEwan novel and one I thoroughly enjoyed.
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on 4 August 2013
I downloaded this book as it was mentioned in "The End Of Your Life Book Club". I had previously liked McEwan's "Atonement", though not the more recent "Saturday". I was disappointed by this novel - but agree that it would sit better in a short-story collection, as there is not enough plotting and character development for a fully-fledged novel. The "message" of the book - that you should live life head-on and not walk away from problems - might then resonate with me more. Yes, there is sadness here, but because I find both the story and the characters unconvincing I was not as moved as I would like to have been. The ending seems tagged-on and rushed, and spoils the effect of McEwan's carefully crafted prose in the rest of the story.
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on 7 April 2017
An okay read. The writing is elegant, atmospheric - and the wedding night meal served in the bedroom suite is cringingly good. But I expected more. McEwan often uses his characters as vehicles to embody themes and ideas - and for me this rather short novel felt more like a 'list' of ideas, which meant the characters never quite became real enough.
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