Tag Archives: Marriage

Review: On Chesil Beach

On Chesil Beach

On Chesil Beach
By Ian McEwan
(Anchor, Paperback, 9780307386175, June 2008, 224pp.)

The Short of It:

Stripped of all pretense, these characters are pushed to surrender to what they know is true.

The Rest of It:

In 1962, Florence and Edward celebrate their wedding in a hotel on the Dorset coast. Yet as they dine, the expectation of their marital duties weighs over them. And unbeknownst to both, the decisions they make this night will resonate throughout their lives.

McEwan is known for exquisite prose and On Chesil Beach is no exception. As the newlyweds dine and anticipate the consummation of their marriage, it’s clear to the reader that all is not right in the world of Florence and Edward. Love is most certainly present, yet there is a delicate balance between Edward and Flo that tips precariously as the meal progresses and before you know it, dread has made its appearance. 

As the tension rises, and the moment of consummation nears, we are told in flashbacks how the couple came to be. In part, this knowledge of the couple makes their situation even more tragic. When you ask someone to marry you, you assume that you know everything about them, but this is not the case with Edward and Flo. Insecurities exist that neither are aware of until it’s too late.

I love McEwan’s writing for a lot of reasons, but what I love the most is the level of detail within his stories. He puts you there, with the characters as they are experiencing their awkward moment and although it’s uncomfortable, it’s impossible to look away. I tend to lose myself when I read his writing and that to me, is the sign of a good novel. That, and the fact that his characters are often forced to deal with truth and the tragic consequences of their actions.

I’ve read a few of McEwan’s other novels and although this one is incredibly short, it still manages to be a very powerful read with characters that you can easily relate to.

Source: Borrowed

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Review: Caribou Island

Caribou Island

Caribou Island
By David Vann
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780061875724, January 2011, 304pp.)

The Short of It:

The path from normalcy to insanity is literally a mere boat ride away.

The Rest of It:

Gary and Irene have been married for 30 years. Their marriage is falling apart but they are held together by a very thin thread. When Gary decides to build a log home on the small island of Caribou,  located on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, Irene sees it for what it is. Their last chance to make the marriage work, or a sign that it will never work and that they have failed miserably. What takes Gary sometime to realize, Irene has already realized and partially accepted.

While they are trying to put this cabin together, Gary and Irene’s grown daughter, Rhonda has problems of her own. She is dating Jim, a dentist. He’s well-off, successful and safe. But Jim has his own secrets. As Rhonda ponders what is going on with her parents, she can’t help but think about her own relationship.

These are troubled times.

This is not a happy story. There are no happy people here. In fact, what you have are miserable characters who are wrought with loneliness. So lonely, that being together is better than being apart and trust me, these people should be apart. As depressing as this all sounds, and it does get rather depressing here and there, the story is very compelling. Vann’s writing is lovely and sad and brutally honest. It’s scratchy and raw and there were times when I was uncomfortable reading, but only because Gary and Irene’s story seemed so real. You know how it is when you are with a couple who is fighting? How you try to ignore the tension yet it’s impossible to do so? That’s how it was for me reading this book. The tension is everywhere, yet I couldn’t put it down.

Halfway through the story, I knew where the story was heading, but in no way did it prepare me for what actually happened. I reached that last page and the air was sucked right out of me. I had read Vann’s Legend of a Suicide and had a similar feeling when I finished that one but these characters seemed more real…as if they could be people I know. That made it more personal to me and what marriage hasn’t seen trouble every now and then? The images that Vann created are still floating around in my head today.

Caribou Island is a moving account of a marriage gone wrong and although it’s bleak, it’s very thought-provoking and Vann does wonderful things with the setting. You don’t enjoy a story like this, but you experience it and appreciate it on a different level.  Vann is a very talented writer and at this point, I’d read anything by him.

Note from Ti: I also listened to this on audio afterward and it’s great on audio as well.

Source: Borrowed

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