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.
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