On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan

On Chesil BeachOn Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan, is the best book I’ve read in a while. It was beautiful and breathtaking and melancholy and almost perfect. (I include the “almost” because it didn’t do my laundry.)

The novella takes place in 1962 on Edward and Florence’s wedding night. While the foregoing sentence is technically true, it actually covers a great deal more than that because of the flash backs. Still, the pivotal moments occur because the virgins have some unspoken issues that they will be forced to deal with on this momentous night. Here is the first line:

They were young, educated, and both virgins on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when a conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible.

The plot and character development were done so deftly that I was always in the moment and yet always looking forward to the next point. Perhaps what I liked most was that Edward and Florence were normal people. They had no excessive horrors in their lives or personalities. They were everyman and everywoman with their own set of issues and fears and strengths and weaknesses. This book was ultimately human.

The writing was simple and yet complex in its beauty. I particularly liked this passage:

She watched him coming along the strand, his form at first no more than an indigo stain against the darkening shingle, sometimes appearing motionless, flickering and dissolving at its outlines, and at others suddenly closer, as though moved like a chess piece a few squares toward her.

Ian McEwan was impressively adept at writing both the male and female perspectives realistically. There is no easy answer to the questions before the newlyweds, and McEwan shows how differently they both perceive the same situation. McEwan also portrays their young love very realistically. He describes the two lovers retelling their first meeting, which was “by now enriched by a private mythology.”

Okay, I could go on and on. Just read this book! One note of caution, this book does deal with sex. While I personally thought the subject was treated respectfully and realistically, not voyeuristically, this book may not be for everyone.

On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan [rating:5]

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