Customer Reviews for

On Chesil Beach

Average Rating 3.5
( 67 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(27)

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(12)

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(11)

2 Star

(7)

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(10)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Sun, sea and melancholy

The book itself is rather small in stature but when the story started my attention was instantly saturated with powerful intensity for it. I found this novel to be quite extraordinary and read it in one sitting - right after having oysters for brunch; I left ready and p...
The book itself is rather small in stature but when the story started my attention was instantly saturated with powerful intensity for it. I found this novel to be quite extraordinary and read it in one sitting - right after having oysters for brunch; I left ready and pounced on it ferociously and enjoyed it until dusk arrived. This was my first time reading McEwan and I found his language, ideas and wording very easy to slip into. Some authors requite an adjustment, sometimes it feels like a change of latitude and climate, even gravity but not with Ian, it's hard for me to imagine anyone who's not curios about life that would not enjoy this.

It's a brief novel set in the 1960's, all I knew about it before I read it was that I spotted it on the New York Times Saturday Book Review ( my favorite) bestsellers section and the simple mention of a wedding night going horribly wrong hooked me. This indeed was a mess slowly unraveling, making me read on nervously knowing that something ugly is about to perspire. The story starts of gently enough but pretty soon the reader gets a real glimpse of Florence, the young bride, and her revulsion of all things having to do with the secrets of the flesh. Even before she married Edward her love for him was warm and pleasant, almost maternal but a few hours after the wedding during their supper, being able to see the freshly made bed in the next room of their honeymoon suite was making her nauseous and fearful of disappointing her new husband with her true feelings concerning the dreaded wedding night.

The acting between Florence and Edward that takes place, the restrained talk and emotions when Edward can barely stand not pouncing on his bride while eating, the dance like charade skillfully played by almost petrified Florence and the glimpses back on how they met set up a heck of a story, the reader knows that things are about to go badly for both of them. Either the bride goes with the flow and makes the best of her situation or she offends Edward and shows him her true feelings. The energy generated by minimal dialogue, sensitive writing and skillful psychology made for an incredibly alluring and mesmerizing book. This isn't only about committing the act, it was more about human errs and not being true and honest with one self, trying to act according to the times and not engaging in close contact with your partner, not understanding who he is until marriage. One can easily see how this type of a scenario can make for hair rising fiction (even scarier, it was probably true back then).

Living in different times makes it easy for me to judge, through out the book I kept thinking "I would never do that" or " I can't even imagine feeling like this woman" but I still connected with her, feeling sorry for her and being angry at her at the same time. This is a treat not to be missed, skillfully written and well told, a story that truly feeds the soul.

- Kasia S.

posted by Kasia_S on October 28, 2008

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

Horrid

Bad no point oh wait there was it was sex :p i mean that by gross

posted by Anonymous on July 26, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2008

    Something Different!

    This is one of my new favorite books. Both characters are so well developed...I felt like I knew them. This is the perfect example of how one moment can change a lifetime.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2007

    A terrific book

    McEwan has the most uncanny insights into man woman relationships. Limning the backgrounds is fascinating - sometimes his management of the details can fail to keep one's attention, i.e., in Enduring Love, but this is all of a piece - gripping. This is a beatiful edition as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2007

    Short and disappointing

    I picked up this book thinking that it was going to be a good read, but nothing could have been further from the truth. The story began with an interesting idea, but the characters were poorly developed and Mr. McEwan did little to make you care about them. I found none of the characters in the book particularly attractive. He attempted to make a case of poor parenting skills by Florence and Edwards' parents and that this was partially responsible for their disastrous wedding night, but it could have been explored more thoroughly as an underlying cause. Without this, I found no reason to sympathize with the characters and found them rather uninteresting and hard to keep reading about them. The best thing about the book is its length...short but not so sweet.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2007

    subpar at best

    mcewan, perhaps the finest lyrical writer alive today, has let me down with this effort. his prose is dazzling, yes, but that is about all this book has to offer. the characters are too simple, the actual event at the climax (no pun intended) of the book is actually anti-climactic, and nothing resonates or lasts. perhaps the book itself is a metaphor for the act within the book?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2007

    Is It Innocence or Ignorance?

    I read this book with a spiritual book by Deborah Morrison and Arvind Singh called NEXUS and loved both. McEwan takes us into the conflict that two virgins face on their wedding night. They are innocent or ignorant depending on your point of view about sexual matters. They want to reach out to each other but their early 60s morality stands in their way of expressing their love. Of course, they do love one another. Their problem lies in expressing it. The events happen within the span of one day with liberal use of flashbacks a style used by McEwan in other books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2007

    The book reads like a rocket

    I read this book in two sittings. This book lays bare the souls of two people you care for, very, very, much. It reads like a rocket. My wife's in a book club. They meet once a year to decide what they'll read, and who will host for each month. They have a list typed up and everything. Organized. I'm in a book club, too. All guys. We have no idea of what we'll read next. Each month, the guy who volunteers to host chooses a book he thinks he'd like to read. We drink beer and talk about the book. Usually most of us have read at least part of the book. On Chesil Beach is a book both clubs could discuss with passion. It is a book we'll all read, front to back. It is true, it is beautiful, and it moves forward with heartbreaking speed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2007

    A reviewer

    From the reviews I had read of this book, I didn't expect much, although I am a big McEwan fan. How can an entire book focus on a wedding night consummation 'or nonconsummation, as the case may be'? But there is so much more here than just sex. It's really a novel about love and miscommunication. McEwan creates empathy for both Edward and Frances, and the tragedy that seems to haunt both their lives stems from societal pressures and a lack of honest communication. I listened to the audiobook. McEwan is a fine reader, and I especially appreciated the interview with the author at the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2007

    On Chesil Beach

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that once an author achieves a certain repute in his or her career, any manuscript he or she should care to submit has an excellent chance of getting published - and that is not always a good thing. Such is the case with Ian McEwan's latest novel - at 166 pages, more like a novella - titled i On Chesil Beach /i . Perhaps after the sheer scale and density of i Saturday /i (2005), McEwan wanted a project of more domestic proportions. Hence, rather than dealing with any overtly significant dates or political issues, the entire novel pivots on a young couple's wedding night in the summer of 1962. While McEwan skillfully weaves the drama over several lyrical chapters, in a nutshell here's the conflict: He wants to consummate the marriage while she pathologically detests sex. Though such a situation is obviously doomed to end badly, the author manages to spin out this slender idea by delving into his character's lives, though in contrast to the psychological depths of his best character studies, these can't help but feel cliched and cursory. He, Edward, is revealed to have a brain-damaged mother while she, Florence, has an overly intellectual one. He's a country boy, she's a city girl. He loves the blues, she loves Beethoven. McEwan gives us glimpses into these lives fated for a head-on collision but you can't help anticipating the eventual anti-climax even at the book's midpoint. Still, this is McEwan, and there are plenty of breathtaking phrases and masterly of descriptions along the way that remind you why he is so highly respected. Florence's sense of helplessness and doom is perfectly captured in her thoughts during foreplay, which she imagines as 'a small scale enactment, a ritual tableau vivant, of what was still to come, like a prologue before an old play that tells you everything that must happen'. McEwan is also known for meticulously learning about different trades in order to realistically write about them from his characters' perspectives,and the same is very much in evidence here. Florence is a virtuoso violinist who starts her own quartet while still in school and McEwan peppers her narrative with references to arpeggios and double stops while giving the reader an intimate tour of the backstage of Wigmore Hall. Still, it is frustrating to plough through pages of character development with no pay-off, and McEwan seems to lose steam towards the end. Emotional confusion is not only left unresolved - nay, not even examined - while the epilogue is disturbingly one-sided in perspective. If a young writer had written this book, his editor would have sent i back and asked him to flesh out the material. But this is McEwan, and so let us simply pick out the bits to nominate for the Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award while waiting for his next masterpiece to be published.

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    Posted October 25, 2008

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