Customer Reviews for

On Chesil Beach

Average Rating 3.5
( 67 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(27)

4 Star

(12)

3 Star

(11)

2 Star

(7)

1 Star

(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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  • Posted October 28, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    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 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. <BR/><BR/>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. <BR/><BR/>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). <BR/><BR/>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. <BR/><BR/>- Kasia S.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2007

    'This is how the entire course of a life can be changed - by doing nothing'

    Ian McEwan is a master of atmospheric writing, taking a seemingly isolated incident and building a story around it in a way that the reader completely lives in the moment described by his novel. He selects strange topics and then makes them feel so familiar by comparison to each of our lives that exploring the dense background he paints pulls us in like a strong magnet. Reading McEwan is one of the rare pleasures literature lovers find. Few writers of today can match his quiet, subtle, but bravura technique. ON CHISEL BEACH is essentially a study of a wedding night, a night when the two characters involved approach the virginal consummation of their marriage with disastrous results. Florence is bright, a gifted violinist, beautiful and fragile in affairs of the heart and senses: she is frigid. Edward, her new husband, is of lower class than she, but has reached a degree of education and overcome some thorny family obstacles to become a young bridegroom longing for his marriage night, a night he blunders with premature ejaculation. McEwan leads into this evening and its subsequent resolution on Chisel Beach with delicate prose, brings us to the topic of climax, and then offers flashes of background of each of his characters that allows us to understand the subsequent course of events 'doing nothing' brings. In beautiful prose, stunningly elegant writing, and rich observations of life in the early 1960s with all that the decade of 'enlightenment' and changes in England and the world produced, Ian McEwan has created another masterpiece. Highly recommended. Grady Harp

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2011

    Horrid

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

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2007

    Excellent

    The prose are colorful and make you feel like you are at the scene. The ocean backdrop is perfect. Each page is seamlessly linked to the next. The emotional tension throghout the book invites the reader to find out more. A book about chance and conviciton.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2007

    Is It Innocence or Ignorance?

    In this book 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. This book can easily be read in one-sitting and so the flow can remain unbroken.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

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

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    One of My Favorites!

    This book is beautifully written. I love that the characters are allowed to regret, something that no one admits to anymore.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 6, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Beautiful story

    I must admit, I'm a bit of a pansy when it comes to books like On Chesil Beach. I'm a long time fan of Ian McEwan, and with each of his novels I am continuously amazed at his ability to take a single, unpretentious moment and make it, skillfully and beautifully, eternal. That is exactly what McEwan does in On Chesil Beach. He interweaves the past and the future of two people, Edward and Florence, on their honeymoon. He takes a brief, dull moment and brings it to life. Each sentence of the novel is written with a certain strength and focus unique to McEwan's writing style, which as a reader I have come to love dearly. On Chesil Beach is essentially one scene: Edward and Florence consummating their new marriage. The reader is taken on a riveting journey through the deep, powerful thoughts and emotions of these two well-developed characters during probably the most significant event of their relationship. Edward is nervous and excited, but afraid of letting Florence, and subsequently himself, down. Florence is largely disgusted by even the thought of sex, but she doesn't want to disappoint her husband. Through all of the conflict and passion, the reader is brought to an inspiring, heart-felt end that, yes, made me cry. The tears were well worth it, though, and I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a good story. It is a quick but meaningful read.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2010

    Great Book Club Discussion

    We read this book for our book club. The women in our book club range in age from 28-65. This book, even though it is not a literary masterpiece, provided us with some of the most lively discussion we have had in the past five years. The multiple age groups provided our discussion with many different perceptions and perspectives over the events leading up to, during and after the wedding night.

    I would strongly recommend this book for a multigenerational discussion.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2008

    Lack of communication

    I felt sorry for these characters. They were clearly from families where communication was not a strongsuit. They found each other and accepted the lack of communication throughout their time dating. When it finally came time to communicate they did it in anger and then ran away from each other both literally and figuratively. It was a good book but not a great book. It did remind me how truly important communication is and how some people just have no tools for it. How many people are like this in their personal lives? I expect more than we or I like to think.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2007

    Wow...

    I didn't realize it until the book was over how emotional reading this novel had made me. I was reading about people, then all of a sudden, I was right there with this couple I knew so much about and feeling the same feelings they were going through. I felt the characters love for one another, their young, misunderstood anger and, at the end, the regret...the 'what ifs'. I remember getting to the anger part of the story and telling my wife how evil this author is and how he is mangling this pure love. At the end, I thought the author was intellegent and had captured life so well. This novel is a moment in a life that is so beautiful, yet tragic. This novel leaves you moved and reminds you that life is a short game and to play it wisely. Thank you, Ian, for such a great novel...and dare say another classic.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2007

    Short Sorrowful Powerful

    I read this book 2 months ago and I can still find myself on Chesil beach with the 2 (almost) lovers, or in their hotel room. What brillant writer. Thank you Mr. McEwan!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 22, 2014

    I read this after Atonement, which is probably one of my favorit

    I read this after Atonement, which is probably one of my favorite novels of all time.  I enjoyed On Chesil Beach very much.  It is not as grand in scale as Atonement, but has McEwan's razor sharp writing and intuition about people and relationships.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2013

    Not worthy

    A distressing and anticlimatic short read-HUGE disappointment.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2013

    This from the author of Atonement???? Newly married couple are u

    This from the author of Atonement???? Newly married couple are unable to speak to each other? That is why they are supposed to make love, not talk! Talk only gets you into trouble. But even then, this is so outlandish as to be ridiculous!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2012

    Really????

    It's hard to understand how a fine author could write a book such as this.
    I kept waiting for it to improve...No such luck.
    Avoid the hour it took to read. Do some laundry!

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  • Posted June 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Blah! Blah! and Blah!

    I read the sparkling reviews and bought this book with much anticipation. I bought "Water for Elephants" at the same time and LOVED it! This book was another story. Actually...one that was shallow and strained. I enjoyed the characters but the most interesting one to me was the brain damaged mother. How can a book be based on something so common and how can anyone imagine that two people who loved each other could not get past such an accident. Blah!!!!!! I want my money back!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2008

    A Total Waste of Time & Money!

    This miserable tale of a botched love-making could have been told in 10 pages but it wasted over 200. Both characters were so pitiful I could not find sympathy for either. I cannot believe this book was even published, & likely would not have been had 'Atonement' not done so well.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2008

    BORING BOOK

    This book was a total bore. The whole premise of the book was ridiculous. I guess what happened on the wedding night was plausible, but then very little on what happened afterward in their lives. Waste of my time and alot of my money.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2008

    Underlying meaning of this book is so much more than about sex

    I found this book to be beautifully written but perhaps a bit over descriptive. The emotions of the two characters felt so raw to me throughout the book. But the bottom line of this book is not about sex, it's about communication. Learning how to properly communicate with your partner is the single most important thing you can ever learn in your life. And this book shows you how not learning how to do it can alter the course of your life entirely. I found the ending to be so sad I was almost in tears. I kept thinking they would get in contact again at some point. The fact that they never spoke again ever is tremendously sad. Also the fact that Edward ended up a lonely old man with a broken marriage in his past and no children, which he dearly dreamed of, is just plain heartbreaking.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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