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On Chesil Beach

“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. But it is never easy”

On Chesil Beach ~ Ian McEwan

This novella blew my socks off. I loved the cover, the characters, the moment and almost everything else I could lap up from these three hours worth of reading. It ended too soon, I made a reference there for those who’ve already read the book.

On Chesil Beach is about one night, in fact the first night when two newlyweds Edward and Florence fumble embarrassingly towards consummating their marriage. McEwan in his pure genius was able to write an entire novella out of a barely-there moment. The story is set in England, at the brink of the sexual revolution when a young couple have no words to communicate openly with each other about their sexual embarrassments; and the reader is left to squirm and fidget as they carry on their clumsy ways. While I was reading the book I kept thinking how all I needed to do was just interrupt the characters and pat them on the back and tell them “its only natural”.

Although the story is about their wedding night, there’s so much more to it than that. It is their personal story as well, about childhood, courtship and eventually lost opportunities. It is impossible to detach yourself from the characters or not want to finish the book in one sitting, its short length is helpful.

Reader:  Damn you, Ian McEwan!

Ian: What? Why?

Reader: All I wanted to do was kick leaves this Autumn and wear chunky scarves at the park while I fed nuts to squirrels. Now all I can do is subject my friends to prolonged moments of awkward silences as I contemplate my destiny and taking chances and other such existential matters.

Why you should read it:

  • For an appreciation for the art of the written word itself
  • Some 1960’s style sexual loving
  • If you need more convincing on having open conversations

Why you shouldn’t read it:

  • Some very graphic scenes
  • Slightly unrealistic ending
  • Some people seem to have a problem with not liking the characters. I didn’t