TITLE: ON CHESIL BEACH
AUTHOR: IAN MCEWAN
PUBLISHER: JONATHON CAPE
GENRE: GENERAL FICTION
COVER TYPE: HARD BACK
BLURB FROM THE BACK COVER
A short novel of remarkable depth and poignancy by a writer at the height of his powers.
It’s July, 1962, Edward and Florence; young innocents married that morning, arrive at a hotel on the Dorset coast. At dinner in their room they struggle to suppress their private fears of the wedding night to come…
On Chesil Beach did not quite live up to my expectations. I had high hopes because I enjoyed McEwan’s novel, Atonement so much.
On Chesil Beach is set in 1962 and I found Edward and Florence’s dilemma quite realistic. I felt it was feasible for Florence to be so naïve about sex. I even found her repulsion at the idea of being penetrated by Edward believable. If On Chesil Beach had been set in the 80’s or 90’s it would have been another matter.
However, McEwan failed to make Florence a completely sympathetic character. She comes across as a bit of a cold, frigid bitch. I couldn’t side with her because of this. I found her quite irritating to be honest and wanted to give her a good slap.
I found Edward a much more sympathetic character. He held back from pressuring Florence into having sex before they married out of respect for her. He’s frustrated, puzzled and hurt by her behaviour in the hotel room which ultimately leads to her running off to the beach after causing him to prematurely ejaculate. Edward catches up to her and her declaration that he can’t control himself snaps something inside him. His angry response and cruel words were much more believable than Florence’s frigidness.
Edward and Florence’s refusal to discuss what was going on really ticked me off. If they supposedly loved each other so much why did they make things so hard? I didn’t find this believable. Instead of talking about their issues and trying to come up with a solution like normal people they go their separate ways. This really frustrated me.
I liked the scenes in On Chesil Beach that delved into Florence and Edward past and showed how they met. They were interesting.
I might have enjoyed On Chesil Beach a lot more if it had been longer. A full-length novel might have given McEwan chance to develop the characters and situation a bit more. On Chesil Beach felt too rushed and I found the ending verging on ludicrous.
THE OPENING LINE
THEY WERE young, educated and both virgins on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when a conversation about sexual differences was plainly impossible…
On Chesil Beach has potential to be something very powerful and poignant but McEwan ultimately fails to deliver.