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On Chesil Beachby Ian McEwan
To read McEwan is to be swept away by prose of astonishing precision and power, and to be constantly surprised by the ambition and breadth of his scope.
Synopses & Reviews
A novel of remarkable depth and poignancy from one of the most acclaimed writers of our time.
It is July 1962. Florence is a talented musician who dreams of a career on the concert stage and of the perfect life she will create with Edward, an earnest young history student at University College of London, who unexpectedly wooed and won her heart. Newly married that morning, both virgins, Edward and Florence arrive at a hotel on the Dorset coast. At dinner in their rooms they struggle to suppress their worries about the wedding night to come. Edward, eager for rapture, frets over Florence's response to his advances and nurses a private fear of failure, while Florence's anxieties run deeper: she is overcome by sheer disgust at the idea of physical contact, but dreads disappointing her husband when they finally lie down together in the honeymoon suite.
Ian McEwan has caught with understanding and compassion the innocence of Edward and Florence at a time when marriage was presumed to be the outward sign of maturity and independence. On Chesil Beach is another masterwork from McEwan — a story of lives transformed by a gesture not made or a word not spoken.
"It's a bit voyeuristic. Borderline pervy. And if McEwan wasn't so good at building tension, it'd be incredibly dull....But coming off the heels of his highly praised and 'important' novels like Atonement and Saturday, On Chesil Beach just feels light....Where are the big ideas? The literary ambition? Chalk it up as an amuse-bouche, a good summer read, before his next big one." Buddy Kite, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)
"After two big, ambitious novels...McEwan has inexplicably produced a small, sullen, unsatisfying story that possesses none of those earlier books' emotional wisdom, narrative scope or lovely specificity of detail....[A] smarmy portrait of two incomprehensible and unlikable people." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"The story unfolds in a perfect manner, withholding now and then for effect, even omitting sometimes, with the result that On Chesil Beach is not only a wonderful read but also perhaps that rarest of things: a perfect novel." San Francisco Chronicle
"If McEwan's first chapters generally ought to be sent, like Albert Pujols's bats, to the Hall of Fame, then we may agree that in this instance his first sentence is a first chapter of its own." Jonathan Lethem, New York Times
"On Chesil Beach, a novella-length story, is a short, sad, slight book about anxiety, inexperience, hope and the triumph of failure. Vintage McEwan." Chicago Sun-Times
"[P]acks a pretty good wallop....Marvelously realized and treacherously conceived." Boston Globe
"McEwan's stories are introspective and, at times, told at a wondering distance....The most moving section of the book is the final, fifth section in which the future is revealed in its entire could-have, should-have splendor." Denver Post
"[An] achingly beautiful narrative....Conventional in construction and realistic in its representation of addled psychology, the novel is ingenious for its limited but deeply resonant focus." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Breathtaking." The Washington Post Book World
In 1962, Florence and Edward celebrate their wedding in a hotel on the Dorset coast. Yet as they dine, the expectation of their marital duties weighs over them. And unbeknownst to both, the decisions they make this night will resonate throughout their lives. With exquisite prose, Ian McEwan creates in On Chesil Beach a story of lives transformed by a gesture not made or a word not spoken.
A novel following James, a pilot struggling to survive in a German POW camp, his young war-bride, Rose, back in England trying to make sense of her life, and his sister, whose own story is also rewritten by the tragedies of WWII
Amid the chaos of World War II, three lives reveal a natural history of war and the human heart
“The Evening Chorus serenades people brutally marked by war, yet enduring to live — and relish — the tiny pleasures of another day. With her trademark prose — exquisitely limpid — Humphreys convinces us of the birdlike strength of the powerless.” — Emma Donoghue
Downed during his first mission, James Hunter is taken captive as a German POW. To bide the time, he studies a nest of redstarts at the edge of camp. Some prisoners plot escape; some are shot. And then, one day, James is called to the Kommandant’s office.
Meanwhile, back home, James’s new wife, Rose, is on her own, free in a way she has never known. Then, James’s sister, Enid, loses everything during the Blitz and must seek shelter with Rose. In a cottage near Ashdown forest, the two women jealously guard secrets, but form a surprising friendship. Each of these characters will find unexpected freedom amid war’s privations and discover confinements that come with peace. The Evening Chorus is a beautiful, astonishing examination of love, loss, escape, and the ways in which the intrusions of the natural world can save us.
“The Evening Chorus sparkles.” — Jo Baker
“A poised, lyrical novel about the griefs of war, written with poetic intensity of observation.” — Helen Dunmore
“This riveting novel is a song. Listen.” — Richard Bausch
HELEN HUMPHREYS is the author of seven novels, four books of poetry, and two works of nonfiction, including several New York Times Notable Books of the Year. She has received the Lambda Prize for fiction, among other awards.
Author photograph © Ayelet Tsabari
0215 / 1586127
Shot down on his first mission, James is taken to a German POW camp. To bide the time, he studies a family of birds. Some prisoners have been taken out of the camp and shot; some plot escape. And then, one day, the Kommandant invites him for a drive.
With James away, his young war bride Rose is free in a way she has never known — working as an air raid warden, roaming the countryside with only her dog as company. Until a furloughed soldier brings new choices.
And then Jamess sister, Enid, is bombed out of London. She loses her home and her lover in one tragic, impersonal act of war. Her only refuge is her brothers — Roses — home. Each is protective of her secrets, but the two form a surprising friendship.
Each of these characters will find liberty amid wars privations and discover confinements that come with peace. From a writer of “delicate and incandescent” (San Francisco Chronicle) prose, The Evening Chorus offers a beautiful, spare examination of the natural world and the human heart.
About the Author
Ian McEwan is the bestselling author of more than ten books, including the novels Saturday; Atonement, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the W. H. Smith Literary Award; The Comfort of Strangers and Black Dogs, both shortlisted for the Booker Prize; Amsterdam, winner of the Booker Prize; and The Child in Time, winner of the Whitbread Award, as well as the story collections First Love, Last Rites, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award, and In Between the Sheets. He lives in London.
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