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On Chesil Beach: A Novel


On Chesil Beach: A Novel Cover

ISBN13: 9780385522403
ISBN10: 0385522401
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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ReadingMathTeacher, July 20, 2009 (view all comments by ReadingMathTeacher)
I picked up this novel because I adore McEwan's _Atonement_; this novel certainly proved itself as well. The time changes that McEwan intertwines throughout the book kept me reading for hours, just wondering how the couple's fateful wedding night might end. The novel simultaneously gives us glimpses into the private lives and thoughts of its characters and insight to England in the early twentieth century. The end was superb -- and in true McEwan fashion, not at all the way I expected it to be.
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Debra22, May 7, 2008 (view all comments by Debra22)
Not an exciting page turner, but the reader becomes immersed in the lives of the 2 main charaters from the first page. Definitely the kind of book that stays with you, as is the case with his other books I have read. Dont expect a fast moving storyline. This is a gradual unfolding of the set of circumstances that have made these two people into the complex characters they are. A compelling read. I'd also recommend reading Tino Georgiou's bestseller--The Fates--highly addictive reading.
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Grady Harp, August 31, 2007 (view all comments by Grady Harp)
'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
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cariola119, August 2, 2007 (view all comments by cariola119)
From the reviews I had read, I wasn't sure I'd enjoy this book, although I am a big fan of McEwan's work. How much can one really say about a failed wedding night? But On Chesil Beach is so much more than that. It's a study of a moment in time--not just Edward and Florence's wedding night, but the more innocent (or more restrictive, depending on your point of view) world of the 1960s. It's about love, expectations, dreams, what we feel and what we cannot say, and our penchant for lingering over what might have been. I can't say that this is my favorite McEwan novel, but I was surprised by how it kept me engaged--and by how long it stayed with me once I had finished reading.
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lmoore07, July 6, 2007 (view all comments by lmoore07)
Neither McEwan's most compelling work nor a particularly engaging story; yet, with an extremely simple plot, McEwan's deftness with detail and language nevertheless draws the reader into the story and allows them to feel empathy for the awkwardness and distance between this newly married couple.
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Product Details

A Novel
McEwan, Ian
Nan A. Talese
Married people
Intimacy (psychology)
Dorset, england
Edition Number:
Publication Date:
June 2007
Grade Level:
7.80x4.44x1.06 in. .61 lbs.

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On Chesil Beach: A Novel Used Hardcover
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Product details 208 pages Random House - English 9780385522403 Reviews:
"Review A Day" by , "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." (read the entire Esquire review)
"Review" by , "[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."
"Review" by , "Subtle, witty, rueful and sometimes heartrending, On Chesil Beach coalesces these perceptions into a novel that is a master feat of concentration in both senses of the word."
"Review" by , "McEwan brings Florence and Edward touchingly alive for us; and their seriousness, their idealism, and their desire for love draw us towards them."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "A fine book, homing in with devastating precision on a kind of Englishness which McEwan understands better than any other living writer, the Englishness of deceit, evasion, repression and regret.... McEwan has combined the intensity of his narrowly focused early work with his more expansive later flowering to devastating effect."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "On Chesil Beach is more than an event. It is a masterpiece. The very idea that informs it, fascinating and unfamiliar, is masterly."
"Review" by , "[T]hough life is never easy, as the narrator reminds us, gorging ourselves on McEwan's impeccable prose is."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "On Chesil Beach, a novella-length story, is a short, sad, slight book about anxiety, inexperience, hope and the triumph of failure. Vintage McEwan."
"Review" by , "[P]acks a pretty good wallop....Marvelously realized and treacherously conceived."
"Review" by , "McEwan's writing is as sharp, as darkly humorous, as psychologically penetrating as it's ever been."
"Review" by , "[R]eplete with pleasures: keen observations of family dynamics, of English life, of fortune's randomness."
"Synopsis" by , A novel of remarkable depth and poignancy, McEwan has caught with understanding and compassion the innocence of a newly married couple — both virgins — in 1962, when marriage was presumed to be the outward sign of maturity and independence.
"Synopsis" by , The year is 1962. Florence, the daughter of a successful businessman and an aloof Oxford academic, is a talented musician. She dreams of a career on the concert stage and of the perfect life she will create with Edward, the earnest young history student she met by chance and who unexpectedly wooed and won her heart. Edward grew up in the country on the outskirts of Oxford, where his father, the headmaster of the local school, struggled to keep the household together and his mother, brain-damaged in an accident, drifted in a world of her own. Edward's native intelligence, coupled with a longing to experience the excitement and intellectual fervor of the city, had taken him to University College in London. Falling in love with the accomplished, shy, and sensitive Florence — and having his affections returned with equal intensity — has utterly changed his life. Their marriage, they believe, will bring them happiness and the confidence to fulfill their true destinies. The glowing promise of the future, however, cannot totally mask their worries about the wedding night. Edward, who has had little experience with women, frets about his sexual prowess. Florence's anxieties run deeper: she is overcome by conflicting emotions and a fear of the moment she will surrender herself to her husband in their honeymoon suite.

From the precise and intimate depiction of two young lovers eager to rise above the hurts and confusion of the past, to the touching story of how their unexpressed misunderstandings and resentments shape the rest of their lives, On Chesil Beach is an extraordinary exploration of how the entire course of a life can be changed — by a gesture not made or a word not spoken.

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