On Chesil Beach

Reviewed by Lisa

Ian McEwan is one of the most distinguished novelists of his generation, born in England and spent much of his childhood traveling with his father. McEwan has been writing short stories and novels since the mid-1970’s.

This novel is the story of the wedding night of a couple whose history and courtship are told through flashbacks. McEwan writes in such a way that the reader is left with a vivid picture and understanding of the characters. The crux of this story is that what is left unsaid is often as important as what is said. I can't say I enjoyed the book because it was, in a way so depressing---the idea that people could feel that they knew each other well enough to get married but be so unable to communicate with each other does not make for a comfortable read. If you're going to read McEwan, I would recommend "Atonement" rather than "On Chesil Beach."

Type: Fiction, 224 pages, trade paperback


The #1 bestselling author of Saturday and Atonement brilliantly illuminates the collision of sexual longing, deep-seated fears and romantic fantasy in his unforgettable, emotionally engaging new novel.
The year is 1962. Florence, the daughter of a successful businessman and an aloof Oxford academic, is a talented violinist. 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 her 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 from an accident, drifted in a world of her own. Edward’s native intelligence, coupled with a longing to experience the excitement and intellectual fervour 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, the confidence and the freedom 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.
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 fears shape the rest of their lives, On Chesil Beach is an extraordinary novel that brilliantly, movingly shows us how the entire course of a life can be changed – by a gesture not made or a word not spoken.