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.
©2007 Ian McEwan; (P)2007 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.
"Masterful." (Publishers Weekly)
"Conventional in construction and realistic in its representation of addled psychology, the novel is ingenious for its limited but deeply resonant focus." (Booklist)
NcEwan has crafted a compelling and tightly woven novel of two lives that are changed by one night and the things not said. To say much more about the story could spoil it for the next reader. I found it difficult to stop listening to it. A perfect audio book for a long car trip when you can listen nonstop. As a literary work this will remain a significant work of this century. The author reads this shot novel with a level of feeling and drama that would be difficult for anyone else to match. Thoroughly enjoyable.
The description of this book didn't sound too promising, even though I'm a big McEwan fan . . . how can one write an entire book about a few hours on a wedding night? But McEwan deftly creates two engaging characters who generate the reader's empathy. I found the interview with the author particularly insightful, especially on the question of why he summed up Edward's life in the end but not Florence's. Not all authors are good readers, but McEwan does a fine job. Don't be put off by reviews which make it sound as if the book is about nothing but sex. It's so much more.
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
"...being in love was not a steady state, but a matter of fresh surges or waves, and he was experiencing one now."
-- Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach
Almost no one can write about sex well in my opinion. You've got your erotic writers, fine, if your need for arousal and release comes from text rather than pictures or actual lovers. There are certainly millions of toss-n-tug novels that can certainly get things done. But these books, obviously, aren't literature.
There are writers, like Ken Follett, who seem to need to insert sex writing into a novel every 160 - 200 pages just to help drive the novel's narrative forward. Sex in these adventure, mystery, genre novels, etc., acts as almost a sign post or quick reward. "Congrats, fair reader, you made it to page 320, here is your second sex scene on a road with a monk." But as delivered, it all just seems a bit flat and not a little absurd.
Now, I'm not saying there isn't good sex writing out there, I have actually come across some. Joyce, Miller, Chopin, and Lawrence all seem to be able to walk that narrow beach of rolling bodies without twisting their ankles on the rocks. The capture the human frailty and power and awkwardness and sensuality of sex without dipping into cliché or caricature. I'm not sure why some, few, writers I can handle and most others I just despise. I'm not a prude. I get that sex is a part of life. It isn't icky. I'm not ashamed by it. I realize like food, it is a part of life and thus needs to be represented and shadowed in art and literature.
So, with all that baggage and preamble, it was still with quite a bit of trepidation that I slid into Ian McEwan's tight little novella. One reason I think this novel didn't bend me over too much with its very direct narrative about sex was Ian McEwan's mastery of language. He knew exactly what he was doing. He was aiming for an exact mood, a tension, a flick of a finger on a solo hair, an almost anti-climax, to convey the message of this novella. It required a tease, a premature crescendo, and in the end -- the cold, wet, and sticky dialogue of pain and regret.
Ian McEwan is a master; this short book was riveting and revelatory. If you've read him before you know that his depiction of the inner experience of women is astute and often astonishing. In the interview at the end (we're so lucky to have Audible!) he talks about limiting actual depicted conversation between the two main characters until the ultimate confrontation at the end. This is a fascinating narrative tool in the hands of an artist like McEwan. Next download: everything else by McEwan.
Reader & Listener
This does not approach "Atonement" (one of my all-time favorite books) in quality, but is quite worth reading. The situation is infuriating, and the ending a bit bland compared to the heart of the story, but it certainly is a compelling portrait of the clashing mores of its time (early sixties). The author interview after the book is a significant value-added feature that makes the audio version preferable to the print.
I was disappointed in this book. I bought it because the other reviews were great. It was very descriptive and slow moving. If you like books filled with emotional descriptions, then you'll probably love this book. If you like books with action and excitement, you might be bored like I was. It also ended earlier than I expected because there's a very long note about the book at the end. I was kind of shocked when I realized it was over already.
I love BOOKS and reading, listening is as good when I can't look at the book. I listen every minute driving.
I really enjoyed Atonement. But this book is not my cup of tea.
This book is not bad when telling the story of their lifes before they meet and their meeting and courtship but interspersed is a bunch of sexual disfunction drivel so monotonous and indepth that I couldn't stand to listen. I FF through parts trying to find interesting parts and then the book was over.
The authors voice was fine to listen to, but he tried to make it sould like what he was reading was so monumental and amazing.
Not a book for me.
Mr. McEwan's writing is very beautiful, and he will always be one of my favorite writers; the main reason I read or listen to his work is to help improve my own writing. With that said, I have to complain: he loves to summarize huge swaths of his story, not just for this novel, but others as well, and I find that frustrating. I get it though, because the way he summarizes is so very elegantly and beautifully written that I can only imagine that it would be difficult to achieve the same level of beauty in his prose had he chosen to write detailed scenes. But for those of you who finished the book, wouldn't the ending have been so much more potent, a blow to the stomach, if McEwan had illustrated the two falling in love with each other by showing us actual scenes? Close the psychic distance between the reader and the characters in the story? Let us see and feel these characters falling in love with each other rather than summarizing their courtship? Experience it for ourselves rather than being told with lovingly wrought sentences? (If you disagree, saying, "no, there were a few scenes showing their courtship," I would argue that these scenes were so short that I hardly remember them. The scene in which Edward first meets Florence is described in Edward's POV with one paragraph and four sentences, followed by nine Kindle pages summarizing Florence's life until we get something resembling another scene (I got the e-book too)). Summarizing is too distant, pulls us away; scenes give us a close-up view. The wedding night is not summarized; it's very well described in painful, awkward detail, scene by scene, moment by moment. It's the rest of their lives that's summarized, before and after (especially before), and I think it's a mistake (and frustrating as a listener) that their courtship was not illustrated in specific, concrete, detailed language so that we could experience it too. That would have made the ending so much more... well, you should read the novel to find out what happens.
Yes, not to miss anything.
How we are all victims of our ingnorance.
No. But I plan to.
I was facinated with the iterview with the author that came after the story end.
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