On Chesil Beach is another masterwork from Ian McEwan - a story about how the entire course of a life can be changed by a gesture not made or a word not spoken.
©2007 Ian McEwan; (P)Random House Audio
Excerpts taken from String Quintet in D major, K.593 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Licensed by kind permission of Naxos Rights International Ltd
"McEwan's masterful 13th work of fiction most resembles a five-part classical drama rendered in prose....[His] flawless omniscient narration has a curious (and not unpleasantly condescending) fable-like quality, as if an older self were simultaneously disavowing and affirming a younger." (Publishers Weekly)
well written and narated by Ian McEwan. Difficult to accept outcome of couple. I feel all couples have issues and difficulties that they have to over come. Love usually gets them through. I found it hard to accept this couple's decision.
I don't think anyone else but Ian McEwen could have pulled off this poignant little story of a honeymoon night. As always with Ian, right from the beginning you have a feeling almost of dread about what is about to happen. You would really rather not know, but the author casts such a spell with his words that you are unable to break free. Unflinching, honest and touching, this is exquisitely well written, and also beautifully read by the author. His voice is soothing and reassuring, even as he makes you squirm with discomfort! The book is set in that long ago period just before the sixties started swinging and that era is perfectly recreated. This audiobook is short enough to devour in one sitting, and I would urge you to do just that.
"Interesting observation on the human condition"
Short but effective exposition of relationships, expectations and communications (or lack thereof) in post-war Britain, prior to the sexual revolution of the sixties. Seen through the eyes of two caricatures who had me alternately squirming and chuckling as I recognised aspects of their uncomfortable behaviour.
"A natural successor to Greene and Golding"
As if there was ever any serious doubt, Ian McEwan's 'On Chesil Beach' clearly establishes his reputation once and for all as the greatest English novelilst since the deaths of Graham Greene and William Golding. He is sharper than Julian Barnes, more aware of life's strangeness than Sarah Waters and he tackles deeper themes than Joanne Harris. All these are great writers, but McEwan is head and shoulders above them.
'On Chesil Beach' is an extraordinarily risky undertaking for a novellist at what some mistakenly believe is at his best (they're wrong, of course: there's better to come). Given the critics' passion for rubbishing a popular intellectual, had this flopped, there would have been the usual British celebration of failure after triumph. McEwan must have been aware of that risk, but, as a true artist, he wrote what he needed to write, regardless, I suppose, of the reaction of readers. And that's exactly as it should be. Golding did it with 'Darkness Visible', Greene did it with everything after 'The Heart of the Matter'.
What is a surprise - and a wholly pleasant one, I hasten to add - is how good McEwan is at reading his novel. And the interview after the reading is fascinating, too.
All in all, a treat of the first order.
"What has happened to him?"
Ian McEwan used to be the most dependable of authors, but his last two books have been so... slight. This is an enjoyable novella while it's going on but it's more of a fragment than a proper story. Take five years over the next one and give us a novel as rich and complete as Atonement, please.
"Poignant and life changing"
At one level a tale of repressed sexuality, very nostalgia provoking for those emerging into adulthood in the early 1960s, and with moments of excruciating embarrassment and laugh aloud hilarity. At a deeper level a sad story of stereotypical expectations, inflexibility and self righteousness leading to missed opportunities and wasted lives. The author's comments in an interview at the end of the book are an added bonus and very illuminating.
"An evocative glimpse"
Captures the atmosphere and the social mores of the time beautifully. A reminder that not all of the sixties were swinging!
"An unforgettable read"
This is the second book by Ian McEwan that I have read. As with Enduring Love the excruciating detail of human interaction lingers in the mind long after finishing the book. I really enjoyed it.
"Not to be missed"
Surely this is one of the most spellbinding yet excruciating pieces of prose that you could possibly listen to. The onner working of the characters minds is laid bare for the reader to empathise with and despair. McEwan reads it himself very effectively. The story is a sad one that leaves you thinking and the interview with McEwan that follows is enlightening in terms of hearing him explain the thought process behind some aspects of the tale. This really is not to be missed.
"Enjoyable but annoying"
I enjoyed listening to this, although it was nothing like as good as some of McEwan's earlier works. He kept going on about how it was the times they lived in that were the root of Florence and Edward's problems - but hey, most people somehow managed to get it together in the dim days of the 1950's and 60's (even my parents!), so I think it was more a case of them just being silly and feeble. In fact, by the end of the book, I really disliked both of them, and was glad that neither ended up with particularly satisfactory lives.
There were some wonderfully evocative descriptions of place, especially where Florence goes to meet Edward at Turville, and the depiction of her parents' house. It's this beautiful writing that kept me listening instead of tearing out my earpieces in annoyance at the protagonists' behaviour. Ian McEwan read it brilliantly - I always like it when an author reads their own work.
"The writer not the book, the reader not the text.."
Where boundaries were once pushed with 'First Love, Last Rites' technologies innovated through his nascent period and Ian McEwan's full glory delivered in Amsterdam, Enduring Love, Saturday and Atonement, it remains to be seen whether the end of the Golden Period of front parlour Socialism, the NHS, the Co-op and the good old British Class system has left him washed up on his own sand and pebbles. Whilst undoubtedly furnished and burnished by Aldershot sun, this book doesn't deliver at the same level that previous efforts have and Mr Ian is going to have to get his finger out so that he really has something worthwhile in hand to reflect the delight we'll all feel when he gets his knighthood next year.
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