On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan

This is how the entire course of a life can be changed – by doing nothing.

I have read this book few weeks ago and somehow couldn’t bring myself to write the review, but finally here it is.

The book focuses on the wedding night of Florence and Edward. We meet our couple as they are having their dinner served in a hotel on Chesil Beach. The events take place in early 60’s, before sexual revolution, everyone is still very much bound by old order of things – Florence and Edward especially.

…being childlike was not yet honourable, or in fashion.

As Florence and Edward eat their dinner and mentally prepare for their wedding night, we learn that Florence is not as enthusiastic as Edward when it comes to sex. The plot continues as the evening progresses, but we also get glimpses into Florence’s and Edward’s past to understand how different people they are and how they met. 

McEwan paints the atmosphere of repressed early 60’s so vividly that often I had the feeling it’s actually pre-WWII. His tone jumps from light, almost conversational to extremely physical when describing our characters thoughts about sex.

Florence and Edward all the time misread each other’s signals and react in a way that the other person finds strange if not disturbing. It is obvious lack of communication in a relationship, where things are not talked through but glossed over until it is impossible to keep maintaining the facade anymore. The book also touches on the subject of class, aspirations and ambition. Edward wants to belong, wants to be accepted in higher classes, while Florence, born there, couldn’t care less about belonging to a certain class, it is natural for her and her ambitions lie elsewhere.

The only thing I found a bit difficult about this book is that it didn’t move me the way ‘The Children Act‘ did. While ‘The Children Act’ was at times close to emotional blackmail, this book felt for me much more distanced. I didn’t really care that much about the characters. Nonetheless, it was an interesting read and while I won’t be running around forcing people to read it, I won’t be discouraging them either. 

Now time for a game, for those of you who haven’t read the book: Are the words below said by Florence or Edward? Why do you think so?

You’re always pushing me, pushing me, wanting something out of me. We can never just be. We can never just be happy. There’s this constant pressure. There’s always something more that you want out of me. This endless wheedling.

For those of you who read it please let me know what you think about it?

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska

13 thoughts on “On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan

  1. I don’t always connect with Ian McEwan, but this I really liked. I really felt for this naive couple, going into marriage with no real knowledge because of society’s morals, and how destructive it could be. I’ve not read The Children Act, I’ll look out for it,


  2. Disha

    I really liked this book, in fact it’s probably one of the best books I read in 2015. I didn’t like the last Chapter however, with the epilogue…it felt a little too rushed

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I liked this book. Mostly because it shows how easily everything can fall apart because of miscommunication (or lack of communication). It was so sad, but also frustrating for the reader ( in a good way) knowing what each of the them are thinking and wanting to shout at them to just say so!!


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