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Monday, 13 March 2017

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (2007)


It is July 1962. Edward and Florence, young innocents married that morning, arrive at a hotel on the Dorset coast. At dinner in their rooms they struggle to suppress their private fears of the wedding night to come…

Author: Ian McEwan is an English novelist, born in Aldershot, Hampshire, on 21 June 1948. His father was a working-class Scotsman who had worked his way up through the army to the rank of major. He spent much of his childhood in East Asia, Germany and North Africa, where his father was posted. His family returned to England when he was twelve. He was educated at Woolverstone Hall School, the University of Sussex, receiving his degree in English literature in 1970 and the University of East Anglia, where he undertook a master’s degree in literature. The Times featured him on its list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”, and in 2008, The Daily Telegraph ranked him number 19 in their list of “The 100 most powerful people in British culture”

My thoughts: I read this book at the end of January (it had been on my shelf for a decade). I read it in four days. It’s a small book of 166 pages. The keyword of this novel is nostalgia: it is an irresistible mixture of innocence and sensuality. I loved the effective use of flashbacks throughout the disastrous wedding night to show both of the key characters’ different upbringings. I liked the insightful development of the two characters, which I found touching.

This is the story of an unexpected encounter of two very young people (both 22 years old). Edward Mayhew earned a degree in History and comes from a modest family. Florence Ponting comes from a wealthy family, she’s beautiful, and is the principal player in a string quartet - she intends to pursue her classical music career.
After their splendid wedding in July 1962, they drive to a hotel on the Dorset coast to spend their honeymoon. On their wedding night Florence, although deeply in love with Edward, apprehends having sexual intercourse with him. She needs to overcome some issues to make this marriage work. Walking out on Chesil Beach, Dorset, they are about to find out things concerning each other that the stifling society of 1962 has prevented them from learning before. Now, is their honeymoon night to be a total disaster and ruin their marriage?


36 comments:

  1. Coucou ma bellen, ça va ?
    J'ai lu un livre de cet auteur. Il est surprenant par son style et surtout par l'ambiguïté présente entre les rapports homme et femme. À la lecture de ton book review, je suis intriguée par le personnage de Florence. Tout autant que par la tournure des événements. Gros bisous et bonne semaine <333

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    1. Bonjour Chantal !Tu sais, je suis sûre que tu aimeras ce livre. Le personnage de Florence est très sympathique. C'est une fille bien mais elle doit faire face à un blocage sexuel : la frigidité. Cela dit, elle essaye de faire de son mieux pour que leur union réussisse. Malheureusement, Edward n'a pas su se battre pour la garder. À la fin du livre j'ai eu le coeur serré car je ne m'attendais pas à une fin pareil... Je te conseille ce livre magnifique. Bises et bonne semaine.

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  2. I couldn't be happier with your book recommendation :D
    This novel is a masterpiece, McEwan never disappointed me!! Such a  psychological finesse, a sensitivity to evoke a situation that could easily have fallen into a trap!! And all hopes are allowed, until the fall...

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    1. So glad you enjoyed my book recommendation. You know, Rebecca, I couldn't have said it better myself.

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  3. I prefer crime and history books but this novel sounds interesting :-)Happy monday dear!

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    1. Thank you very much for dropping by, Alice :)

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  4. You've certainly whet my appetite with your description of the plot line. It all sounds very intriguing and I can't wait to find out more.

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    1. You know, Cresta Bear! I was really not prepared for the coming end :) I just wanted to shout at Edward.... What have you done with your yourself? Although he was not unhappy, at the back of his head there was always Florence. He has never met anyone he loved as much, he had never found anyone who matched her seriousness. If he had stayed with her he would have been happier, more focused and ambitious about his own life. Soooo tragic, isn’t it ?

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  5. Great review of this book.

    I agree that aspects of the plot sound innocent. Yet it also sounds like it has a lot of important things to say about people.

    I also have books on my shelf that have sat for a very long time that eventually do get read.

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    1. Thank you, Brian! I'm happy that you find it excellent. It means a lot to me, as I am not very articulate, but I am really enthusiastic about the books I feature here. That said, the book reveals a great deal about people's stories and struggles. Ian McEwan's writing style is so peculiar: he suggests, in a very discreet way, that there might have been an incestuous relationship between Florence and her father... Indeed, her disgust with the sexual intercourse, supposedly never realized, lets me suppose a carnal relationship with her father during a boat trip. When she was 12, you can read on page 99

      "...lying still like this, waiting, shivering in the narrow bunk with polished mahogany sides. Her mind was a blank,  she felt she was in disgrace.
      It was late in the evening, and her father was moving about the dim cramped cabin, undressing, like Edward now. She remembered the rustle of clothes, the clink of a belt unfastened or of keys or loose change. Her only task was to keep her eyes closed and to think of a tune she liked".

      What happened and why did she feel herself in disgrace, no doubt the shame of something forbidden, which enslaved her and dishonored her?

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  6. You have piqued my interest.

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  7. Lovely post dear! Have a great week! xx

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    1. Amira, are you back from your holidays?

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  8. I have loved every book I have read by this author but I haven't read this one yet. And I too have had it on my shelf all this time! Wonderful review.

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    1. Hello Judy! It does not surprise me because Ian McEwan is your kind of author. As for me, this is the first book I read by this author. I found it incredibly beautiful.
      Thank you for your compliment on my review.

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  9. 1962 was the cusp of change in societal mores, from the staidly fifties onwards to the swinging sixties. A time of the Beatles, Twiggy and Mohammed Ali. I remember it well!

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    1. Hello Arthur! I always enjoy your comments... I was not yet born, but l learn a lot of great information from books how it was back then. Thanks for checking out the updates regularly!!

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  10. Uma falha minha pois ainda não li nada deste escritor inglês.
    Um abraço e boa semana.

    Andarilhar
    Dedais de Francisco e Idalisa
    Livros-Autografados

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    1. Olá Francisco, o Ian McEwan é realmente muito conhecido no Reino Unido e nos EUA, mas menos em outros lugares. Eu só ouvi falar dele quando estava a estudar no Reino Unido. Eu costumo pensar que todos o conhecem, mas é claro que não é o caso. Enfim, essa é a beleza do blog, descobrimos "novos" autores todos os dias. Boa semana :)

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  11. Parece interessante, fiquei curioso de encontrar esse livro.
    Bj

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    1. Olá Rui. É de facto uma leitura bastante interessante. Bjs

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  12. Great review on "On Chesil Beach". Ian McEwan's writing style is so peculiar, but it is a pleasure that outweighs the sadness and despair always present in his books. Btw, while reading the novel I had the impression that Florence was sexually abused by her father. Do you share the same observations?

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    1. Hello Charles! I'm happy that you find it great. As you know I am not very articulate, and English is not my mother tongue.. But I am really enthusiastic about the books I feature here. That said, Ian McEwan suggests, in a very discreet way, that there might have been an incestuous relationship between Florence and her father... that happed at least once during a boat trip. When she was 12, you can read on page 99. Thank you for the kind words :)

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  13. Oh I have not read an entire book in at least a year...

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  14. Mais uma interessante escolha literária!...
    Com uma história... carregada de emoções... e provavelmente alguns preconceitos... para a época em que a história se desenrola...
    Beijinhos
    Ana

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    1. Muito obrigada pela carinhosa visita, Ana. Beijinhos :)

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  15. Yes I adore Ian McEwan's novels but I haven't read this one yet. Your review is wonderful, thanks. If you liked the writing -- perhaps you will like his novel Atonement, which is also terrific.

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    1. Thank you very much for your advice, Susan. I will have a look at this book :)

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