Thursday, October 21, 2010
by Ian McEwan
completed September 2010
Florence and Edward, having married earlier in the day, are in their hotel room eating dinner together. The story takes place in 1962. The narrative switches between the bride and groom, both virgins, and the tension is high as they explore their fear and apprehension towards consummating their marriage.
On Chesil Beach is more of a novella; you could definitely read it in one sitting. Not surprisingly, it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize as many of his novels have been. McEwan's writing is superb, as usual. His prose is beautifully descriptive but serves a purpose, and it never crosses into self-indulgence. Throughout the book, there are glimpses into the past that detail Florence and Edward's backgrounds. Some of the most beautiful passages were describing their period of courtship. This couple truly loved each other. The descriptions of their passion for their work--Florence as a violinist and Edward as a historian--were fantastic.
Although I loved the writing, early on in the book I was frustrated with the characters. I understand that at the time sex was something that people didn't talk about openly, but the lack of communication caused so many difficulties. Both Florence and Edward were incredibly selfish. I felt Florence was especially deceitful. There is a great quote in the book that sums up my grievance with the characters. "This is how the entire course of life can be changed--by doing nothing."
I have mixed feelings about this book. I have had the same difficulty with several of McEwan's novels. I love the writing, but I don't care for the characters. I loved Atonement but hated Briony (Cecilia and Robbie were enough to keep me from hating it though). I loved the first half of Amsterdam but the characters turned horrid in the second half, and it ruined the book for me. My frustration with the characters choices keeps me from wholeheartedly recommending it. I think McEwan fans will love it, but, in my opinion, this isn't his best.
This book was read as a bonus for the Classics Challenge. It was recommended as a future classic by one of the challenge participants. I don't know if I agree that it will be a future classic, but then again, I don't love all of the current classics. Everyone has different taste in books so I guess we'll have to wait and see.
Posted by Kristi at 8:58 PM