What I’m Reading: On Chesil Beach

Hi Guys,

I just finished On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan and I thought it was great, you probably will too.

However I also have some thought on the book that I think may serve as a warning to those on the fence: The book is well written, so don’t worry about that, it has the benefit of an omniscient narrator who’s language has the benefit of avoiding conversational tone, something that would otherwise spoil this story. The flip-side is that the method of delivery for this story is one that meanders through the history of the characters, taking its time over the short page count, perhaps stretching out the story in the mind of some readers.

In a way though this is great, the story certainly couldn’t have been told the other way but I was left a little unsatisfied by how little relevance each of the character’s history had to the current, main timeline. The story is all about sexual frustration, liberation and how a couple in the 60’s cope with these thoughts on sex on the night of their wedding. This is why the flashbacks work in a way, because we get respite from some of the more intense bedroom moments in the current timeline and also find more out about the protagonists. However, though usually I love stories all about personal psychology and the subtlety of that field, I felt McEwans pacing was a little off, telling moments of lethargy too quickly and vice versa.

I have heard people really rave about this book and it’s so short that it’s not worth listening to anyone who says to avoid it. But be aware that though McEwan is a good writer as proved by his popularity, his style in this seems to conjure up similarities with some of his other works I have looked at: a habit to stroll leisurely through the narrative with a sense of importance and pride in his writing. It is good, but I don’t know if it’s that good.

– Matt



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