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On Chesil Beach


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On Chesil Beach - Ian McEwan

 

I see this is out now. Anyone getting it soon? I might have done, but it turns out to be ve-e-ery short and I'm loathe to cough up the dough for such a brief read, so it's a paperback wait for me. I'd be interested to hear others' thoughts, though.

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I read the extract and thought McEwan's description of the couple's honeymoon night at the hotel was superbly written. The prose is simple and doesn't try to bring attention to itself like some literary writing does but at the same time it's fastidious - I can't think of another word. If there was an award for 'Good Sex' writing then the few paragraphs I read would merit it.

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I think I'll follow this the same way I did Saturday

 

On Chesil Beach

 

By Ian McEwan, read by Alex Jennings, abridged by Sally Marmion

 

It's a June night, 1962. Edward and Florence are sitting down to dinner on their wedding night – young, innocent and newly wed, their minds are racing with anticipation, trepidation and apprehension about the night to come.

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I finished reading the book this morning and keep thinking about the two characters, Edward and Florence. There is a lot of pathos to their situation and, as P D James said on Newsnight, one wished they'd 'only connect' and not just physically.

 

The novel serves to remind those, who don't know, that the 60s weren't all of a piece - the very early 60s belonging more to the late 50s in spirit, especialy in the provinces.

 

Another well-written novel by McEwan I think. And not showy (well, that's not his style is it).

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From BookTrade News today -

 

One of Britain's best-selling authors is facing a £2,000 fine after he grabbed some pebbles from a South Coast beach.

 

Writer Ian McEwan's latest book On Chesil Beach is expected to become a best-seller but McEwan could be in trouble after he admitted that during his research he helped himself to stones from the shore.

 

Chesil Beach in Dorset is protected as a site of special scientific interest and covered by by-laws that mean a hefty fine for anyone removing even a single pebble.

 

But yesterday McEwan told Andrew Marr on Radio 4's Start the Week that he had taken some home.

 

Educational organiser Hazel Griffiths said: "Anyone removing pebbles could face a fine of up to £2,000.

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Ah, yes. I missed out the programme times: 10.45pm - 11.00pm
So, at 10.42pm I put down the book I had been reading. Switched on the radio, turned off the light and settled down under the duvet to listen...Not a word did I hear! Not even the continuity announcer beforehand...

:o zzzzzzz! :o

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  • 2 weeks later...

I finished this book today and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am not a fan of McEwan's really, and generally find his novels disappointing, but maybe it was the brevity of this novel that sold it for me. It is much more akin to a short story than a novel, and that is where it's power lies.

 

The plot and description of feelings (especially on Florence's part) is very evocative of a time that I have no connection with. It made me understand better a time when it wasn't all sex on TV, sex in the media, promiscuity and the Pill. I also think McEwan was pretty spot on in being able to pin down how women feel about sex at certain times in their lives.

 

Part 5 contains the climax of Edward and Florence's relationship and the dialogue is superb. It is absolutely spot on in defining how people say one thing and mean another in the heat of an argument, at the most crucial times in their lives. And how this has absolutely tragic consequences. It's a very sad story. Very sad.

 

I have given this 3 stars as I had a problem with one section of the book, the now infamous 'pubic hair' section. It's too ridiculous. And I was dissappointed that Florence's point of view was absent at the end - that disturbed the previous even-handedness of the novel.

But then I also think that was entirely appropriate as I don't think Florence was conflicted about her marriage to Edward. I don't think it haunted her at the end of her life - she knew she made the right choice and moved on. Women, generally, aren't thought to wallow in the past, and certainly Florence didn't seem to be the type to either.

 

 

I think I may later revise to 4 stars as I think the book will haunt me for a while - I just can't straighten my feelings about it just now. Highly recommended though. And don't wait for the paperback, the HB is only £8.00 in Tesco!

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Have to disagree there. I didn't find the 'pubic hair' bit ridiculous. Just as a wrong (or right) word can set things off tangentially, so could a small trigger like this. I thought it was sensitively written.

 

I agree that a small thing could be a trigger, but it didn't set off anything, Florence was already revolted by the idea of sex and was trying to delay/avoid it from the evening meal. As a trigger, it didn't really work. I think McEwan was looking for something miniscule that Florence could focus on as a distraction and I think he could have picked a better object.

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I have just finished On Chesil Beach. I was a big fan of McEwan already. Although it is a short book I thought it was very good at capturing the two lives of and Florence. In effect the whole of their lives focussed on this one event on their honeymoon, which was the result of their lives before - upbringing, societal constraints etc - and their lives afterwards.

The final chapter with the years of Edward's life without what should have been the love of his life is very sad.

The in depth description of the disastrous love making is in no way erotic - apart from the pubic hair bit, perhaps. Sex is often, especially these days, removed from love. In these days of one nighters, where people try to avoid relationships, I think the story was especially poignant. Edward and Florence could have had a loving and fruitful relationship if they had not allowed sex to get in the way.

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I agree that a small thing could be a trigger, but it didn't set off anything, Florence was already revolted by the idea of sex and was trying to delay/avoid it from the evening meal. As a trigger, it didn't really work. I think McEwan was looking for something miniscule that Florence could focus on as a distraction and I think he could have picked a better object.

 

This is interesting.

 

I wish I hadn't lent my copy to a friend, Hazel, because I seem to remember that the touching of the hair did start to stimulate her. In terms of the novel and, as you say her revulsion of sex, it's probably not that important, but when I was reading that passage I did think that Florence might be sexually awakened.

 

Isn't this the great thing about some novels that you can have such debates. The novelist's input and ours making the story together.

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I seem to remember that the touching of the hair did start to stimulate her. I was reading that passage I did think that Florence might be sexually awakened.

 

 

I think you are right, that she was beginning to be sexually stimulated, but to me she focused on the hair as a matter of disgust and insecurity. In the bedroom at first when Edward kissed her neck, I thought she began to be sexually stimulated but was still very conscious of what it would lead to. She just couldn't let go, and was dreading what each step led to.

 

I just can't believe we are discussing a lone pubic hair, with such interest! :)

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I think you are right, that she was beginning to be sexually stimulated, but to me she focused on the hair as a matter of disgust and insecurity. In the bedroom at first when Edward kissed her neck, I thought she began to be sexually stimulated but was still very conscious of what it would lead to. She just couldn't let go, and was dreading what each step led to.

 

I just can't believe we are discussing a lone pubic hair, with such interest! :)

 

I wish that McEwan could read these messages. He'd laugh.

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