Cody's Reviews > On Chesil Beach

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
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Sep 13, 2007

it was amazing

I hadn't intended on reading any Ian McEwan in the near future, and this wasn't even atop my McEwan "to-read" list. However, as it is short-listed for the Booker, and since I have a tendency to hardly ever keep up with contemporary literature, I was inspired to pick this up at the library yesterday. Then, I proceeded to read it in one sitting.

Of course, this rapid reading was very much aided by the length of the book, but this is ultimately an inconsequential reason for my fixation. As with *Atonement*, the only other of his I've read, McEwan here displays the most amazing ability to create such honest and well-developed characters, that it is, for me, seemingly impossible not to attach yourself at least somewhat to the “their stories”.

While I think that *Atonement* is a more developed work—complex and historical, at once youthfully passionate and bitterly resigned—and, thus literarily, impressed me more, *On Chesil Beach* is, for me, much more affecting. This was due, in part, because I was more willing and able to become wholly enmeshed in the text. It also seemed more relevant to my present life, which, though I often shrink from reviews that make such a point, I must admit allowed me to become more invested, more enveloped in McEwan's tale.

Though I claim that *Atonement* is more developed, we should remind ourselves that *On Chesil Beach* is a notably shorter work. I'm astounded at McEwan's ability, in such few words, to create complex characters and themes that are not in the least bit inchoate. The only author I know of who can take on such a multitude of themes in such a concise text is J.M. Coetzee, though he is an utterly different writer than McEwan. Whereas Coetzee is focused more on what we might call the social and the universal, McEwan explores the psychological and the individual. And, yet, through the seemingly specific individuals that McEwan creates, we wholly relate, thus imbuing his themes, emotions, ideas with a kind of universality.

This work explores, so beautifully, much of what it means to be young, in love, and attempting to assume adulthood and take the first, daunting steps in an attempt to forge a fulfilling life. And, as I read, my heart simply broke.
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03/24/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Dante Thank you for putting into words the way that I appreciate (most of) McEwan's writing. To quote you:
McEwan here displays the most amazing ability to create such honest and well-developed characters, that it is, for me, seemingly impossible not to attach yourself at least somewhat to the “their stories”.
and
I'm astounded at McEwan's ability, in such few words, to create complex characters and themes that are not in the least bit inchoate.

Thank you.

By the way, these words also describe McEwan's "Saturday"


Kate I too would like to thank you for so eloquently putting into words that with which I am struggling.

This was my first McEwan read and was just so touched by the masterful writing and how exquisitely uncomfortable the pivotal scene made me feel.

Thanks for a wonderful review.


message 3: by Cody (last edited Apr 29, 2010 11:28AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cody Thanks, both of you, so very much, for reading and appreciating my review. I'm so glad that my thoughts struck a chord. I'm also grateful for your comments, as I hadn't looked back at this review since penning it a few years ago. Thus, your posts here gave me the chance to recall the impact this wonderful book had on my life as it was a few years ago (quite different from what it is now, actually). All-in-all, your comments and my recollections, were nice surprises this morning, I can assure you. Cheers.


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