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On Chesil Beach

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  66,414 ratings  ·  6,650 reviews
A novel of remarkable depth and poignancy from one of the most acclaimed writers of our time.

It is July 1962. Florence is a talented musician who dreams of a career on the concert stage and of the perfect life she will create with Edward, an earnest young history student at University College of London, who unexpectedly wooed and won her heart. Newly married th
Hardcover, 166 pages
Published March 23rd 2007 by Jonathan Cape
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Jackie LeGrande I don't believe Florence is asexual at all. In fact, on her wedding night, there was a moment where her fear and anxieties were quelled and she began…moreI don't believe Florence is asexual at all. In fact, on her wedding night, there was a moment where her fear and anxieties were quelled and she began to think she might be able to be physical with her partner. She seemed to long for that feeling again. I think her issues are of trust and control.
I believe her trust was shattered by her sexually abusive father. Because she was so young when it happened, she wasn't able to control the situation and therefore as an adult she feels uncomfortable with situations she can't control. That's why she pours herself into her music.
She's in complete control of her violin. She won't even join an orchestra and chooses a quartet, so she can maintain all control in the quartet.(less)
Glenn I think this question illustrates what a superb storyteller Ian McEwan is! The allusion is contained in a fleeting memory and not at all emphasized,…moreI think this question illustrates what a superb storyteller Ian McEwan is! The allusion is contained in a fleeting memory and not at all emphasized, but it made me sit up like a thunderbolt struck. I re-read that para 3x to make sure I wasn't missing anything, and then looked for other clues as to Florence's father's behaviour throughout the book.

The only other clue I found was the impression Geoffrey Ponting makes on Edward when they first meet.

But that description stuck with me throughout the book as the likely untold tragedy which was never communicated and doomed their relationship.

Like so much about this period of time in the UK, what is said is much less than what isn't said.

I think if the event was more clearly described, then indeed Florence would have 'known' about it and be able to relate this to Edward. (less)

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Average rating 3.58  · 
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Sep 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i read this book in one sitting, on a plane from l.a. to nyc, and it just knocked my socks off. and i came up with a scenerio: imagine if i was flying cross country for some kind of mcewanesque purpose … suppose last time i had been in new york I had met a girl, had spent only a few hours with her, but came back changed. i walked around los angeles buzzed, different, everything slightly altered, colored with that feeling… alright, yeah, it sounds stupid, but go with me (and mcewan) on this. what if i ju ...more
Jim Fonseca
Feb 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: british-authors
We know the story in advance from the book jacket: a disastrous wedding night. Both are virgins. Young people will find that hard to believe these days, but this is set in the 1960’s. As the author tells us, “the pill was only a rumor.” They had no opportunity for intimacy while dating. While in school in London he lived in a room in the house of a strict aunt. She lived in a women’s rooming house with a dorm mother keeping watch and no men allowed.

We know the story in advance from the book jacket: a disastrous wedding night. Both are virgins. Young people will find that hard to believe these days, but this is set in the 1960’s. As the author tells us, “the pill was only a rumor.” They had no opportunity for intimacy while dating. While in school in London he lived in a room in the house of a strict aunt. She lived in a women’s rooming house with a dorm mother keeping watch and no men allowed.


We learn about their families and upbringing; how they met and how they dated. Both are intellectuals. He’s studying to be a professor of history; her life is music and playing the violin. They are more or less in love and they are getting married because it’s what you do. “This was still the era…when to be young was a social encumbrance, a mark of irrelevance, a faintly embarrassing condition for which marriage was the beginning of a cure.”

The woman suspects there is something wrong with her – she knew nothing about sex, just what she read in a how-to guide. She was terrified and repelled by all the talk of fluids and penetration. He’s anxious and fumbling. He mistakes her moans of disgust for signs of pleasure.

It was a good story and it kept my attention, but I found the book a bit dragged out. Maybe it should have been a short story. This is my sixth McEwan (Enduring Love, Nutshell, Amsterdam, Saturday and Atonement) and only the last I rated a five.

Photo of Chesil Beach from
Sep 16, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: students of literature, dirty old men
The first thing you should know about this book is that, like the other Ian McEwan books I’ve read, it is about the most uncomfortable, awkward, and squirmy thing you’ll ever read. Don’t believe me? What if I told you that the book – which is 200 pages long – only covers about two hours of time: the first two hours of a newlywed couple’s honeymoon in which they fumble to consummate their marriage? And that both of them have very embarrassing sexual dysfunctions?

Well, that’s what the book is abo
Will Byrnes
Sep 22, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This deceptively light novella describes the events of Florence and Edward’s disastrous honeymoon night in 1962, interspersed with details of their childhoods and courtship to suggest how those influenced what happened.

(Update re film at the bottom...)

It is clinical and understated from the start: “The wedding... had gone well” and the “weather... not perfect but entirely adequate” and continues in the bedroom with detailed descriptions of physical sensations of skin, muscle, and even individual hairs:
Dec 05, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british
Having read my first McEwan, I think I can begin to understand why so many good friends feel conflicted about him, even though almost all my friends have recorded positive reviews for this particular novel - the reason I chose this one over others.

On Chesil Beach is hilariously funny, boldly intimate, and admirably candid when it describes the internal turmoil of its characters and their struggles to interpret their own truths, but taken whole I think the novel is just so so: the story, the b/>On
Jason Pettus
Sep 27, 2007 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Glenn Sumi
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
UPDATED: May 24, 2018, after watching the new film:

This is my second viewing of the film. I first saw it last September during the Toronto film festival. I read the book a month ago. And I rescreened the film a few days ago to review before its theatrical release. I prefer the novel, especially for the witty, all-knowing narrator. The flashbacks are handled much more subtly in the book than they are in the movie.

But the film (McEwan wrote the screenplay) captures the same tone of light/>
Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters
I have a First Edition of this small hardcopy book. I read it in 2007.
There are other passionate 5 star reviews..
but I was incredibly disappointed.
I felt it could have been a short story -
I was angry that I paid full price for it.

However ..I may re- read this book soon ( it only takes a few hours) with an open mind to see if my thoughts have changed.

I’m guessing people today didn’t pay $30 for this as I had. Funny how the price bothered me so much.. and it did at the time.
Roger Brunyate

A brilliant book, but such a sad one; it would be unfair not to say so up front. Ian McEwan is a master at dissecting emotions. Every page of this wonderfully-crafted novel gave me the uncanny feeling of living within the skins of the two main characters, Edward and Florence, just married as the book opens. When they fall in love, nurture ambitions, experience happiness, I feel these things too. But when happiness eludes them, the pain is unbearable, not least because the author never lets us for 
A story lives transformed by a gesture not made or a word not spoken.

This little novel is so deceptive. It's under 200 pages, and the story seems simple: the 1962 wedding night of Edward and Florence, two young, virginal people in love. Edward is ready to burst with the desire to consummate their marriage; Florence is dreading it.

But it isn't so simple. The night is a disaster, and wrought with the secret scars and fatal flaws the two people carry around. The writing is so revealing of th
I've been in a relationship with Ian McEwan for less than a month now, and, let me tell you. . . he's driving me CRAZY!

I wonder things about him, like. . . does he have a particularly magical keyboard that only types out the right words?

Does he even bother with an editor, or do his manuscripts sprout wings and fly independently to the publishing house, where they are lovingly pressed into clever books?

Has he been in every complicated, interpersonal entanglemen
Oct 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having only previously read Atonement & Saturday, I was both incredibly reluctant and eager to know what the “literary device” used in On Chesil Beach was; a.k.a., why it almost won the Booker Prize. I must say that the prose is so simple as to be deceitful and I was instantly aware, as I reached its final pages, that this novel was NO Atonement. (Indeed this is the stark opposite of that new classic: it is small where Atonement is enormous & epic, simple while Atonement is complex, and ...more

When words fail. When words don’t fail.

This is a distressingly sad story of promised happiness marred by the lack of words.

They barely knew each other, and never could because of the blanket of companionable near-silence that smothered their differences and blinded them as much as it bound them.

McEwan offsets the hopeless inability of the characters to communicate with each other with the splendid flow of his writing. For if the words that ought to have been said in the story falter, and those that should have bee
Fabian {Councillor}
Most people have already heard of Ian McEwan's presumable masterpiece Atonement, but many of his other novels have remained underrated ever since. On Chesil Beach is a simple love story about two opposing souls - but it is no love story in a typical way. In this short book, Ian McEwan reverses the love story and tells it backwards from their wedding night, allowing those events described to find a climax which might take them into a future with each other or separate them forever.

In the beginning,
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
"...being in love was not a steady state, but a matter of fresh surges or waves, and he was experiencing one now."
-- Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach


Almost no one can write about sex well in my opinion. You've got your erotic writers, fine, if your need for arousal and release comes from text rather than pictures or actual lovers. There are certainly millions of toss-n-tug novels that can certainly get things done. But these books, obviously, aren't literature.

There are writers, like Ken Follett, who seem to need to i
È strano questo libro: statico, ma soprattutto pensato. Pensano troppo i due protagonisti. Pensano ma non parlano, o parlano del tempo. Ma non parlano del tempo che passa tra loro, dei loro sogni e del loro amore, dei loro desideri e delle loro paure; e così il tempo passa, li segna e li attraversa. E li divide, lasciando nel lettore l'amaro in bocca e un senso d'impotenza, e la certezza che forse sarebbe bastato solo un gesto per non perdere tutto.

L'aver visto il film, oggi pomeriggio, mi ha fatto desideratutto.
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
McEwan's economy of language is remarkable, and it's highlighted especially in this novel/novella. He deftly examines the inner lives (and turmoil) of two young virgins in the early 1960's—this was before the freedom of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll had gripped England and allowed for a more equitable and open conversation around physical intimacy. On top of that, Florence is asexual (though never explicitly named) and struggles with her loyalty to Edward, her new husband and true love, and her o ...more
Mariah Roze
This was a nice, short novel about two people consummating their marriage. They are both young and unexperienced and the book follows their short love story up and past the point of marriage.

I enjoyed the book. It was simple and short with an entertaining storyline behind it.

I listened to this book on audio cd and loved the interview with the author. It really explained the story well.
Oct 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Ian Mc Ewan is fast becoming one of my favourite authors.

This is a short, simple story about a newly married couple called Florence and Edward and how " You can ruin everything by not speaking up"

I listened to this book which was narrated by Ian McEwan and what a wonderful experience that was.
This is one of those books that is full of hidden depth. On the surface the story may seem quite straight forward and yet there is so much depth to the characters and situations than first appears.

Feb 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stela-eða-láni
The Young Man's Ego: A Heartbreaking Torpedo?

"This is how the entire course of a life can be changed: by doing nothing."

This is my first McEwan novel; it's almost a 5 but not quite. I must say, if this short novel is any indication, McEwan is a master of tightening the circles, bit by bit, to mounting tension and then to the Moment, the place and time when opposing forces collide, when choices must be made, and courses must be altered or not.

He delicately weaves in the backgrounds of newly/>
"This ...more
This is the third novel by McEwan that I read. I watched the movie adaptation before I began reading the book. The movie was beautiful, the cinematography and the acting were superb. Of course, I was curious to compare how well the book was translated to the screen and what was left out of the book.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but the movie was better than the book, as it had a bit more "meat". You'd think that because I had the movie visuals in my head, the book would have come
Sep 13, 2007 rated it 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.
Maria Bikaki
Το έχω τελειώσει εδώ και μέρες και παρέλειψα να γράψω κριτική. Είναι νομίζω από κείνα τα βιβλία που σαν αναγνώστης μπορείς να πάρεις αρκετά πράγματα διαβάζοντας το και ταυτόχρονα και τιποτα. Όλα είναι θέμα οπτικής. Κεντρικό θέμα η ιστορία ενός ζευγαριού άπειρου ερωτικά και η μη ολοκλήρωση της πρώτης νύχτας του γάμου τους σεξουαλικά. Εκείνος λίγο διστακτικός και ανίκανος για πολλές πρωτοβουλίες και εκείνη ψυχρή και αρκετά εγωκεντρική. Ο συγγραφέας λοιπόν καταπιάνεται να μας παρουσιάσει το πλαίσιο ...more
Aug 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Από τα γνωστότερα έργα του Ίαν ΜακΓιούαν, ο οποίος έχει μια καλή φήμη για το έργο του. Το βιβλίο είναι μόλις 217 σελίδες με τεράστια γράμματα (!) και διαβάζεται εύκολα σε λίγες ώρες. Εξάλλου, κάτι μοναδικό στο έργο του συγγραφέα (έχω ξαναδιαβάσει βιβλίο του) είναι πως γράφει σε απλή γλώσσα και ο λόγος του ρέει πολύ εύκολα.

Ομολογώ ότι για τις περισσότερες σελίδες δεν έβρισκα για ποιο λόγο διαβάζω το βιβλίο. Το άφησα πολλές φορές στην άκρη με το μικρό μέγεθός του και την ημερομηνία επιστροφής στη
Mar 20, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Oh, I dunno. People without baggage.
Recommended to Amanda by: Read some good GR reviews, specifically LA Brian's
Shelves: 2009
I don't know who this story thinks it is is, but it can shove off. It has put me in a bad damn mood and all I wanna do is fight.

People are assholes.

You know... I just...
Betsy Robinson
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sublime, sexy, funny, technically and musically superb, wise, and heartbreaking. I will read anything Ian McEwan writes.
“This is how the entire course of a life can be changed: by doing nothing.”
If I had to pick one quote to sum up the theme of this multifaceted story, it would be this one. Both of these characters have a lot of growing (and healing) to do and neither one is ready for marriage, and certainly not ready for consummation of any sort. This exquisitely-written story is lovely, sad, and very real all at once. We are watching two people painfully walk on eggshells around each other. They are inexperienced a
Michela De Bartolo
Inghilterra , siamo in un contesto storico in cui sul sesso gravano pesanti pregiudizi e inconsapevolmente siamo ad un passo dall’esplosione della libertà sessuale che arriverà con la fine degli anni sessanta.
La prima notte di nozze di una coppia di ventenni inglesi degli anni Sessanta diventa una sorta di commedia drammatica , legata soprattutto al passato, rafforzata da gustosi inevitabili equivoci.
Lui, Edward, giovane con ambizioni letterarie, ha poca esperienza con le donne in ge
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I've been waffling on what I think about this book. It is the story of a wedding night, awkward sex, unfilled expectations, misunderstandings that aren't worked out. Unfortunately I could never read it through the characters' eyes, I was always too aware of the author somehow, his gaze on these people, a sneaking feeling that his emphasis was on the wrong things.

And then there is a hint of something in Florence's past that is unresolved, even for the reader. I had looked forward to t
ατζινάβωτο φέγι.
''Έτσι μπορεί να αλλάξει η πορεία μιας ολόκληρης ζωής - μένοντας αδρανής.''
Feb 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
McEwan is such a famous and well reviewed author that he should stand up to scrutiny unlike say a first time author feeling their way .
I found the whole story unrealistic and artificial and some of the writing lazy .
we are asked to believe that 2 people so in love and apparently still so years after their disasterous wedding night should not have found a way to overcome the inauspicious start .

we are also led to believe that somehow this problem was because they were living in
Jul 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Kao i uvek, i ovaj put Makjuanovi junaci su ljudi od krvi i mesa, puni strahova, predrasuda, kompleksa. Kod njega nema lažnog morala, on ogoljuje ljudsko telo i ističe sve njegove nedostatke, ali ne zato da bi ga izvrgao ruglu, već zato što je ono upravo takvo - nesavršeno i puno mana, baš kao što je i ljudska duša mračna i tajnovita.
"Čezil Bič" se može posmatrati i kao studija o komunikaciji i poverenju među životnim partnerima, otvorenosti i poštovanju tuđih osećanja, spremnosti da se pr
Dec 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those of us who enjoy whining about the complexity of heterosexual relationships these days
Reading Ian McEwan makes me want to give up forever on writing any more sentences of my own. It's just embarrassing. Why bother? Ugh.


I am really glad I didn't read this book when I was a kid. If it had existed then and I'd come across it, between On Chesil Beach and Bell Jar I would've almost certainly gotten me to a nunnery, and I'd be there right now (though come to think of it, would that be such a bad thing?).

Actually, I think I read this at precise
Aug 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: i-own
Rating: 3 stars

Plot: 2.5
Characters: 3
Writing style: 3

"On Chesil Beach" by Ian McEwan is a story set in 1962. Two young and inexperienced newlyweds arrive at a seaside hotel to spend their wedding night.
I enjoyed certain aspects of it, (e. g. subtlety of revealing information to the reader, the atmosphere of the period), but overall it's quite mediocre. It could've been a short story instead of novella, some parts felt contrived and the ending was unnecessary.
Probably my favorite McEwan book; I liked that it was so tightly constructed and the writing was great, as usual. I think he got the atmosphere of the period just right but I could have done without the present day bit at the end. Finally, I felt that he set the reader up for some act of violence which he then failed to deliver, leaving me a bit confused.
Oct 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
It took me three years to finish it. I bought it on Heathrow, eyes full of tears because I was departing from my boyfriend in Dublin via London. It was the n-th time I did this, fiercely sobbing while sitting on my luggage and hating every step of the known airport. It always took me a while to get a hold of myself, because London has always been no-man's land. Up to now, London has taken place as the place where my bipolar relationship reached its highs and lows. My head spinning in all directi ...more
My first McEwan since "Atonement" (, and he didn't disappoint. "On Chesil Beach" is a short novella set in the late 1950's, about a young couple's wedding night. Edward and Florence are young and in love, but they are also very proper, and by that I mean completely sexually inexperienced. As soon as they get the dinner waiters out of the wedding suite, they both know they should be consummating their union; alas, they both ...more
Edward and Florence are twenty-two and now newlyweds. The book opens with them celebrating their first night together with what should be a romantic dinner, a perfect prelude before consummating their marriage on the four-poster waiting for them in the next room. However, we see them awkwardly tensing over their meal, over-thinking and anticipating the deed afterwards. Edward is stuck in passivity, nervous anticipation and tension, and Florence is possessed with conflicting fear and overwhelming ...more
The end of this book made it a 5 star read. It was a story set in the 1960's, a time when young people meeting, and marrying in the way the main characters did, would be uncommon now. The reader senses Edward and Florence are not not well suited to be married. She is a classical musician, and he loves rock, and history. She comes from a well off family in Oxford, and he is from a family that lives in a small hamlet several miles from Oxford. His father is a school master, and his mother is disab ...more
Il corso di tutta una vita può dipendere dal non fare qualcosa

Per orgoglio,immaturità ,intransigenza, ignoranza

Erano giovani, freschi di studi ,e tutti e due ancora vergini in quella loro prima notte di nozze ,
nonché figli di un tempo in cui affrontare a voce problemi sessuali risultava semplicemente impossibile.
Anche se facile non lo è mai .

*la foto di copertina è perfetta ,una volta tanto :)
fissa uno dei momenti indimenticabili della storia
con Edward imp/>
Sono un poco delusa. La scrittura è eccellente, non c'è che dire. I dialoghi, i pensieri e i gesti dei protagonisti sono davvero ben studiati e ben descritti, e donano un tocco di teatralità molto piacevole alla lettura.
L'atmosfera in generale ha lo stesso senso di ineluttabilità, seppur nell'ordinarietà di una vita comune - come in Donna per caso di Coe.

Ma il racconto della notte di nozze di Edward e Florence mi è risultato a tratti prolisso, pur nella sua brevità; i flashback riguarda
Jun 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2018
The last few pages shattered me. I'd like to read them again, but don't think I can, or should.
What a quietly stunning little book. I didn't know what to expect from On Chesil Beach, having only read and been somewhat underwhelmed by Atonement about a decade ago, but I have now officially been converted to the church of Ian McEwan. I could not believe the emotional torment he managed to put me through in the space of 200 bite-sized pages.

On Chesil Beach is an almost-love story
A dud if ever there was one....

I suppose I should start off by saying I read this yesterday in quite some pain, so maybe that has made me even more intolerant that usual. Not for the first time I wonder at the professional world of book reviewing, this receiving the highest of accolades from the English press. It’s all a crock if you ask me.

This is a fifties/sixties story of the debacle of the wedding night of a young English couple. I wonder if it was a short story that
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Play Book Tag: On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan, 5 stars 11 17 Mar 04, 2019 06:54AM  
Around the Year i...: On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan 1 14 Jul 19, 2018 08:37AM  
Screen & Page: On Chesil Beach 1 4 Apr 21, 2018 08:15AM  
Play Book Tag: On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, 4 stars 18 30 Mar 11, 2018 05:57PM  
Constant Reader 85 255 Dec 27, 2014 03:37PM  
What's the Name o...: 1950's, honeymoon, island, wedding night jitters [s] 5 161 May 11, 2014 08:27AM  

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Ian McEwan studied at the University of Sussex, where he received a BA degree in English Literature in 1970 and later received his MA degree in English Literature at the University of East Anglia.

McEwan's works have earned him worldwide critical acclaim. He won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976 for his first collection of short stories First Love, Last Rites; the Whitbread Novel Award (1987
“This is how the entire course of a life can be changed: by doing nothing.” 521 likes
“All she had needed was the certainty of his love, and his reassurance that there was no hurry when a lifetime lay ahead of them.” 171 likes
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