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On Chesil Beach

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  75,871 ratings  ·  7,095 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 that morning,
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Hardcover, 166 pages
Published March 23rd 2007 by Jonathan Cape
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Jackie L 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, b…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)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.59  · 
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brian
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 ...more
Sarah
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
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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.

description

We learn about their families and upbringing; h
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Cecily
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 individu
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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.
Candi
“… they had so many plans, giddy plans, heaped up before them in the misty future, as richly tangled as the summer flora of the Dorset coast, and as beautiful.”

I brought two novels along with me on a recent holiday - this and another by one of my favorite writers, Wendell Berry. I forgot to pack the tissues. That was a careless oversight I won’t repeat again. On Chesil Beach served as a reminder to not let years pass between reaching for books written by some of the most brilliant authors around
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Jibran
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 basi
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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.
Julie
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 entanglement?

How does he do this? How does he t
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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 comedy an
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Elyse  Walters
Sep 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
 
Almost

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 let
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Robin
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 the c
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Fabian
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 Atonemen ...more
Kalliope


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
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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 beginnin
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Darwin8u
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

description

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, w
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°°°·.°·..·°¯°·._.· ʜᴇʟᴇɴ Ροζουλί Εωσφόρος ·._.·°¯°·.·° .·°°° ★·.·´¯`·.·★ Ⓥⓔⓡⓝⓤⓢ Ⓟⓞⓡⓣⓘⓣⓞⓡ Ⓐⓡⓒⓐⓝⓤⓢ Ταμετούρο   Αμ
Στην ακτή του πελάγους της ευτυχίας που ονειρεύτηκε κάποια πλατωνική αγάπη, τελείται μια ασυναίσθητα συναισθηματική πορνογραφία.
Πρόκειται για ένα σύντομο μυθιστόρημα με επιτηδευμένη απειρία στην συναισθηματική εμπειρία της σάρκας, ανάμεσα σε δυο άτομα που θα υπέφεραν απο την ένταση της θέλησης
να νιώσουν ο ένας τον άλλον σε κάθε ανθρώπινο, θεϊκό, ιερό, βλάσφημο, εξευτελιστικό, ζωώδες και κτηνώδες επίπεδο ύπαρξης και πανοργασμικής ηδονής.
Όμως,,οι μάταιες προσδοκίες και οι κρυμμένοι φόβοι,παρέα μ
...more
piperitapitta
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 fa
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Maxwell
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
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
Pedro
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Life is just like this story: A thread of misunderstandings, secrets, broken dreams and false expectations.

Life is also much like McEwan's writing itself: Precise, wise, masterful and merciless.

Here, On Chesil Beach I found the whole human experience condensed into 166 pages.

Mr McEwan, after this novel, Sir, I believe you have nothing else left to prove to the literary world.

Nothing can be as powerful as the right word spoken at the right time.

In life, we're all On Chesil Beach
Dem
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.

Mc
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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.
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
Cody
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. As with *Ato
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Bianca
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 to life even
...more
Perry
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 newlyweds F
...more
Anna
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
...more
Amanda
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...
Ugh...!!!!!
Jennifer
“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 ar
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Play Book Tag: On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan, 5 stars 11 21 Mar 04, 2019 06:54AM  
Screen & Page: On Chesil Beach 1 5 Apr 21, 2018 08:15AM  
Play Book Tag: On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, 4 stars 18 31 Mar 11, 2018 05:57PM  
Constant Reader 85 260 Dec 27, 2014 03:37PM  
What's the Name o...: 1950's, honeymoon, island, wedding night jitters [s] 5 166 May 11, 2014 08:27AM  
randomness or the way we intend things to go 9 164 Aug 02, 2012 12:43PM  

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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) and
...more

News & Interviews

You know the saying: There's no time like the present...unless you're looking for a distraction from the current moment. In that case, we can't...
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“This is how the entire course of a life can be changed: by doing nothing.” 524 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.” 182 likes
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