Jessica's Reviews > On Chesil Beach

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
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's review
Dec 15, 2007

really liked it
bookshelves: happyendings, love-and-other-indoor-sports, crazy-ladies
Recommended for: those of us who enjoy whining about the complexity of heterosexual relationships these days
Read in December, 2007

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 precisely the right stage of my life. I see that not all the Booksters on here loved it so much, while to me it was just about perfect. So far both McEwan books I've read have dealt with sex and class, but also with this project of looking back at the past and trying to make sense of it, and of the ways we choose to do or not do certain things, at how we make decisions and conduct relationships with one another, and in this fumbling, unguided way wind up doing what it is that makes our lives. McEwan shows us history and the people trapped inside it, and he offers up a counterpoint to the Talking Heads song about days going by with a different view of the mechanics by which we each wind up having lived a certain life.... if that makes any sense, and it probably doesn't the muddled way I've explained it. Well, it does to me, and I actually thought this book accomplished it much more successfully than Atonement, which I also really liked.

I think Ian McEwan is a terrific writer. I bet if I'd read him a another point in my life I wouldn't be responding so enthusiastically, but right now his stuff is making a lot of sense to me.

I also love that he wrote a short, careful book. More people should do that. Everything doesn't need to be so big and sprawling. An excruciatingly crafted sex scene can be just as impressive as a multigenerational epic, in five hundred fewer pages. Saves on trees, too!
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06/23/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Jessica Okay, this may be rash, but I am giving it another star. The more I think about this book, the more I love it and want to defend it from its critics. I thought the ending was perfect. I thought all their ignorance and awkwardness about sex were perfect.

"But it is never easy...." No! It never is! This book was great.

Paul Bryant The extra star was indeed rash. It was a very special bookface kind of rashness the intrinsic poignancy of which I would venture to suggest would be lost on many.

Dioni (Bookie Mee) I totally love your first paragraph! Spot on! LOL

Sparrow I completely agree, Jessica! I read this at the perfect time in my life, too, but I could see all of the painfulness being really . . . painful at another time in my life. As it is, the painfulness was very beautiful. I have been thinking about the way McEwan writes women, and I think it almost is like he's figured out what he doesn't understand about women, so he can write them very elegantly. I think that even though this book was so short, it represents some kind of achievement in his ability to identify the misunderstanding between men and women. I think that theme carries through the other books I've read of his, too.

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