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message 1: by Craig (new)

Craig | 4 comments On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

Just finished On Chesil Beach, and thought it was a finely crafted example of great literature. I can think of few books that so completely drew me into the story as much as this one did. McEwan is a masterful writer, thank you Ann K. for turning me on to him!

I have a couple of questions for anyone who has read it:

1.) Could Marjorie's, (Edwards mother) symptoms of mental illness that seemed to mirror chronic severe depression really be caused by a concussion? I wonder why McEwan constructed this freak accident as the cause of her illness as opposed to just telling us that she suffered from severe manic depression? Did I fail to perceive meaning behind this?

2.) I heard an interview with McEwan in which he mentions that he purposely implied abuse to Florance by her father, (during the boat scene in chapter 3) I didn't think the scene was creepy enough to adequately direct the reader to that conclusion. What was your interpretation of this scene?

Thanks for reading, I'll look forward to hearing from some of you!


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

Craig wrote: "I have a couple of questions for anyone who has read it: "

1) Marjorie is experiencing post concussive (or post concussion) syndrome which includes a number of symptoms which can include mood disorders and/or personality changes. The effects can last months or even years from what little I understand. The incident at the train station underscores the theme of the novel that a quotidian or seemingly innocuous event can have life altering repercussions and; often the prime catalyst of the event is a stranger, or someone off the immediate radar.

2) Specifically to this novel, the damage that is wrought is a result of what is NOT said inasmuch as what has happened. The train station incident is one example in that the perpetrator did not hold himself accountable and simply walked away without a word. The honeymoon incident is exacerbated by the fact that neither Edward nor Florence have the language they need to resolve their conflict. Edward cannot express his frustrations nor can Florence relate her her past abuse to what she is experiencing now. The reader does not need more explicit back story of either character in order for McEwan to elaborate the keynote of his opening line: "They were young, educated and both virgins on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when a conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible."


message 3: by Ann (new)

Ann (akingman) | 2097 comments Mod
Craig,
I think I need to go back and re-read the book yet again (3rd time), because I don't remember what my response was to the implied abuse scene, especially in view of the differences in knowledge of the time. I did "buy" the concussion, perhaps because I love McEwan so much that I will trust him with nearly anything. (Read SOLAR and you'll see what I mean!)

Glad you enjoyed the book. It is one that definitely holds up to, or even requires, rereading, as evidenced by your questions. I wish I could go back right now -- alas, a pile of manuscripts awaits!


message 4: by Eric (new)

Eric | 1175 comments Mod
What's the best McEwan to start with? I've never read any. I know Ann is a big fan.


message 5: by Summer (new)

Summer | 49 comments Craig, I read this with another group I belong to. Not being of that generation myself, reading the comments of those who were gave me some insight. Here is a link to the thread. I think some of your second question is discussed there.

Eric, I recommend Saturday. It grabbed me and I couldn't put it down.


message 6: by Linda (new)

Linda | 2781 comments Mod
I read Saturday. So far, it's the only one of McEwan's books that I have read. I could put it down, but that's not to say it was not good. I plan to read more from the author.

Linda


message 7: by Craig (new)

Craig | 4 comments Thank you all for your comments.

I read somewhere else that McEwan used the freak accident with the train door to cause Marjorie's mental illness because he wanted to illustrate how a simple careless act that didn't at all effect the strangers life, greatly changed Marjorie's. (and thus, foreshadowed Edward and Flo's careless decisions.)

I suppose this makes sense, I just thought it seemed a little hackneyed. It reminded me of old cartoons and stale sitcoms where the main character gets a whack on the head and is struck with amnesia.

A truly wonderful book on the whole though, one that I'll certainly read again and again.


message 8: by Craig (new)

Craig | 4 comments Summer, Thank you for the link. I read the entire discussion and it did help me to better understand the other clues that existed in the story that I missed. Very helpful, thanks for sharing!


message 9: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 17, 2010 06:18AM) (new)

Craig wrote: "On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

Just finished On Chesil Beach, ... I have a couple of questions for anyone who has read it..."


On the audiobook edition, there is an interview of Ian McEwan (on the writing of ON CHESIL BEACH) that you may find of interest. In it, McEwan talks about, among other things, the train station incident and, an item about Florence's father that probably would have removed any ambiguity the reader may have felt about the boat scene. In the end, he removed the item about Florence's father because it didn't really serve the story. Presented as it was as a wrap-up item in the catalog of after events (Florence's father is arrested for the abduction and sexual abuse of a twleve year-old girl,) it detracted from what had become essentially Edward's story after the honeymoon night. In a way, McEwan didn't deliberately imply that Florence was abused inasmuch as he deliberately implied the ambiguity of the scene. The ambiguity underscores the theme of the inability to express or communicate and thereby resolve issues.


message 10: by Summer (new)

Summer | 49 comments Craig wrote: "Summer, Thank you for the link. I read the entire discussion and it did help me to better understand the other clues that existed in the story that I missed. Very helpful, thanks for sharing!"
You're welcome! The times I have read along with that group have been beneficial to me since I like to read comments from a variety of readers' points of view. Unfortunately, I'm not able to keep up with that group's schedule as often as I'd like.


message 11: by Laurie (new)

Laurie | 21 comments The idea that Florence had been abused by her father leads me to wonder how Florence could have been as ignorant and uneducated about men and women as she appeared to be on her honeymoon night. That doesn't really make sense to me. Loved the book, though.


message 12: by Shelly (new)

Shelly (okily-dokily) | 9 comments Laurie wrote: "The idea that Florence had been abused by her father leads me to wonder how Florence could have been as ignorant and uneducated about men and women as she appeared to be on her honeymoon night."

Yes, that was my thought. I think the sexual abuse was on the brink of happening, but never did. Perhaps that is the reason why she was so apprehensive about sex.


message 13: by Ann (new)

Ann (akingman) | 2097 comments Mod
During the recent Ian McEwan interview on Charlie Rose, he said that he is writing the screenplay for On Chesil Beach. He talked about the opportunity he would now have to tell more of the backstory, and that though most people think that the book is about the one honeymoon night, it is really informed by the extensive backstory.

I find that a fascinating way to handle a movie adaptation. Unfortunately, since he's just now writing the screenplay, it's likely we won't see the movie until 2012 at the earliest.


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