Tuesday, December 15, 2009

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

I don't know what it is about Ian McEwan's style but his books are amongst those that stay in your mind long after you have finished reading them.  They need lots of processing, even this very small book stayed with me and I carried it around in my mind for a couple of months.  It has been doing the rounds of the staff room for most of this year and has been the subject of lots of discussion.  It has to be said, no everyone has loved it as I did.

It is the story of couple, Edward and Florence, set in 1962, who have just married that morning, they arrive at a small seaside hotel on the British coast for the first night of their honeymoon with so many fears and anxieties that your sympathy is with them right from the start, though my sense of frustration with them was also there.  Their lives are examined up to the point of their marriage and in the course of the evening you find out how they come to be here, in a situation which, today, would be hard to imagine but in 1962 England would have been common.  Reviews of this book say that it is 'tightly written' and I think that is true, nothing in the book is left to chance, every movement of the characters builds the anxiety and tension.  I put this book down totally exhausted, and it is a small book!

This book is unrelentingly sad to me.  The time it is set, the way that relationships were secret, important things went unspoken and the conversations that I remember from my own childhood were common, it is hard to imagine that people would go through this kind of honeymoon these days, but the book does such a fine job of taking you back there, it is just written so cleverly.

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