On Chesil Beach

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On Chesil Beach

by Ian Mcewan

April 3, 2007 | Hardcover |

3.5 out of 5 rating. 8 Reviews
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The #1 bestselling author of Saturday and Atonement brilliantly illuminates the collision of sexual longing, deep-seated fears and romantic fantasy in his unforgettable, emotionally engaging new novel.

The year is 1962. Florence, the daughter of a successful businessman and an aloof Oxford academic, is a talented violinist. She dreams of a career on the concert stage and of the perfect life she will create with Edward, the earnest young history student she met by chance and who unexpectedly wooed her and won her heart. Edward grew up in the country on the outskirts of Oxford where his father, the headmaster of the local school, struggled to keep the household together and his mother, brain-damaged from an accident, drifted in a world of her own. Edward's native intelligence, coupled with a longing to experience the excitement and intellectual fervour of the city, had taken him to University College in London. Falling in love with the accomplished, shy and sensitive Florence - and having his affections returned with equal intensity - has utterly changed his life.

Their marriage, they believe, will bring them happiness, the confidence and the freedom to fulfill their true destinies. The glowing promise of the future, however, cannot totally mask their worries about the wedding night. Edward, who has had little experience with women, frets about his sexual prowess. Florence's anxieties run deeper: she is overcome by conflicting emotions and a fear of the moment she will surrender herself.

From the precise and intimate depiction of two young lovers eager to rise above the hurts and confusion of the past, to the touching story of how their unexpressed misunderstandings and fears shape the rest of their lives, On Chesil Beach is an extraordinary novel that brilliantly, movingly shows us how the entire course of a life can be changed - by a gesture not made or a word not spoken.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 176 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.79 in

Published: April 3, 2007

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0676978819

ISBN - 13: 9780676978810

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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– More About This Product –

On Chesil Beach

On Chesil Beach

by Ian Mcewan

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 176 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.79 in

Published: April 3, 2007

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0676978819

ISBN - 13: 9780676978810

Read from the Book

ONE 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. But it is never easy. They had just sat down to supper in a tiny sitting room on the first floor of a Georgian inn. In the next room, visible through the open door, was a four-poster bed, rather narrow, whose bedcover was pure white and stretched startlingly smooth, as though by no human hand. Edward did not mention that he had never stayed in a hotel before, whereas Florence, after many trips as a child with her father, was an old hand. Superficially, they were in fine spirits. Their wedding, at St Mary’s, Oxford, had gone well; the service was decorous, the reception jolly, the send-off from school and college friends raucous and uplifting. Her parents had not condescended to his, as they had feared, and his mother had not significantly misbehaved, or completely forgotten the purpose of the occasion. The couple had driven away in a small car belonging to Florence’s mother and arrived in the early evening at their hotel on the Dorset coast in weather that was not perfect for mid July or the circumstances, but entirely adequate: it was not raining, but nor was it quite warm enough, according to Florence, to eat outside on the terrace as they had hoped. Edward thought it was, but, polite to a fault, he would not think of contradicting her on such an evening. So they were eating in their rooms be
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From the Publisher

The #1 bestselling author of Saturday and Atonement brilliantly illuminates the collision of sexual longing, deep-seated fears and romantic fantasy in his unforgettable, emotionally engaging new novel.

The year is 1962. Florence, the daughter of a successful businessman and an aloof Oxford academic, is a talented violinist. She dreams of a career on the concert stage and of the perfect life she will create with Edward, the earnest young history student she met by chance and who unexpectedly wooed her and won her heart. Edward grew up in the country on the outskirts of Oxford where his father, the headmaster of the local school, struggled to keep the household together and his mother, brain-damaged from an accident, drifted in a world of her own. Edward's native intelligence, coupled with a longing to experience the excitement and intellectual fervour of the city, had taken him to University College in London. Falling in love with the accomplished, shy and sensitive Florence - and having his affections returned with equal intensity - has utterly changed his life.

Their marriage, they believe, will bring them happiness, the confidence and the freedom to fulfill their true destinies. The glowing promise of the future, however, cannot totally mask their worries about the wedding night. Edward, who has had little experience with women, frets about his sexual prowess. Florence's anxieties run deeper: she is overcome by conflicting emotions and a fear of the moment she will surrender herself.

From the precise and intimate depiction of two young lovers eager to rise above the hurts and confusion of the past, to the touching story of how their unexpressed misunderstandings and fears shape the rest of their lives, On Chesil Beach is an extraordinary novel that brilliantly, movingly shows us how the entire course of a life can be changed - by a gesture not made or a word not spoken.

From the Jacket

Praise for Saturday:

"Ian McEwan proves again that there may be no novelist in English better able to sustain the classical virtues of balance and clarity."
-The Globe and Mail

"Finely wrought and shimmering with intelligence."
-The New York Times Book Review

"In Saturday, the marvelously gifted Ian McEwan turns a single day into nearly twenty-four hours emblematic of an entire era."
-Chicago Tribune

"Saturday is thoughtful, finely written, rich in detail and analysis, a portrait of a living mind."
-The Gazette (Montreal)

"[McEwan] remains at the top of his game-assured, accomplished and ambitious. . . . [Saturday] offers something transcendent, impossible to dissect."
-The Daily Telegraph

"It's the good writing and the truthful and convincing way of rendering consciousness that makes Ian McEwan's Saturday so engrossing, keeping me awake like a mystery thriller."
-Colm Tóibín, The Sunday Times

About the Author

Ian McEwan is the acclaimed author of more than ten books, including the novels Saturday, Atonement, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the W. H. Smith Literary Award, The Comfort of Strangers and Black Dogs, both shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Amsterdam, winner of the Booker Prize and The Child in Time, winner of the Whitbread Award, as well as the story collections First Love, Last Rites, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award, and In Between the Sheets. He lives in London.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Saturday:

"Ian McEwan proves again that there may be no novelist in English better able to sustain the classical virtues of balance and clarity."
-The Globe and Mail

"Finely wrought and shimmering with intelligence."
-The New York Times Book Review

"In Saturday, the marvelously gifted Ian McEwan turns a single day into nearly twenty-four hours emblematic of an entire era."
-Chicago Tribune

"Saturday is thoughtful, finely written, rich in detail and analysis, a portrait of a living mind."
-The Gazette (Montreal)

"[McEwan] remains at the top of his game-assured, accomplished and ambitious. . . . [Saturday] offers something transcendent, impossible to dissect."
-The Daily Telegraph

"It's the good writing and the truthful and convincing way of rendering consciousness that makes Ian McEwan's Saturday so engrossing, keeping me awake like a mystery thriller."
-Colm Tóibín, The Sunday Times

Bookclub Guide

1. What do the novel's opening lines tell us about Edward and Florence? How did your perceptions of them change throughout the subsequent pages? What details did you eventually know about them that they never fully revealed to one another?

2. Is Edward's libido truly the primary reason he proposes marriage, or were other factors involved (perhaps ones he did not even admit to himself)? Are relationships harmed or helped by cultural restrictions against sex before marriage? Would this marriage have taken place if the couple had met when birth-control pills were no longer just a rumor?

3. Edward replays the words "with my body I thee worship" in his mind. What might have been the intention in including that line when this version of the marriage ceremony was written? How does it make Edward feel?

4. Ian McEwan describes the novel's time period as an era when youth was not glorified but adulthood was. We are also told that Edward was born in 1940, while his parents contemplated possible outcomes of the war with Germany. At what point did Edward and Florence's solemnity become viewed as old-fashioned? What contributed to that shift? What are your recollections, or those shared by relatives who lived it, of the emerging youth culture of the late 1960s and '70s?

5. Were Florence and Edward incompatible in ways beyond sexual ones? What do their difficulties in bed say about their relationship altogether? Or is sex an isolated aspect of a marriage?

6. Chapter two describes how Florence and Edward met; the first paragraph tells us that they were too sophisticated to believe in destiny. How would you characterize the kind of love they developed? What made them believe they were perfect for one another? Are any two people perfect for one another?

7. What did Edward's decision to go to London for college indicate about his goals? What was Florence's dream for her future? Was marriage a greater social necessity for her, as a woman? Would her career as a classical musician necessarily have been sacrificed if she had remained with Edward?

8. Compare Edward's upbringing to Florence's. How did their parents affect their attitudes toward life? How did the limitations of Edward's mother shape his feelings about responsibility and women? Was Florence drawn to her mother's competitiveness?

9. To what extent was the financial gulf between Edward and Florence a source of trouble? How might the relationship have unfolded, particularly during this time period, if Edward, not Florence, had been the spouse with financial security?

10. Chapter four recounts the moment when Edward tells Florence he loves her because she's "square," not in spite of it. Are their opposing tastes the product of their temperaments or the episodes in their young lives? What is your understanding of her revulsion to sex?

11. Discuss the novel's setting, which forms its title. What is the effect of the creaky hotel McEwan creates, and the crashing permanent waves on a beach where the temperatures are still chilly in June? What does it say about the newlyweds that this is the scene of their wedding night?

12. In the end, Edward explores various "what ifs." Would their marriage have lasted if he had consented to her request for platonic living arrangements? What are the best ways to predict whether a couple can sustain a marriage?

13. How would Edward and Florence have fared in the twenty-first century? Has the nature of love changed as western society has evolved?

14. The author tells us that the marriage ended because Edward was callous, and that as Florence ran from him, she was at the same time desperately in love with him. Why did Edward respond the way he did? Why was it so difficult for them to be honest about their feelings? How would you have reacted that night?

15. Discuss the structure of On Chesil Beach . What is the effect of reading such a compressed storyline, weaving one night with the years before and after it? How did it shape your reading to see only Edward's point of view in the end? What might Florence's perspective have looked like?

16. In what ways does On Chesil Beach represent a departure for Ian McEwan? In what ways does it enhance the themes in his previous fiction?

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