On Chesil Beach

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On Chesil Beach

by Ian Mcewan

Knopf Canada | April 8, 2008 | Trade Paperback

On Chesil Beach is rated 3.5 out of 5 by 8.
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 Hardcover edition.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 176 pages, 8.01 × 5.4 × 0.63 in

Published: April 8, 2008

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0676978827

ISBN - 13: 9780676978827

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 2 out of 5 by from on chesil beach Just read this book and simply do not get the hype about it or the Author, it was boring at best.  Sadly the best part was the cover design and fancy cutting of the pages. I read about 25 books a month from all areas of interest, if that makes my opinion valid or not, I guess it's just that...my opinion :)
Date published: 2014-03-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Saying nothing instead of something While Atonement will probably be remembered as Ian McEwan's masterpiece -- bearing in mind McEwan does not surpass it in the surely many great novels to come -- On Chesil Beach stands along with such a novel, with less of a plot, but equal in its poignancy and rich character development. On Chesil Beach really sets McEwan alongside such great modern authors as Philip Roth with his fixation on sexuality in the novel, and how two extremely polite people can fall apart without saying anything. A metaphor that I feel really fits here is that a relationship is like a house: without drainage the rainwater -- unspoken guilt, shame, disappointment, anger, irritation -- will build up, causing the roof to collapse; the relationship will fall apart. This situation befalls Edward and Florence as their relationship is a sort of reverie, a daydream, and their misunderstanding of the expectations they have for one another, hidden by their obstinate politeness. Obviously a well written novel -- it's McEwan, come on -- with a lot packed into its small size. Possibly an awkward read for some, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Date published: 2010-08-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Very Indifferent My feelings about this book are of great indifference. I neither loved it nor hated it. There are aspects that just didn't do it for me - it is a dark story, and seemed to drag out quite a bit considering the length (only 166 pages), and the time period (most of the events take place over the course of only a few hours). But there are also aspects I enjoyed - it is a romantic story about coming of age, falling in love, and of a first sexual experience. It is beautifully told, and reads like a classic. McEwan manages to really develop the characters, despite such a short story, and I felt that I well understood the predicament that each was in. It didn't "wow" me, but I enjoyed it all the same.
Date published: 2009-08-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from I will be reading more Ian McEwan from now on! I agree with ChrisM that perhaps a few more lines explaining Florence's aversion to physical intimacy may add tremendously to the novella. Regardless, it's still a good effort and I'll be reading more of his books after this.
Date published: 2009-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A small masterpiece Ian McEwan is a maestro of letters. Every word and every sentence counts. On Chesil Beach is no exception. Indeed this slight volume is deceptively short and bittersweet. It is a novel about a doomed wedding night and the message is very simple- love requires patience forgiveness and mutuality without which it perishes. No one does a better job of conveying unfulfilled passion and the tragic consequences of unforgiveness. This novel will leave an indelible imprint and is a must read for McEwan fans.
Date published: 2009-04-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from what's love got to do with it? Unlike the female protagonist of McEwan’s novel, On Chesil Beach I am not a virgin when it comes to McEwan’s work. This is the sixth book I’ve read by this author (Saturday, First Love, Last Rites, The Comfort of Strangers, The Cement Garden, Atonement), but I’d have to say it’s my least favourite. Like his novel Saturday, McEwan compresses time and shows us Edward and Florence, a young couple dining together in a hotel on Chesil Beach on the evening of their wedding. They haven’t yet consummated their union and they are both approaching the idea of the event-to-come from vastly different vantage points. Florence is horrified at the thought of sex and Edward is both patient and anxious. McEwan fills in the blanks in their personal stories as well as their history as a couple and does it well enough that you come to understand Edward and Florence very well. Whether or not you have any sympathy for them will depend on your patience. As inexperienced as Florence is, I was left with the distinctly uneasy impression that her aversion to sex (and she really is repulsed by it: her description of a kiss made me reconsider kissing my husband ever again!) was the result of some traumatic event- although nothing is ever explicitly stated. Edward’s own inexperience has its own unfortunate consequences and the repercussions are devastating. But then McEwan does something I sort of hate in a novel- he flash forwards a few years and then many years and tells us what these people have been up to. That sort of ending never works for me. No question, McEwan is a fabulous writer. This same story, in lesser hands, would be unbearable. As it was, I felt like I was laughing where I shouldn’t be and the climax, no pun intended, was a rather soggy affair.
Date published: 2009-02-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from One of McEwan's Better Novels Florence and Edward a newly weds in 1962. They arrive at a hotel on Chesil Beach hours after their wedding ceremony and take dinner in the honeymoon suite with the expectation, fear, and excitement of what is to come after dinner. Both virgins, their outlook on sex is very different. Edward is eager and excited, but fearful of screwing up. Florence, however, is filled with dread and repulsion. She is disgusted by physical contact. The story takes us through their wedding night, where emotions run high, but also tells us of how the characters meet. I was amazed at what a page turner this little book of 200 pages was. McEwan writes the emotions of the characters so well that you want to know what is going to happen to the relationship between the newlyweds. Both characters are flawed, neither is right. I found this book quite unique from what I'm used to reading. I don't really get moved by written word in fictional novels but this sentence really spoke to me: "This is how the entire course of a life can be changed - by doing nothing." I'm a strong believer that you make your own luck, and doesn't this say the same thing! If you do nothing, you end up no where. This book should be a lesson not to let your pride get in the way of love.
Date published: 2008-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Astounding The best novel (or, actually, novella) I have read since Ian McEwan's "Saturday" or Zadie Smith's "White Teeth", and perhaps nearer perfect than either. I'm awed and deeply moved.
Date published: 2007-06-26

– More About This Product –

On Chesil Beach

by Ian Mcewan

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 176 pages, 8.01 × 5.4 × 0.63 in

Published: April 8, 2008

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0676978827

ISBN - 13: 9780676978827

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 Hardcover edition.

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.


From the Hardcover edition.

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


From the Hardcover edition.

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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