Sunday, June 21, 2009
On Chesil Beach
Ian McEwan is one of my favourite authors. His novel Saturday may have been the best thing I read last year. On Chesil Beach is a slim volume, more of a novella really. Edward Mayhew and Florence Ponting have just been married and are spending their honeymoon in a small hotel on the Dorset seashore. They are deeply in love. Edward looks forward with great anticipation to the consummation of the marriage (this is after all 1962). Florence is fearful and disgusted by the very idea of sex.
They have an awkward dinner served in their room. Edward has no inkling of Florence's fear and the sexual endeavour is a dismal life changing failure. In between we learn more about Edward and Florence and what brought them together.
The story harkens back to a distant time on the cusp of the sexual revolution that changed everything. This a tiny novel about romance, poor communication, stubborn youth and bad decisions all placed in sharp focus by McEwan's penetrating insight into what resonates beneath the surface in relationships.