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It is 1962 when Edward and Florence, 23 and 22 respectively, marry and repair to a hotel on the Dorset coast for their honeymoon. They are both virgins, both apprehensive about what's next and in Florence's case, utterly and blindly terrified and repelled by the little she knows. Through a tense dinner in their room, because Florence has decided that the weather is not fine enough to dine on the terrace, they are attended by two local boys acting as waiters. The cameo appearances of the boys and Edward and Florence's parents and siblings serve only to underline the emotional isolation of the two principals. Florence says of herself: "...she lacked some simple mental trick that everyone else had, a mechanism so ordinary that no one ever mentioned it, an immediate sensual connection to people and events, and to her own needs and desires...."
They are on the cusp of a rather ordinary marital undertaking in differing states of readiness, willingness and ardor. McEwan says: "Where he merely suffered conventional first-night nerves, she experienced a visceral dread, a helpless disgust as palpable as seasickness." Edward, having denied himself even the release of self-pleasuring for a week, in order to be tip-top for Florence, is mentally pawing the ground. His sensitivity keeps him from being obvious, but he is getting anxious. Florence, on the other hand, knows that she is not capable of the kind of arousal that will make any of this easy. She has held Edward off for a year, and now the reckoning is upon her.
McEwan is the master of the defining moment, that place and time when, once it has taken place, nothing will ever be the same after it. It does not go well and Florence flees the room. "As she understood it, there were no words to name what had happened, there existed no shared language in which two sane adults could describe such events to each other." Edward eventually follows her and they have a poignant and painful conversation where accusations are made, ugly things are said and roads are taken from which, in the case of these two, the way back cannot be found. Late in Edward's life he realizes: "Love and patience--if only he had them both at once--would surely have seen them both through." This beautifully told sad story could have been conceived and written only by Ian McEwan. --Valerie Ryan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
he has a very "british" style yet he cannot be compared to any other. that is why he is the cohen of litareture for me. this story seems to be short, however, it is not. Read morePublished 26 days ago by NGT
One of the best arguments for pre-marital sex ever written. One should know a person better by then. Read morePublished 1 month ago by tuberacer
I am not a fan of short stories. Since I read this as an ebook, I could not tell how big it was. When it ended, I was ????? Is that all there is????? Read morePublished 2 months ago by V. N. Mercaldo
Meh. If you've read other McEwan, On Chesil Beach is worth picking up and you'll appreciate his use of language and his ability to dissect characters, motivations, and emotions. Read morePublished 2 months ago by JP
I had just finished Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan and loved it. Though t I would try another McEwan, but was left rather underwhelmed with "On Chesil Beach". Read morePublished 2 months ago by Loretta Parker
Strong prose, gripping story, well told. A wedding night that turns from the most promising, most loving event in two fine young peoples' lives into something quite ruinous. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Lisen