On Chesil Beach

  • by Ian McEwan
  • Narrated by Ian McEwan
  • 4 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

It is July 1962. Florence is a talented musician who dreams of a career on the concert stage and of the perfect life she will create with Edward, an earnest young history student at University College of London, who unexpectedly wooed and won her heart. Newly married that morning, both virgins, Edward and Florence arrive at a hotel on the Dorset coast. At dinner in their rooms they struggle to suppress their worries about the wedding night to come. Edward, eager for rapture, frets over Florence's response to his advances and nurses a private fear of failure, while Florence's anxieties run deeper: she is overcome by sheer disgust at the idea of physical contact, but dreads disappointing her husband when they finally lie down together in the honeymoon suite. Ian McEwan has caught with understanding and compassion the innocence of Edward and Florence at a time when marriage was presumed to be the outward sign of maturity and independence. On Chesil Beach is another masterwork from McEwan: a story of lives transformed by a gesture not made or a word not spoken.


What the Critics Say

"Masterful." (Publishers Weekly)
"Conventional in construction and realistic in its representation of addled psychology, the novel is ingenious for its limited but deeply resonant focus." (Booklist)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

One of the best new novels in recent years

NcEwan has crafted a compelling and tightly woven novel of two lives that are changed by one night and the things not said. To say much more about the story could spoil it for the next reader. I found it difficult to stop listening to it. A perfect audio book for a long car trip when you can listen nonstop. As a literary work this will remain a significant work of this century. The author reads this shot novel with a level of feeling and drama that would be difficult for anyone else to match. Thoroughly enjoyable.
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- George

A tight little novella

"...being in love was not a steady state, but a matter of fresh surges or waves, and he was experiencing one now."
-- Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach

Almost no one can write about sex well in my opinion. You've got your erotic writers, fine, if your need for arousal and release comes from text rather than pictures or actual lovers. There are certainly millions of toss-n-tug novels that can certainly get things done. But these books, obviously, aren't literature.

There are writers, like Ken Follett, who seem to need to insert sex writing into a novel every 160 - 200 pages just to help drive the novel's narrative forward. Sex in these adventure, mystery, genre novels, etc., acts as almost a sign post or quick reward. "Congrats, fair reader, you made it to page 320, here is your second sex scene on a road with a monk." But as delivered, it all just seems a bit flat and not a little absurd.

Now, I'm not saying there isn't good sex writing out there, I have actually come across some. Joyce, Miller, Chopin, and Lawrence all seem to be able to walk that narrow beach of rolling bodies without twisting their ankles on the rocks. The capture the human frailty and power and awkwardness and sensuality of sex without dipping into cliché or caricature. I'm not sure why some, few, writers I can handle and most others I just despise. I'm not a prude. I get that sex is a part of life. It isn't icky. I'm not ashamed by it. I realize like food, it is a part of life and thus needs to be represented and shadowed in art and literature.

So, with all that baggage and preamble, it was still with quite a bit of trepidation that I slid into Ian McEwan's tight little novella. One reason I think this novel didn't bend me over too much with its very direct narrative about sex was Ian McEwan's mastery of language. He knew exactly what he was doing. He was aiming for an exact mood, a tension, a flick of a finger on a solo hair, an almost anti-climax, to convey the message of this novella. It required a tease, a premature crescendo, and in the end -- the cold, wet, and sticky dialogue of pain and regret.
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- Darwin8u "I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-02-2007
  • Publisher: Random House Audio