Saturday, January 12, 2008

On Chesil Beach

Title: On Chesil Beach
Author: Ian McEwan
Vintage, 2007 (2007)

This is the best novel from McEwan in a while. It is better than Saturday, simpler, not as showy, and definitely better than Atonement which really left no impression on me at all. It is a brief affair, centered on a single idea: a young couple prepare for their wedding night in the 1960s. They are both virgins and they both worry about the consummation of the marriage but for different reasons.

McEwan has that rare ability to put into print an emotion, an idea or an event and make its essence immediately accessible to the reader. You don't often notice the absence of this quality in novels, but when you come across it, it devides the author from the mere scribbler. On Chesil Beach is filled with these moments of true recognition for the reader and it makes for a truly great reading experience.

I only have one objection. If the young man worried about premature ejaculation and was used to masturbate daily - why did he think complete abstinence was a good preparation for his wedding night?

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