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On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan - Book Review

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating
User Rating 2 Star Rating (2 Reviews)


On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

On Chesil Beach - Courtesy Nan A. Talese

The Bottom Line

On Chesil Beach is a slim novel, and the prose is spare. Its ambition is small, too: the main story takes place on just one night. Don’t let this smallness fool you, though. Edward’s and Florence’s entire lives are contained in Ian McEwan’s stunning novella. On Chesil Beach is the latest achievement from one of the best authors of our time, and it should not be missed.
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  • Ian McEwan is a commanding, precise writer and On Chesil Beach is absolutely a pleasure to read
  • The story is layered and thought-provoking, but at the same time compelling and engrossing
  • McEwan tells the story of a couple experiencing the seismic culture shift of the 1960s


  • On Chesil Beach contains explicit sexual passages and isn’t appropriate for children


  • Edward and Florence are thrilled and terrified, respectively, by their wedding night
  • These marital thoughts are intercut with passages about their childhoods and how they met
  • The stories of how each reached this brink of adulthood reveals much about Edward and Florence

Guide Review - On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan - Book Review

On Chesil Beach opens with a young couple nervously anticipating their wedding night, in a small English seaside hotel in the early 1960s. Both are inexperienced, but their anxiety stems from very different sources. As the novel heads back to the early stages of their meeting and courtship, along with their post-war childhoods, their characters and futures are slowly revealed.

A large portion of the narrative is a detailed, unsensationalized description of the couple’s sexual exploration on their wedding. It’s not an erotic novel, but sex is an important part of the love story McEwan is telling.

The main strength of On Chesil Beach is the powerful, precise, and beautiful writing. Every sentence is a joy to read. Author Ian McEwan’s most recent novels—Atonement and Saturday—were critically acclaimed bestsellers. On Chesil Beach covers very different ground but deserves no less praise.

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User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 3 out of 5
Beached, Member JamesVVV

I have just read for the second time over seven years, ""On Chesil Beach"" The first occasion I had just read it, I met a young woman at a tropical resort. I had some resistance to the idea of marriage, having previously avoided matrimony. But this time, with ""Chesil"" in my mind, I decided that to waste this opportunity would be a mistake. So I asked her to marry me. The consequence has been mainly positive. We married, and have a delightful child, a boy aged 5. Ian McEwan's novels consistently reveal troubled and bizarre relationships with women. I suspect in this tale of sexual frustration, there is something of him personally present. It is a remarkable assault on sixties English sexual mores.

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