McEwan, Ian. On Chesil Beach
Booklist Reviews 2007 March #2
/*Starred Review*/ In previous novels, McEwan has measured the effect of the cataclysmic moment on personal lives. And he has never shied away from full-tilt exploration of the tensions inherent in human sexuality. These two predilections merge, almost gently, in his new novella, which, despite its short length, is anything but small in its creative concept and the consequent poignancy it arouses in the reader. This achingly beautiful narrative, which seamlessly flows between the points of view of the two primary characters, peers behind closed doors, but never lasciviously, at a young married couple on their honeymoon night. The time is the brink of the 1960s, but the young couple's virginity, and their stiltedness in general and certainly with each other (McEwan makes certain to take several glances backward to fill in their separate biographical and psychological profiles), seems a remnant of Victorian times rather than anticipating the free and easy sexuality of the decade to come. The cataclysmic moment here is simply a case of premature ejaculation during the couple's first lovemaking; and from that incident, which under normal circumstances, with normally accepting and loving individuals, would have been a minor glitch in their marital history, immediately arises a deep misunderstanding that proves disastrous to the marriage. Conventional in construction and realistic in its representation of addled psychology, the novel is ingenious for its limited but deeply resonant focus. ((Reviewed March 15, 2007)) Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2007 February #1
Shy musician Florence and her fianc‚, earnest Edward, look forward to married life, but a momentary misunderstanding on their wedding night changes everything. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
LJ Reviews 2007 April #1
It is 1962, and college graduates Florence and Edward, very much children of late 1950s London, are ready to launch themselves as a couple. Musical Florence is hoping for a concert career and looking forward to the wedding she believes will truly define her adulthood. Edward, a budding historian from a troubled family, envisions lifelong domestic joy with his beautiful fiance. However, both are plagued by private anxieties they can't bring themselves to discuss. As Edward plans an idyllic beachside wedding night, he broods about overcoming Florence's physical shyness given his own sparse experience. He has no idea she is terrified of sex but has grimly resolved to do her submissive duty. The results are false assumptions, confusion, and a nightmarish (and graphically described) sexual disaster that destroys the marriage even before it starts. McEwan's (Saturday ) brief, affecting tale of romantic dreams overthrown by adherence to social constructs that are about to change radically is a strong effort from this Booker Prize winner. Recommended for most adult fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/07.]—Starr E. Smith, Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA[Page 82]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
PW Reviews 2007 March #1
Not quite novel or novella, McEwan's masterful 13th work of fiction most resembles a five-part classical drama rendered in prose. It opens on the anxious Dorset Coast wedding suite dinner of Edward Mayhew and the former Florence Ponting, married in the summer of 1963 at 23 and 22 respectively; the looming dramatic crisis is the marriage's impending consummation, or lack of it. Edward is a rough-hewn but sweet student of history, son of an Oxfordshire primary school headmaster and a mother who was brain damaged in an accident when Edward was five. Florence, daughter of a businessman and (a rarity then) a female Oxford philosophy professor, is intense but warm and has founded a string quartet. Their fears about sex and their inability to discuss them form the story's center. At the book's midpoint, McEwan (Atonement , etc.) goes into forensic detail about their nave and disastrous efforts on the marriage bed, and the final chapter presents the couple's explosive postcoital confrontation on Chesil Beach. Staying very close to this marital trauma and the circumstances surrounding it (particularly class), McEwan's flawless omniscient narration has a curious (and not unpleasantly condescending) fable-like quality, as if an older self were simultaneously disavowing and affirming a younger. The story itself isn't arresting, but the narrator's journey through it is. (June)[Page 33]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.