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On Chesil Beach: Ian McEwan

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It’s Britain in the early ’60s, which means that, as Ian McEwan’s opening puts it, Florence (played in the movie by Saoirse Ronan) and Edward ( Dunkirk’s Billy Howle) were “young, educated, and both virgins on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when a conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible. In “The Child in Time,” from 1987, a man’s little girl is kidnapped at the supermarket, and his rising panic is charted with the merciless precision of a cardiogram. Clean of sprawl and clutter -- not a word, incident or image seems slackly placed -- the book never hardens into the schematic.

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan | Waterstones On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan | Waterstones

He does lean on noirish tropes—the climaxes of “Enduring Love” and “Saturday” both involve a deranged man, a trembling woman, and a knife. He went there in March, 2005, as part of an expedition with Cape Farewell, a British organization concerned about climate change.Assembled together in this form, all the hints seem quite clear, though they are of course easier to miss when they’re scattered throughout even a short book. Florence is bound by the social code of another era and, perhaps having been sexually abused by her father, [3] is terrified of sexual intimacy.

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan | Goodreads

Just as the couple are about to have sex for the first time the inexperienced Edward involuntarily ejaculates onto her belly and thighs. Embarrassed by the same speech patterns that had burdened his mother, he enlisted a friend to correct him when he said things like “I done it.

She remembered the rustle of the clothes, the clink of a belt unfastened or of keys and or loose change. On the first of several visits to Fitzroy Square, McEwan greeted me at the door in a state of genial distraction.

On Chesil Beach’: Did You Catch Florence’s Backstory? ‘On Chesil Beach’: Did You Catch Florence’s Backstory?

In On Chesil Beach McEwan has combined the intensity of his narrowly focused early work with his more expansive later flowering to devastating effect. In a BBC Radio 4 interview, McEwan admitted to taking a few pebbles from Chesil Beach and keeping them on his desk while he wrote the novel.The finest passages in On Chesil Beach are the tremulous vacillations experienced by the couple, a sad mixture of stage-fright, clumsy slapstick and tender awkwardness. The initial experience and their differing responses to the failure have lifelong consequences for both. David McEwan, an acutely intelligent man—he received the highest test scores in his school district before his mother asked him to drop out and start earning a wage—served in the Second World War, and was wounded at Dunkirk; the Army offered to send him to college, but he declined. Saturday, and McEwan’s fiction generally, emerge as much more stridently secular than recent studies of his work’s sincerity and commitment suggest. The jacket copy for a paperback edition of his second story collection, “In Between the Sheets,” declared, “Nobody ever said he was nice.

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