McEwan, Ian. “On Chesil Beach”, Doubleday, 2007.
Let me start by saying that “On Chesil Beach” is not the kind of book that I usually review. It has no gay characters and no gay subplot and has nothing at all to do with gay life whatsoever. What it is is a beautiful little book of depth and sweetness that runs the gamut of human emotions in little more than two hundred pages. It is beautifully written and intellectually stimulating in the style of Ian McEwan’s other books and it will take you away with it.
The plot is simple. In July 1962 two newlyweds, Florence and Edward, both not yet introduced to the wonders and beauty of sexual intercourse arrive at a hotel to begin their honeymoon. Florence is a musician of great talent who desires a career on the concert stage and anxiously awaits the beginning of a perfect life that she knows she will have with her new husband.
Edward is a history student at University College of London courted Florence and won her unexpectedly.
As the two sit down to dinner on their wedding night, each struggles to hide how they feel about what is to come when they adjoin to their rooms. Edward is anxious to consummate his love for Florence but worries about how she will react to his advances and also worries that he cannot live up to his manly responsibility. Florence is even more worried than Edward, The thought of physical contact disgusts her and she is fearful of being a disappointment to her husband when the time comes for her to fulfill her duty as a wife.
The beauty of the book lies in the innocence of the two characters. Where they live, marriage is presumed to be an “outward sign of maturity and independence”. As the lives of the two are transformed, we enter their lives and are carried away by both the tenderness of both the story and the language with which it is written.
Yu may wonder why I chose to review this book. I felt as I read that the fears that these two people share are not much different than the ones we have when first making love to someone that we feel strongly for, Sure, we don’t like to admit that we have those feelings but inadequacy is a part of all of us.