Review of On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
Ian McEwan is widely regarded as the best contemporary British writer. That is of course disputable, but he is definitely amongst the great ones, I think almost everyone would agree on that. “On Chesil Beach” is a story of small scope, mainly about 2 people and their misfortune, but I think one can learn a great deal from this book about people's lives and the moments that define them.
Perhaps there is even more to learn here than in other Ian McEwan books such as “Amsterdam” or “Solar” which deal with high politics and Noble prize winners. Those are good books of course, but none of his books touched me as deeply as “On Chesil Beach”. Not even the “Ilastrious Attonement” which is a truly great book of much greater scope which deals with war and human suffering on a huge scale.
“On Chesil Beach” is a story about a boy and a girl who have just gotten married and are about to consummate their marriage. The story takes place in England, 1962, before the arrival of the sexual revolution and both are terrified. The events of this terrible night unfold in this great novel that really seems to touch a very deep truth: In our lives there are crucial moments, the moments when important decisions that will change the course of our entire life are made. And many times our reasons for chosing our course are random, mood related, stupid in fact.
If you have made some bad choices in your life, this book will certainly bring them back to you, I am afraid to say. If you are young and haven't had the chance to make such big mistakes- well who knows, it might just save you. The emotional Ping Pong that develops between the newly wed on this crucial night is both gripping and somewhat depressing. But it will give you a lot to think about and it's just a great reading experience, as Ian McEwan is such a great writer.
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