I do not understand how this novel has had such negative reviews? It’s had some good ones but very few and far between. I think after ‘Atonement’ and ‘Saturday’ have both been such successes that anything that Ian McEwan released next would have a lot to live up to. I need to point out here I haven’t read Saturday, I am a McEwan fan. So far I have read ‘Cement Garden’, ‘Atonement’ and now Chesil Beach. Atonement is by far my favourite because of the epic feel of it, however this is firm second and Cement Garden is another one of my favourites. (Oh I should say that this was my book group choice, my second McEwan novel for Book Group in fact.)
Chesil Beach is short, people have berated it for this and said it doesn’t deserve its Man Booker short listing; however people do forget that if you actually look at McEwan’s back catalogue most of his novels are short, in fact Atonement and Saturday are the two longest ones he has done. But this is where McEwan is a master of prose and story telling, after the full 166 pages of Chesil Beach there is nothing more to be said, and wow has he filled those 166 pages with as much as he can.
In 166 pages we have a tale of a newly married couple Florence and Edward which starts on their wedding night in 1962, a time when people weren’t as sexually educated as they are now (on the whole), and the wedding night is indeed becoming more of a wedding nightmare. With both of the couple inexperienced and shy it all goes wrong and changes their relationship and their lives forever. It’s actually quite heartbreaking. You also learn more about their opposing backgrounds and how they got together which only makes it all the more distressing.
This has to be one of my favourite books I wasn’t expecting anything this moving or enjoyable from the title. It may not be the normal length that people expect from a Man Booker nominee (is there a rule) but it certainly is the quality of a Man Booker winner. Without a doubt my favourite read of 2008 so far and I can tell you I will be scouting around for the rest of McEwan’s novels anywhere I can get my mitts on them. This is the closest I have ever been to declaring a read-a-thon of any author. I am mulling the possibility over.