On Chesil Beach

Just got round to reading this novel. You may recall that, over at Patternings, Ann Darnton’s experience of the novel was considerably spoiled by a reference to Beatles and Rolling Stones covers of Chuck Berry, at a time when they hadn’t released them. Now here’s a funny thing- I was bracing myself for that bit, and, er, it didn’t happen. Instead, the hero tries to interest the heroine in Chuck Berry originals. Now, the edition I read is the 3rd printing, so I wonder if Ann’s very legitimate point has been taken to heart by Ian McEwan and his publishers in the latest printing? Blog power, perhaps?
The novel itself I found moving and poignant. Like Atonement and Enduring Love, it explores the consequences of decisions made or not made, things said or not said, and the lifelong reverberations of momentary events. The novel is entirely about sex, though the sexual act isn’t described, and doesn’t occur. The agonising of the protagonists in the stifling world of early sixties Britain is examined with forensic skill by McEwan. The title reminded me in its cadence of Eliot’s lines “On Margate sands/ I can connect/ nothing with nothing.” On Chesil Beach, that is certainly the case, and the failure to connect has huge resonances for the lives of both protagonists. This is an impressive work, anatomising a relationship in a particular context, and showing how impulsive choices can have devastating results. And now, sans Beatles/Stones references, it’s historically accurate too!

CC BY-SA 4.0 On Chesil Beach by Dr Rob Spence is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

9 Responses to “On Chesil Beach”

  1. I must have a look in the local Waterstones and see if there is a change. I’m sure I can’t have been the only person that picked up on it and I know I would have wanted to get it changed because it was so fundamental to the whole point of the book. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Historical whoopses apart I thought it was beautiful.

  2. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read anything by this author. Really should start, I suppose. Is this the best one to begin with?

  3. Well I was ashamed too not to have discovered Ian McEwan so I decided this had to change. I picked up Enduring Love and did not move from my sofa until it was finished. I then had to lie down in a darkened room to get over it. Following week I read Amsterdam. Another lie down in a darkened room. Quite quite stunning. I now have Atonement and when I feel mentally strong enough intend to read that one too.

  4. I don’t think it’s absolutely essential to lie down in a darkened room, Elaine..
    You are right though – he is challenging and rewarding. Atonement is my favourite- it has even survived my setting it as a text on a first year course: that’s normally enough to put me off.

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