On Chesil Beach

Ian McEwan made his debut in Romania with Amsterdam and The Cement Garden, books that illustrate his past writing tendencies more than they do his present ones. Saturday was one of the best books I’ve read in 2005 and I’ve just finished On Chesil Beach.

The book takes place over the course of maybe one hour, but the tension and the flashbacks make the snail-pace at which the two newly weds (both virgins) move towards the bedroom to consummate their marriage run like a thriller. But McEwan knows the writing game well, and just when you think a denouement has been reached, he turns time to fast-forward, leaping decades into the future to leave the reader breathless, unconscious and violently aware of the passage of time. That McEwan – as opposed to other writers I’ve read recently who employed this technique – also suggests that the blunders of youth could turn into tremendous regrets doesn’t help.

Yes, we’re small against the background of history. Yes, we do foolish things and think they mean everything when in the context of one’s life, they are small. But, McEwan says, what if they ARE everything? Or, more accurately put, what if those things do change everything and 40 years later we actively regret the outcome, without realizing it could have ended differently if only one extra word had been spoken.

2 Responses to “On Chesil Beach”

  1. si eu abia astept sa o citesc. au anuntat cei de la polirom ca o scot in toamna, ma tot uit dupa ea dar… nimic. poate mai bine dau o comanda pe amazon. nu mai am rabdare.

  2. I really enjoyed Amsterdam but found Saturday difficult to get through — until the last part.

    I’ll have to check this book out…my only fear is that he has a tendency to draw things out too much (five pages on a handball match?)

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