#22: On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan

Begun: 3/24/2011
Finished: 3/24/2011
Format: Hardcover (library)
Rating: 4.5/5

This was truly a one-sittting book, or anyway a one-lying-down book, since I read it in bed.  It was so short and quick that once I’d gotten 1/4 of the way through it I knew I just had to finish it.  It moves fast and is compelling enough to pull you through to the end in a couple of hours.

It is a simple microcosmal tale of Edward and Florence, eight hours’ married in 1962, both of then anxious about their upcoming wedding night since both are virgins.  Edward is eagerly anticipating it, but Florence is dreading it since the whole idea of physical intimacy disgusts her despite her real love for Edward.  The book sits lightly with them as they try to eat dinner and finally transition to the bedroom, then jumps back to how they met, their courtship, their individual childhoods and the events that brought them here.

This story is tragic and sad, because we as readers (especially with a modern perspective) can so clearly see how Edward and Florence are going wrong and we want so badly for them to find each other, but will they?  You want to reach through the pages and shake them, urge them to say this or that and if they do or do not follow our advice, we’re helpless, just as helpless as they are.

The book is simply written but artful and things are very clear.  There are a couple of veiled references to possibly trauma in Florence’s past that have given her this horror of physical intimacy, but she doesn’t see it, and in 1962…well, I don’t have to draw you a map.

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