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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan’s long awaited novel, On Chesil Beach, finally came out last week. The slight novel portrays two young newlyweds on the first course of their honeymoon. When we meet them, they are dining across from one another and in these moments, alone together for the first time, each recognizes in turn, the vast beach of unspoken words, emotions and desires that separates them. Set in 1962, on the brink of the sexual revolution, McEwan’s novel explores the culture of sexual repression, as it exists just before the world will explode into a new era of free love. True to form, McEwan manages to create protagonists so fully developed that their humanity evokes laughter one moment, and sadness in the next. It is indicative of his literary prowess that he can write characters so endearing that the reader continues to engage and empathize with them throughout moments so unbearable that there is no option but to cringe with discomfort. Just when things seem to be heating up, zippers get stuck, emotions are misinterpreted and the honeymoon preemptively ends... As he is wont to do, McEwan leaves the reader contemplating things done and things left undone, and proves, once again, that ordinary actions and words can change the course of all that is left to come in the most extraordinary ways. - Caroline Morrison