Wednesday, July 18, 2007

On Chesil Beach

This novella (I'm tempted to call it a novelette) is the newest offering from Ian McEwan. McEwan subtitles the piece "a novel," lest anyone suspect it is a minor work. The center of the story is the wedding night of two virgins. There is much to praise in the insightful, gentle treatment of the characters and their ambivalence/ineptness/fear of sexuality. We jump backward and forward to see how past history has brought these "lovers" to a moment of truth, and are anxious to see if they rise to the occasion or botch it entirely. Then, after the moment has passed, McEwan fast-forwards us through the future with such velocity that we wonder why he's in such a hurry to finish things up. My assessment: a sensually told tale, an unsatisfying end.


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