Saturday, 9 August 2008

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

McEwan is one of my favourite authors. He wrote Atonement which is a divine read (and oh so much better than the film) and Saturday is such a surprising criticism of the culture in which we live but it comes out of left field and you are left questioning everything you are and value. these are both some of his recent novels. I've also read The Cement Garden which scared the living daylights out of me and I couldn't bring myself to finish it I was so freaked out. It's the same experience I've had with Philip Roth who has written one of my all time favourite books, Everyman (which if you haven't read you must), but whose novel, The Plot Against America, I have never been able to force myself to finish. It sits next to my bed, half read, haunting me with my failure.

McEwan's style is understated and sublime. His mastery and use of descriptive language is captivating and inspiring. The first 4 pages of this novel will absolutely take your breath away.

Florence and Edward are newlyweds on their honeymoon. They are trapped in the confines of social convention of the 1950s and having never honestly communicated with each other find it difficult to start on this night of high expectations. They are ill prepared for a lifetime together when they have not spent an intimate moment together prior to their marriage.

Little else happens. But that is precisely what takes your breath away. The language is exquisite and McEwan is able to perfectly paint a verbal picture with excruciating detail. Your heart breaks for Edward whilst sympathising for the impossible situation Florence finds herself in. I love the way the book ends.

Read this book.

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