#am reading On Chesil Beach
Author: Ian McKewan
Tags: #bookerprize #novella #dorset
Discovered: Saturday morning browsing the local library.
Where read: (in part)In the sun at Whitstable Harbour
What's the story?
Newly-weds Edward and Florence are spending their honeymoon in a small guest house on the Dorset Coast. The anxiety around their first night together grips the couple. The year is 1962 and both clearly have different expectations around their first night of intimacy and what transpires that night will affect both of their lives forever.
The Word's Shortlist view:
This is a beautifully poetic novella that won the Booker prize in 2007 and went on to become a book club classic. As a piece of literary fiction this work alone would cement Ian McKewan as one of the best story tellers writing today.
The plot revolves centrally around the build up to the couples first night together; Florence’s extreme fear of sexual intimacy at odds with Edward’s hopes of loving consummation “When they kissed she immediately felt his tongue, tensed and strong, pushing past her teeth, like some bully shouldering his way into a room. Entering her.” The scene’s climax is expertly crafted.
Not a single word is wasted in this story yet the characterization is as vivid and expressive as it is intimate. The prose is clipped and precise just like the strict social code that the story explores so well. “It's shaming sometimes, how the body will not, or cannot, lie about emotions. Who, for decorum's sake, has ever slowed his heart, or muted a blush?” The extreme sexual repression of the early sixties is evocatively brought to life in the setting of the forlorn guest house nestled against Chesil Beach.
Though the story is ultimately about love and loss their is hope rather than tragedy for this is an era very much in the past. Read the novel for an uncompromising glimpse back in time.
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