Sunday, August 5, 2007

Book #32: On Chesil Beach

On Chesil Beach: A Novel

Title: On Chesil Beach

Author: Ian McEwan

Speaking of virgins on the wedding night (see my previous post), in Ian McEwan's new novella, On Chesil Beach, Edward and Florence are recent university graduates who find themselves on the afternoon of their wedding at an English seaside hotel. Thousands of generations of cultural history prepare us for what should, inevitably happen next-- the great deflowering. However, Florence, for all her love for Edward, is terrified, and, quite frankly, revolted at the prospect of having sex for the first time.

For several novels now, Ian McEwan has been one of my favorite modern authors. Atonement would probably be found on my top-ten list, and Eddie and I both devoured Saturday. In On Chesil Beach, he does a great job creating characters and through a series of flashbacks, taking us through Florence and Edward's courtship up to the point that they sit on the bed in their hotel room, trying to summon up the courage to take their relationship to the next level (notice the Bachelor allusion there?).

Anyway, I loved the insight into the characters, especially Florence's character. A few months ago I read a novel (one of the book club novels, can't remember the title) that criticized McEwan for not creating believable female characters. I think Florence is a believable character. An ex-family member, in fact, reminds me a lot of her. But I'm glad to say, that even if a woman waits until her wedding night to get busy, most women do not feel the same sense of visceral revulsion that Florence does. At least not in my vast experience with the subject.

--originally published 7/29/07

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