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The only book that broke my heart when reading, it's absolutely stunning the way the characters are driven to the tragedy!
I also felt there is room for finding subtle references to possible incest from Florence's father - perhaps on the sea voyage -- though I would have expected this to be dealt with in the conclusion. So, I am still wondering ...
A Modern Greek Tragedy
McEwan's On Chesil Beach is a wonderful story of expectations, maturity, communication, and lost chances. At the same time, the hero (if that is what he is?), Edward, is tragic. Whether he has been "tricked" into his marriage with Florence or whether she has been the victim of incest is not at the core of this novel. Edward's inability to with deal with flaws, whether unintentional (his mother's mental illness) or intentional (Florence's psychological repulsion of sexual intimacy), is at the heart of this novel. As a man, I have to sympathize with Edward, but I found myself asking the same questions McEwan's does in the last section of the book: Is Edward's lack of compassion morally right? McEwan and I reach similar conclusions. Like Saturday (McEwan's previous book), this book - unfolding in a single time span - is tight and exciting. If nothing else, read this book for McEwan's well-crafted sentences.
Although I'm a big McEwan fan, I wasn't sure, after reading a few reviews, that I would enjoy On Chesil Beach. How much could one write about a single night, even a failed wedding night? Plus the reviews tended to focus only on the awkwardness of that night (and the sexual details) and the repressiveness of the 1960s. On Chesil Beach is so much more. It's a story about individuals, their love for and misunderstanding of each other, the question of whether people from very different backgrounds can make it as a couple, the conflict ebtween desire to be loved and the need to be oneself, the experience of falling in love, the sadness of lost love and lost opportunities, the pressure of expectations, the fear of the unconventional, the haunting sorrow of what might have been, and the lingering effects of disappointments in our lives.
Have I read too deep between the lines?
This sparsely written, elegant little book stayed with me for months after I finished reading it. McEwan keeps getting better and better, more introspective and kinder to his characters as he ages. Don't miss it!
Although the book centres around a period in time, the early 60's, when sex and related topics were a taboo subject, I can't help but be lead by the author,albeit in very subtle references,to believe that the young woman in the story has suffered some form of sexual abuse or trauma, possibly from her father.
I feel that the decade in which the novel is set, is cleverly chosen to distract the reader from this fact. Of course I may be way off mark, but my suspicions were aroused very early on in this short, but riveting novel.
I am curious as to whether other readers of this excellent writer intepreted this aspect of the novel.