26.5.11

Ian McEwan - On Chesil Beach


Rating 7.2

Well, what we have here is a hard-on...ehm a hard one to review.
Pardon my French.

I bought this book on second-hand bookstall in some Oxford charity shop on an autumn day and kept it on a shelf for -hmmm- a couple of months, I think. You know, it was a book by McEwan, therefore in my mind something with the label "to get for further reading".

Then on a winter night my Chinese flatmate asked me whether I had any novel to borrow him for killing time (our broadband was long-time broken and we were pretending not to need the Internet) and I gave him "On Chesil Beach". I don't know why.
It just came to my mind that I knew the book spoke about Oxford and surroundings and Z. liked our local amenities quite a lot. But I had not the faintest idea on what the book was about.

Around 10 days later, my (male) flatmate Z. knocked to my door holding the book in his hand.
"Oh, how was it?" I asked him.
"Pretty good, pretty good - he giggled - Basically, it speaks about Oxford and Port Meadow".
"That's good. Have you liked it?".
"Yeah, kind of, kind of. I enjoyed the parts about Port Meadow".
"Oh, I'm glad you did. So it's not too bad, eh?"
"No-no-no-no! Not too bad at all".

And that was all. For a while I thought that "On Chesil Beach" was a novel about some folks hanging around Oxford involving childhood, its memories, the roaring Sixties and maybe a trip to the south of France. And including Port Meadow, of course. To put it straight: the main ingredients of the good old McEwan alchemy.

It's springtime now. In the meantime, I left Oxford for Abingdon (5 miles southwards) and finally gave a chance to this novel, which is actually more appropriate to call a novella as it revolves around a single moment: the post-wedding night of a young couple in the -not that roaring- early Sixties.

A non-consummation night. That must be said.

I don't know what to say. Overall it's a good book, but it is also a delusion somehow. I got the feeling that McEwan could have developed a real story out of the plot instead of compressing forty years in four pages at the end of the novel. And if I had known what "On Chesil Beach" spoke about, perhaps I should have borrowed something else to my Chinese flatmate. But at least I suppose he really liked the ten lines about Port Meadow here and this makes me feel better!

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