Thursday, April 24, 2008

Trevor's Review of McEwan's On Chesil Beach

McEwan is, as always, a great stylist. He manages to show seamlessly how much history goes into one little act and how that one little act goes on to affect the future. He manages to show how the characters feel based on each movement they make and how their feelings change as the surroundings change.

The concept of this novel, or novella, is intriguing. It is 1962, and the newly weds are commencing their honeymoon night. While that is really about it, as far as the setting of the action, their thoughts take us all over the place, back through their lives, into their relationship with one another. Of course the novel deals a great deal with sex and its implications, but McEwan does a great job showing how our lives and relationships affect sex and how sex affects our lives and relationships. It was beautiful and disturbing and quite profound at times.

The reason I don't give this book a higher rating is because the ending, the last 10 pages, does not match the 190 pages prior. Themes seem to change in those 10 pages, and the pages seem to be there only to show how the wedding night affected the rest of the young couple's lives. But the other themes that are wonderfully subtle throughout the novel go by the wayside. Consequently, to me the provacative themes of the first 190 pages feel less important and the book sort of fails ultimately. That said, it's still masteful writing; to me it was the best written book of the 2007 shortlist, though I liked both The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Mister Pip more as novels.
3 stars out of 5.

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