Tuesday, September 25, 2007

BOOK: On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

shortlisted for the Booker Prize
166 pages

I've seen mixed comments about this book because it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. McEwan has won the award previously, and the feeling is this book is too short and not important enough to merit being short listed, as McEwan is very well known and doesn't need the extra press.

I read this quickly, and couldn't help comparing this to Tomorrow by Graham Swift, a book I read very recently because both : were written by Booker winners, were set in England, involve one pivotal night, have main characters that are a married couple born just after the second World War, involve telling how the couple got to this important night. Weirdly similar.

On Chesil Beach is the story of a young couple getting ready for their first night of marriage. McEwan tells the tale from both perspectives and gets inside their heads. We also learn about their childhoods and their courtship. I found this worked better in On Chesil Beach, because we definitely know where this book is going to end, as it leads to the, I have to say it, climax. Tomorrow kept more of a secret as to what the big reveal would be the next day to the children. I found myself getting frustrated as the mother kept trying to explain what all led up to that night. Just tell it already! In that regards, I enjoyed On Chesil Beach better. I really wanted to know how the night ended. The characters motives and thoughts seemed very realistic and I was caught up in the plot. McEwan had the right mix of past and present to keep the story moving and perhaps explain the characters better.

I like the idea of taking one night, and everything that leads up to, and all the thoughts that go through the characters minds, as they deal with one huge event. I haven't read enough Booker winners to know if this is a potential winner, but it was a good, quick read.

The Man Booker Short List
The field has been trimmed from 13 to 6, so I've read 33% of the short list. Both have been good.

Darkmans by Nicola Barker (4th Estate)
The Gathering by Anne Enright (Jonathan Cape)
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (Hamish Hamilton)
Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones (John Murray)
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (Jonathan Cape)
Animal’s People by Indra Sinha (Simon & Schuster)

The winner will be announced on October 16.


  1. I'd like to read this book. It is a small book, but I don't think size always equals quality--the bigger the better and all that. Anyhow, thanks for the great review!

  2. I read this not long ago and feel the same way. :)

  3. I'd really like to read this too. I'm hearing so much about it.

  4. literary feline - sometimes smaller books are better, especially with long lists of books I want to read for challenges.

    joy - I'm glad you liked it too.

    nicola - I had to wait at the library for about a month to get this one.


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