It is June 1962. In a hotel on the Dorset coast, overlooking Chesil Beach, Edward and Florence, just married that morning, are sitting down to dinner in their room. Neither is entirely able to suppress anxieties about the wedding night to come.
On Chesil Beach is another masterwork from Ian McEwan - a story about how the entire course of a life can be changed by a gesture not made or a word not spoken.
This download is unabridged and is read by the author. This is the first time Ian has read his own audio and it is a brilliant, authoritative, read. The download also features an in depth interview with Ian McEwan about On Chesil Beach. He is interviewed by John Mullan, Professor of English at UCL.
©2007 Ian McEwan; (P)Random House Audio
Excerpts taken from String Quintet in D major, K.593 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Licensed by kind permission of Naxos Rights International Ltd
"Focusing with hyper-acute attentiveness on just two hours or so (Saturday, with its one-day time-span looks shabby in comparison), the book tightens even further McEwan�s consummate powers of close up... Clean of sprawl and clutter - not a word, incident or image seems slackly placed - the book never hardens into the schematic... Edward and Florence are intensely likeable, believable people into whose personalities and predicaments a wealth of imaginative sympathy has welled." (The Sunday Times)
"McEwan's masterful 13th work of fiction most resembles a five-part classical drama rendered in prose....[His] flawless omniscient narration has a curious (and not unpleasantly condescending) fable-like quality, as if an older self were simultaneously disavowing and affirming a younger." (Publishers Weekly)
"Ian McEwan chose to release his own unabridged audiobook reading of his new novel On Chesil Beach to coincide with the publication and to match the price of the book itself, even giving the audiobook the added value of an illuminating half-hour interview with John Mullan, the English literature professor. Does this herald a new trend in publishing, or does it reflect the peculiar suitability of this particular novel to the audio medium? A bit of both is the answer. New books are frequently published at the same time as audiobook versions, but not all novelists write books that suit the medium. In the interview after the novel, McEwan explains that he likes reading them aloud in draft to live audiences, using their reactions to hone his final version. He also likes the 'enclosed, uninterrupted experience' of reading a novella from beginning to end... Listening non-stop to McEwan reading intensifies the book's impact." (The Times)
interesting. The relationship between the two main characters is something all couples could relate to. The family dynamic and the sorrow of what could have been.
A book read by the author is always a treat. This book improved once it was finished. The language is beautiful but the situation is excruciatingly awkward . So the journey is painful. But when you have finished and reflect on it you realise how well Ian McEwan captures the circumstance and the time.
"difficult to believe"
well written and narated by Ian McEwan. Difficult to accept outcome of couple. I feel all couples have issues and difficulties that they have to over come. Love usually gets them through. I found it hard to accept this couple's decision.
I don't think anyone else but Ian McEwen could have pulled off this poignant little story of a honeymoon night. As always with Ian, right from the beginning you have a feeling almost of dread about what is about to happen. You would really rather not know, but the author casts such a spell with his words that you are unable to break free. Unflinching, honest and touching, this is exquisitely well written, and also beautifully read by the author. His voice is soothing and reassuring, even as he makes you squirm with discomfort! The book is set in that long ago period just before the sixties started swinging and that era is perfectly recreated. This audiobook is short enough to devour in one sitting, and I would urge you to do just that.
"Interesting observation on the human condition"
Short but effective exposition of relationships, expectations and communications (or lack thereof) in post-war Britain, prior to the sexual revolution of the sixties. Seen through the eyes of two caricatures who had me alternately squirming and chuckling as I recognised aspects of their uncomfortable behaviour.
"A natural successor to Greene and Golding"
As if there was ever any serious doubt, Ian McEwan's 'On Chesil Beach' clearly establishes his reputation once and for all as the greatest English novelilst since the deaths of Graham Greene and William Golding. He is sharper than Julian Barnes, more aware of life's strangeness than Sarah Waters and he tackles deeper themes than Joanne Harris. All these are great writers, but McEwan is head and shoulders above them.
'On Chesil Beach' is an extraordinarily risky undertaking for a novellist at what some mistakenly believe is at his best (they're wrong, of course: there's better to come). Given the critics' passion for rubbishing a popular intellectual, had this flopped, there would have been the usual British celebration of failure after triumph. McEwan must have been aware of that risk, but, as a true artist, he wrote what he needed to write, regardless, I suppose, of the reaction of readers. And that's exactly as it should be. Golding did it with 'Darkness Visible', Greene did it with everything after 'The Heart of the Matter'.
What is a surprise - and a wholly pleasant one, I hasten to add - is how good McEwan is at reading his novel. And the interview after the reading is fascinating, too.
All in all, a treat of the first order.
"What has happened to him?"
Ian McEwan used to be the most dependable of authors, but his last two books have been so... slight. This is an enjoyable novella while it's going on but it's more of a fragment than a proper story. Take five years over the next one and give us a novel as rich and complete as Atonement, please.
I was completely drawn into this beautiful account of the tender moments between two newly weds desperate to be together but afraid to break with the claustrophobic demands of society and convention to say what they really feel.
"An unforgettable read"
This is the second book by Ian McEwan that I have read. As with Enduring Love the excruciating detail of human interaction lingers in the mind long after finishing the book. I really enjoyed it.
"Not to be missed"
Surely this is one of the most spellbinding yet excruciating pieces of prose that you could possibly listen to. The onner working of the characters minds is laid bare for the reader to empathise with and despair. McEwan reads it himself very effectively. The story is a sad one that leaves you thinking and the interview with McEwan that follows is enlightening in terms of hearing him explain the thought process behind some aspects of the tale. This really is not to be missed.
"Enjoyable but annoying"
I enjoyed listening to this, although it was nothing like as good as some of McEwan's earlier works. He kept going on about how it was the times they lived in that were the root of Florence and Edward's problems - but hey, most people somehow managed to get it together in the dim days of the 1950's and 60's (even my parents!), so I think it was more a case of them just being silly and feeble. In fact, by the end of the book, I really disliked both of them, and was glad that neither ended up with particularly satisfactory lives.
There were some wonderfully evocative descriptions of place, especially where Florence goes to meet Edward at Turville, and the depiction of her parents' house. It's this beautiful writing that kept me listening instead of tearing out my earpieces in annoyance at the protagonists' behaviour. Ian McEwan read it brilliantly - I always like it when an author reads their own work.
"An evocative glimpse"
Captures the atmosphere and the social mores of the time beautifully. A reminder that not all of the sixties were swinging!
"Hugely descriptive but forgettable"
I know that this kind of text appeals to some but his book clearly is not for me. I was bored in the first five minutes but persevered because of all the reviews but I had to write something to create some balance in all the reviews that were so positive. I am sure it is well written but I could not help but feel how inept the characters were. Maybe that is why I found this so hard to listen to.
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