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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Sea, sand and silence”

    Sea, sand and silence

    What consequences there are to remain silent. In Ian McEwan’s latest novel, “”On Chesil Beach,”” two newlyweds on their first night together learn the terrible power of communication.

    Beginning with their first married dinner together, readers follow Florence and Edward through their first time in bed. Afterwards, they struggle to talk about this failed sexual experience, a conversation that will determine if their marriage lasts more than the one night.

    “”On Chesil Beach””
    Ian McEwan – Nan A. Talese
    5 stars

    Florence and Edward live in the pre-sexual revolution England of 1962. Both are well educated, one a philosophy student, the other a history buff, and are both from respected families. The social taboo of discussing anything sexual, let alone sleeping together before marriage, has thrown both Edward and Florence into a state of nervous innocence that has clouded their courtship and now hangs over their dinner.

    Edward, though anxious, is eager to try out his new freedoms with his wife, but Florence is less than keen. She is painfully shy, and McEwan hints that abuse may have figured into her childhood and is now making her recoil from Edward’s advances. These characters are likeable and well rounded, which only makes it more painful when their inhibitions rise between them and eat away at the fresh bond.

    McEwan keeps the time frame short. “”On Chesil Beach”” covers a single night of the couple’s lives, but this gives him the space to reveal each detail and gesture that describes Edward and Florence in this important moment together. His skill as a writer is demonstrated by his use of such subtleties to draw out the personalities of his characters, and make us care so much for them.

    McEwan makes the readers root for the marriage with them through the ugly words and frustrations, making the book worth reading. He doesn’t need any intense action scenes to keep the reader’s interest. He does much more with the well-placed emotional tension between two people that could be any one of us if we were born during a different era.

    With beautiful imagery and writing as smooth and colorful as glass washed up on a beach, this novel, from the same pen as “”Atonement,”” is a sad and touching warning anyone planning marriage of the dangers of miscommunication. After reading this, you will never doubt the importance of a single moment of silence in determining the course of a relationship.

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