Before the sexual revolution - The flaws of expectations, exquisitly crafted,
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Rezension bezieht sich auf: On Chesil Beach (Taschenbuch)
Ignorant and inexperienced, Edward and Florence Mayhew are both anxious about the inevitable task that lies ahead on their wedding night in July 1962. They know what is expected, but not how it will happen. Florence has bought a manual to explain everything, but it's only served to further repulse her. Being the early sixties, no one talks about sex and the couple is unable to be open with each other. Florence is deeply in love with Edward and wants to please him, but the idea of consummating their marriage sickens her.
Florence is from a wealthy middle class family, whereas Edward's family is poorer and revolves around a fantasy created by his mother that she is the perfect housewife and mother. In reality, she is brain damaged following an accident when Edward was five and spends her days absorbed in fantasy, working on numerous projects that never get completed. His father struggles to run the house whilst working as a headmaster at the local school, so the house is inevitably neglected. In contrast, Florence's mother is an Oxford don married to a businessman and she's grown up with money and luxury.
Both Edward and Florence feel dislocated from their families and flourish upon finding each other. However, there are underlying issues that lead to the events of the fateful wedding night.
On Chesil Beach reignited the novel/novella debate when it was first published, which I'm not going to address; suffice to say that this is a wonderfully focused story with an amazing amount of subtext for a book that's just 166 pages long. As the Evening Standard says, it's "Exquisitely crafted" and Ian McEwan's talent is more evident here than in the other works I've read. I think he achieves what he set out to do in Saturday, creating a novel that portrays one pivotal day in two people's lives. There's also a sense of Atonement to it, wherein a single moment can change lives.
Somehow, McEwan manages to relate the entire story of Florence and Edward's relationship, their family backgrounds and the particular thoughts and emotions of their wedding night within five chapters. The depth of his writing reminds me of Alice Munro, whose short stories have been described as novels. I read one comment from a critic that said that not a single word is wasted, and it's true. There are very few novels that manage to be so incredibly succinct.