Monday, July 02, 2007
On Chesil Beach
Just got round to reading this novel. You may recall that, over at Patternings, Ann Darnton's experience of the novel was considerably spoiled by a reference to Beatles and Rolling Stones covers of Chuck Berry, at a time when they hadn't released them. Now here's a funny thing- I was bracing myself for that bit, and, er, it didn't happen. Instead, the hero tries to interest the heroine in Chuck Berry originals. Now, the edition I read is the 3rd printing, so I wonder if Ann's very legitimate point has been taken to heart by Ian McEwan and his publishers in the latest printing? Blog power, perhaps?
The novel itself I found moving and poignant. Like Atonement and Enduring Love, it explores the consequences of decisions made or not made, things said or not said, and the lifelong reverberations of momentary events. The novel is entirely about sex, though the sexual act isn't described, and doesn't occur. The agonising of the protagonists in the stifling world of early sixties Britain is examined with forensic skill by McEwan. The title reminded me in its cadence of Eliot's lines "On Margate sands/ I can connect/ nothing with nothing." On Chesil Beach, that is certainly the case, and the failure to connect has huge resonances for the lives of both protagonists. This is an impressive work, anatomising a relationship in a particular context, and showing how impulsive choices can have devastating results. And now, sans Beatles/Stones references, it's historically accurate too!