On Chesil Beach

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On Chesil Beach
Cover of UK hardback
Author Ian McEwan
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Fiction
Publisher Jonathan Cape
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 166
ISBN 0-224-08118-7
OCLC 76797966

On Chesil Beach is a 2007 novel/novella by the Booker Prize-winning British writer Ian McEwan. The novel was selected for the 2007 Booker Prize shortlist.

The Washington Post and Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic Jonathan Yardley placed On Chesil Beach on his top ten for 2007, praising McEwan's writing and saying that "even when he's in a minor mode, as he is here, he is nothing short of amazing".[citation needed]

Plot summary[edit]

In July 1962, Edward Mayhew and Florence Ponting have just been married and are spending their honeymoon in a small hotel on the Dorset seashore, at Chesil Beach. The couple is very much in love despite being from drastically different backgrounds.

During the course of an evening, both reflect upon their upbringing and the prospect of their futures. Edward is sexually motivated and though intelligent has a taste for rash behaviour, while Florence, bound by the social code of another era and perhaps having been sexually abused by her father,[1] is terrified of sexual intimacy. Eventually this leads to an experience that will change their relationship irrevocably.


In a BBC Radio 4 interview, McEwan admitted to taking a few pebbles from Chesil Beach and keeping them on his desk while he wrote the novel. Protests by conservationists and a threat by Weymouth and Portland borough council to fine him £2,000 led the author to return the pebbles. "I was not aware of having committed a crime," he said. "Chesil Beach is beautiful and I'm delighted to return the shingle to it."[2]

After it was nominated for the Booker Prize in 2007, the book also generated some controversy for its length. At 166 pages and fewer than 40,000 words, even the author declared it to be a novella. The book was allowed onto the shortlist of novels by the panel, however. It did not win the prize, which went to The Gathering.


The book has been translated to Chinese as 在切瑟尔海滩上 (ISBN 978-7-5327-5689-6), into Greek as Στην ακτή (978-960-1626192), into Turkish as Sahilde, into Finnish as Rannalla, into Dutch as Aan Chesil Beach, into German as Am Strand, into Hebrew as על חוף צ'זיל and into Czech as Na Chesilské pláži, and into Russian as "На берегу".

The book has been translated into Chinese as two versions by different translators; both of them published in 2008, one in Mainland China and another in Taiwan. Spanish version edited by Anagrama ISBN 9 788433973368

Film adaptation[edit]

On 17 February 2016, it was announced that Saoirse Ronan, who previously played Briony Tallis in the film adaptation of McEwan's Atonement, will be starring in On Chesil Beach.[3] On 22 August 2016, Billy Howle was announced to play the role of Edward Mayhew.[4] Dominic Cooke will be making his film directorial debut. Production on the film will begin this fall, and is set to be released in 2017.[3]


  1. ^ Mary Ward, The Literature of Love (Cambridge University Press, 2009; ISBN 0521729815), p. 61: "the author hints earlier in the novel that Florence may have been abused by her father. McEwan had stated in a pre-2008 Booker prize interview: 'In the final draft it's there as a shadowy fact for readers to make of it what they will. I didn't want to be too deterministic about this. Many readers may miss it altogether, which is fine.'"
  2. ^ Maev Kennedy in The Guardian, Friday, 6 April 2007
  3. ^ a b Dana Rose Falcone (February 17, 2016). "Saoirse Ronan to star in film adaptation of Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 23, 2016. 
  4. ^ Joe McGovern (August 22, 2016). "Billy Howle joins Saoirse Ronan in Ian McEwan adaptation On Chesil Beach". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 23, 2016. 

External links[edit]