On Chesil Beach
Cover of UK hardback
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
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".
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 are very much in love despite being from drastically different backgrounds, with Mayhew the son of a schoolmaster and Ponting the musically gifted daughter of a wealthy industrialist and an Oxford philosophy lecturer.
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, 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."
After it was nominated for the Booker Prize in 2007, the book also generated some controversy for its length. At 166 pages and less than 40000 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.
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
- 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.'"
- Maev Kennedy in The Guardian, Friday, 6 April 2007
- An excerpt of the book in The New Yorker
- A review in The Economist
- The On Chesil Beach section of McEwan's website
- A review by Ted Gioia, Blogcritics
- A review by Tim Adams in The Observer of March 25, 2007.
-  A humorous summary from The Guardian.
- Audio: Ian McEwan reading from On Chesil Beach at the 2007 Key West Literary Seminar