Wednesday, April 6, 2016

One Sitting

It's been a while since I consumed a novel in one gulp — but that's just what happened last night. The novel was On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, a 200-page chronicle of Florence and Edward's  honeymoon night.

The novel is set in 1962, a key fact, given the newlywed's lack of sexual experience. The setting is an ironic frame handed to the reader, who knows of the sexual revolution to follow.

What amazed me about the book, though, was not the commentary on sexual mores but the nuance with which McEwan describes the nervous couple's every word and touch. It was as if he was inside their skin — or, I should say, inside their separate skins.

In the final pages, McEwan pans out from this intense closeup. At first this seemed too neat — an easy way to end a book that could have gone on much longer (though it would have kept me up even later!). Upon reflection, though, the denouement is absolutely right. Sometimes our lives rise and fall on a single moment.



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