All quiet on Chesil Beach

Genre: eventless. Stars from Goodreads: 3.56. Stars from me: 3.

On Chesil Beach is a beautifully written eventless novella where graphic sex scenes are an essential part of the story. The writing style reminds me of those old classics created at times when authors didn’t care if they could interest the reader. They just immersed themselves in the process and those who were literate enough would read the result anyway. It’s a high quality writing but you have to exercise self-control to drag yourself through it because nothing at all is happening.

On Chesil Beach looks like a well prepared stage where action is about to take place. Then, suddenly, you hit the final page. All story could fit in 177 words.

The book was selected for 2007 Booker Prize shortlist which caused a few scandals because it’s not even a novel by size.

Another curious story happened when Ian McEwan mentioned that he kept two pebbles from Chesil beach while writing the book. It caused one more scandal. McEwan was threatened with a fine and had to apologise and return the pebbles back to the beach.

There’s now a movie adaptation of the story released in May 2018. Judging by the trailer, the characters look nothing like the ones described in the book. Unless the storyline was changed too I can’t even imagine what there was to film at all.

You will still like On Chesil Beach if you enjoy looking deeply into characters and dissecting their emotions, and if you don’t mind the complete absence of action.

7 thoughts on “All quiet on Chesil Beach

  1. I agree there isn’t much of a story to this one. I have read a few McEwan books and felt a bit underwhelmed. He knows his craft, he’s good with words and characterisation. That’s funny about the pebbles, I didn’t know that – is it illegal to take them away or something?!

    1. I tried his other book too, just for half an hour or so, and I was surprised how promising it sounded – the writing, the characters – and how unnecessarily it started dragging in the middle of an action. I thought maybe it was an accidental thing, but now after ‘On Chesil Beach’ and having read your comment I think that maybe this is how he writes. Then it’s not my thing at all. I love good writing but it’s just one detail of a good book. If it’s beautiful but it’s about nothing then it’s just an exercise but not a complete book. As for pebbles, I know that in many national parks (if not in all natural resorts at all) it’s prohibited to collect souvenirs like stones or plants. The idea behind it is that if everybody who visits takes a thing the place will be destroyed. I also found it obscene that an author was chastised for keeping pebbles for inspiration. They should have been proud of it, if anything.

      1. I would have kept the pebbles, if it helped me to write. I wonder if a lot more people have visited Chesil Beach because they heard of it through the book. I agree with you about the writing, it can be great writing but needs some action to make the book feel satisfying. I don’t plan to read any more McEwan.

  2. Lol how two people can differ from opinion! I read this book many years ago and it quite mesmerised me at the time. The repressed attitude and the question whether the couple could break it kept me on my toes. I like your review as well ☺. It’s honest. This is really one of those books that have to click. I also saw the trailer btw and am likewise curious whether it follows the story or the book at all!

    1. Yes, I noticed that many people liked the book, and it is, indeed, not badly written. I was also looking forward to some development about the couple. But well, you know by now what I thought about it 🙂 Did you try to reread this book? And are you going to watch the movie?

      1. No I didn’t re-read it. I do want to see the movie though cause the topic of sexuality and how it’s treated in books and films always fascinates me. Maybe I decide to read the book again after that.

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