On Chesil Beach
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In 1962, Florence and Edward celebrate their wedding in a hotel on the Dorset coast. Yet as they dine, the expectation of their marital duties weighs over them. And unbeknownst to both, the decisions they make this night will resonate throughout their lives. With exquisite prose, Ian McEwan creates in On Chesil Beach a story of lives transformed by a gesture not made or a word not spoken.
deeper, than straightforward physical disgust; her whole being was in revolt against a prospect of entanglement and flesh; her composure and essential happiness were about to be violated. She simply did not want to be “entered” or “penetrated.” Sex with Edward could not be the summation of her joy, but was the price she must pay for it. She knew she should have spoken up long ago, as soon as he proposed, long before the visit to the sincere and soft-voiced vicar, and dinners with their
among them, and then pulling Edward toward the house to deliver an opinion on something they had made. But much else was changing for him around this time. He was at Henley grammar school and was beginning to hear from various teachers that he might be “university material.” His friend Simon at Northend, and all the other village boys he ran around with, went to the secondary modern, and would soon be leaving to learn a trade or work on a farm before being called up for National Service. Edward
Ponting, in his nervous, energetic fashion, was affable toward him. If Edward was at the house when he came in from work, around seven o’clock, he would mix them both gin and tonics from his drinks cupboard—tonic and gin in equal measure, and many ice cubes. To Edward, ice in drinks was a novelty. They would sit in the garden and talk politics—mostly, Edward listened to his future father-in-law’s views on the decline of British business, demarcation disputes in the trade unions and the folly of
have asked for any beach in the world. All he wanted, all he could think of, was himself and Florence lying naked together on or in the bed next door, confronting at last that awesome experience that seemed as remote from daily life as a vision of religious ecstasy, or even death itself. The prospect—was it actually going to happen? to him?—once more sent cool fingers through his lower gut, and he caught himself in a momentary swooning motion which he concealed behind a contented sigh. Like most
tensed and strong, pushing past her teeth, like some bully shouldering his way into a room. Entering her. Her own tongue folded and recoiled in automatic distaste, making even more space for Edward. He knew well enough she did not like this kind of kissing, and he had never before been so assertive. With his lips clamped firmly onto hers, he probed the fleshy floor of her mouth, then moved around inside the teeth of her lower jaw to the empty place where three years ago a wisdom tooth had