On Chesil Beach
By Ian McEwan
FT bookshop price: £5.59
On Chesil Beach depicts a young couple’s wedding night in 1960s England, and with it a slow descent into calamity. The novel is set on a single night, as the newlyweds inch towards consummating their marriage. They are, in 1962, on the brink of that decade’s sexual liberation, but know only the conservative postwar years of their childhood.
The couple’s memories continually pull the narrative into their past, shifting the focus from the matter at hand at tantalising moments. Crucially, Edward’s pursuit of sex becomes entwined with our own pursuit of the plot.
However the book’s failure to deliver a dramatic finale despite the tension that has mounted, means that the reader is left, rather like Edward: wanting more for his or her trouble.