On Chesil Beach

Saturday Snapshots is a non-book related meme hosted by Alyce. I wanted to see what it would be like to participate in my very first meme and this looked like the most appealing option for this particular Saturday. I have, of course, managed to find some pics that relate back to my favourite topic – books!

Five years ago my husband and I travelled to the UK for 3 weeks to follow the Wallabies in the Rugby World Cup.

In between games we visited many wonderful places and revisited favourite haunts from previous trips.

One of our new adventures was to Chesil Beach in the south of England. I had started reading Ian McEwan’s ‘On Chesil Beach‘ on the flight over in anticipation.

So I was prepared for the long strip of pebble beach with water in front and back! And I should have been prepared for the freezing cold southerly buster blowing in across the water the day we were there, but it still took my breath away!

The pebbles were huge and smooth from weathering, but still very hard and uncomfortable to walk and sit on.


Curiously the inclement conditions did not hinder the many fisher folk…or my determination to have a photo op, with book in hand, overlooking Chesil Beach.

I couldn’t imagine how any couple (book couple or real-life couple) could manage a romantic walk along this beach! I spent my time trying to picture where the book couple would have strolled as I caressed the different sized, shaped & coloured pebbles between my fingers.

As it turned out, ‘On Chesil Beach‘ was not to be one of my favourite McEwan books – perhaps it wasn’t a book that travelled well. I couldn’t really give it the undivided attention it probably deserved. Maybe being in the early stages of a new (old) romance also made it difficult to appreciate the difficulties of Florence and Edward. Either way, I didn’t really connect.

When I finished it, I swapped it in a B & B in Northumbria for a wonderful old copy of ‘Mary Jane‘ by Daphne du Maurier instead. Too bad I can’t travel back in time to ye olde London to visit Mary Jane’s world!

A novel of remarkable depth and poignancy from one of the most acclaimed writers of our time.

It is July 1962. Florence is a talented musician who dreams of a career on the concert stage and of the perfect life she will create with Edward, an earnest young history student at University College of London, who unexpectedly wooed and won her heart. Newly married that morning, both virgins, Edward and Florence arrive at a hotel on the Dorset coast. At dinner in their rooms they struggle to suppress their worries about the wedding night to come. Edward, eager for rapture, frets over Florence’s response to his advances and nurses a private fear of failure, while Florence’s anxieties run deeper: she is overcome by sheer disgust at the idea of physical contact, but dreads disappointing her husband when they finally lie down together in the honeymoon suite.

Ian McEwan has caught with understanding and compassion the innocence of Edward and Florence at a time when marriage was presumed to be the outward sign of maturity and independence. On Chesil Beach is another masterwork from McEwan—a story of lives transformed by a gesture not made or a word not spoken.

3 thoughts on “On Chesil Beach

  1. I adore when on vacation somewhere I can read a book set in and/or written there. I have some lovely memories of doing that in Prague and Cape Cod in particular. Too bad the Chesil Beach novel wasn't more satisfying…


  2. Well even if the book wasn't as good as you hoped, the beach itself looks fun! I would have thought that it would have been little pebbles too – those are much more of what I would call stones. I've only been to England once and it was so cold!


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