Saturday, February 24, 2007

The New Yorker: "On Chesil Beach"

In the December 25, 2006 & January 1, 2007, Winter Fiction Issue of The New Yorker, Ian McEwan, the Booker Prize-winning author of Amsterdamand Atonement, presents the anxieties of two young newlyweds, Edward and Florence, as they are served a formal dinner in their honeymoon suite, overlooking the English Channel (“On Chesil Beach,” p. 98). Transporting the reader to Britain in 1962, McEwan skillfully crafts an evening that is taut with secret, conflicting emotions. He writes, “This was still the era—it would end later in that famous decade—when to be young was a social encumbrance, a mark of irrelevance, a faintly embarrassing condition for which marriage was the beginning of a cure. Almost strangers, they stood, strangely together, on a fresh pinnacle of existence, gleeful that their new status promised to promote them out of their endless youth—Edward and Florence, free at last!... From these heights they could see clearly, but they could not describe to each other certain contradictory feelings: they separately worried about the moment, sometime soon after dinner, when their new maturity would be tested, when they would lie down together on the fourposter bed and reveal themselves fully to each other.” As they work their way through a meal for which they have no appetite, Edward and Florence, who are both virgins, struggle through their own internal battles with sexual anxiety, fear, disgust, love, and nerves.

Read the excerpt at The New Yorker or read it here in .pdf (courtesy of The New Yorker).


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