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On Chesil Beach

On Chesil Beach: A Novel by Ian McEwan

I love it, first because I could read it in two seatings (big novels are, how can I put it, intimidating, and lose me in the middle). OK, seriously: this is the second McEwan that I read (the other was Saturday), and every time I am enchanted by his craft, i.e. the way he forms sentences that flow and go back deep in the train of thought of his characters to tell you how they ever got where they are now. So, would anyone say, how can he keep you reading this story about the failure to have sex on the night of one’s honeymoon?

For one, it talks about a huge myth, the one that makes people hang soiled sheets at the honeymooners’ window in Sicily. While reading it, I thought, “shouldn’t they just relax about it and talk, maybe see a counselor?” And that is what people don’t do. People assume they’re deficient. They build tension on trifles just because Love was suddenly distilled to intercourse and everyone has a degree of discomfort with that.

But at the end of the day, this novel is about intense love, the one that is trivialized now but that is the foundation of oneself. At the end of the day, it isn’t how much sex you’ve had, it’s about how you connected, and how you experience this abstraction called Love. When you reach the last pages of the book, that is where the author has taken you, and nothing else. There’s no moral, no lesson learned, just the hint that you too, could have been so close to that ideal. I just love books like that.

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