Tuesday, May 29, 2007

On Ian McEwan

The advantage of a sleepless toddler is perhaps the unexpected reading opportunity - so started and finished On Chesil Beach between 4-something and almost-7 this morning.

It's a short book (166 pages) and given the apparently small focus of the narrative - a young couple on their wedding night in 1962, both virgins, both nervous - it's surprisingly gripping. This is perhaps a measure (perhaps intended) of the author's accomplishment, as is a hinted-at matter in her background which he confidently leaves un-explicated.

I can't help wondering if the title is also intended to be a reminder of the poem that lies, un-named, like the subject of a riddle, at the heart of the both the plot and themes of his last work, Saturday.

Is this kind of business a compliment to the reader's intelligence, or just a smug re-working of Mornington Crescent? I don't know, but I can see how tempting it is.

2 comments:

Ophelia said...

Amsterdam was another short but gripping one. I'm mixed on Saturday - I found it highly readable, even gripping, but in retrospect I'm not crazy about it, especially about the predictable 'eruption of violence' plot. Way too much like the predictable 'eruption of violence' plot in Enduring Love, for one thing.

Francis said...

It may be out out of fashion, and a trifle uncool, but I have to admit that my favourite Ian McEwan is The Daydreamer - writing for children means that both his technique and his touch of darkness are subordinated to some lovely storytelling. If I lose this one, I by another copy, because I know I'll re-read it some time.