Thursday, July 08, 2010

TBR Challenge (Book Five)

(Have no idea why the formatting is so screwy on this post. Sorry!)

McEwan, Ian. On Chesil Beach. New York: Nan A. Talese, 2007.

Finally, an Ian McEwan book that I can genuinely say I liked. Well, if "like" is the right word for a book that very nearly led me to the deepest depths of depression. But what I mean, I suppose, is that McEwan gave me characters I could truly believe, for a change (that didn't happen with either Atonement or Enduring Love) and an ending that did not make me think, "I went through all this for that?" As a matter of fact, the ending is what makes the book so brilliant, as well as so beautifully sad. I don't think I have ever read a better testament to the fact that "doing something is always better than doing nothing."

Of course, I happen to embrace that sentiment. I am a "do-er," not a "wait-and-see-er." I can't imagine finding myself in the situation these two young, newlyweds are in, during a time before the sexual revolution, awkward with each other to the point of disaster on their wedding night, and doing nothing. I guess that's why I so like McEwan's final conclusion, as quoted above and learned by Edward, the young groom of the book, by the book's end.

But the book is about much more than mere missed opportunities. It's about love and repression and social classes and miscommunication between the sexes. It's been a long time since I've read a book that so perfectly portrayed the latter. It's also about the wisdom that comes with both age and experience and the fact that, really, the only way to gain that sort of wisdom is to be patient, patient in a way that almost none of us is when we are young and don't understand that we have our whole lives ahead of us, that we do not need to rush into things so quickly.

I think about this sort of thing a lot these days: how when I was young I didn't appreciate where I was or the process enough. I was always waiting to get through whatever I was doing: getting through high school, getting through college, moving onto a new job when I'd outgrown the one I was in, waiting to get promoted...It seems I was always annoyed with elderly adults who would say to me, "Don't wish your life away," when they'd hear me say things like, "I can't wait till my last day at this job" or "I can't wait till we go on vacation next month." I didn't understand that I should be enjoying every moment of my life, even the problematic moments (because maybe they wouldn't be so problematic if I would only slow down and pay a little more attention), not hurrying through it, eager to get to the next big event. I'm trying to slow down now, to appreciate each stage, and I hope I am being at least somewhat successful.

See? Who would have thought that this little novella would have brought out all that? But it did. Which I suppose means (sigh!) I can no longer claim that I don't really like Ian McEwan, and I might (horrors!) even have to read more of his works. But they certainly aren't on the front burner.


Anne Camille said...

This book made me dislike McEwan even more, not less. I thought the final chapters - just like the other books if his that Ive read were disappointing. NOTHING of interest happens in Edwards life after his Ill-fated marriage? Little is even told of the wife. The novel went from focusing on each character in alternating chapters to almost forgetting about the wife. I just found it really disappointing. I think that MCEWan has an amazing eye for detailed description, but as a whole I think there wasn't much to this.

Emily Barton said...

Cam, believe me, you're not the first to tell me you didn't like this book. What others of his have you read? He does seem to be an author with so much promise who often disappoints.