On Chesil Beach Book Review

On Chesil Beach is a beautiful novel published in 2007 by Ian McEwan. It was shortlisted for the 2008 Booker Prize. This novel is very popular among critics, and it explores some very important themes and motifs. 

On Chesil Beach Book Review

In this article, we have explored the book in detail, taking a look at the plot, reviews, and themes within the novel. If you are looking for more information on this fantastic story, you’ve come to the right place.

Let’s dive in!

Overview Of The Novel 

On Chesil Beach is a great novel that has a large amount of depth and poignancy. Written by Ian McEwan, you will not be disappointed after picking up this novel! 

This book is set in July 1962. It follows Florence, who is a talented musician who dreams of becoming a successful musician on the concert stage. 

She also dreams of the perfect life she desires with Edward, a young history student who has won her heart. He is studying at the University College of London.

The novel opens with the couple newly married, and both virgins. They arrive at a hotel that is located on the Dorset coast. 

They sit down to dinner in their room, and it becomes clear that they are both worried about their wedding night. Edward worries over Florence’s reaction to his advances and is concerned about failing. 

Florence is overcome by disgust at the concept of physical contact but is aware that she cannot disappoint her husband that night when it comes to lying together. 

In this novel, McEwan explores with compassion the experience of both Florence and Edward, at a time when marriage is a presumed sign of maturity. 

This novel is a beautiful masterpiece that focuses on the words not spoken and the gestures not made.

About The Author 

Ian McEwan studied English Literature at the University of Sussex, where he earned a BA in 1970. He then went on to obtain an MA degree in English Literature from the University of East Anglia. 

Ian McEwan is a very successful author, and his work has earned him a large amount of critical acclaim. His first collection of short stories named First Love, Love Rites, won him the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976.

His later novels also gained him some acclaim, with Atonement earning him the WH Smith Literary Award in 1998. 

His novel On Chesil Beach, which we explore in this article, was named the Galaxy Book of the Year in 2008 at the British Book Awards. McEwan lives in London.

Review Of On Chesil Beach 

On Chesil Beach is a beautifully written novel that is centred around the importance and transforming effect of a single moment. 

As the couple prepares for their wedding night, they are on the cusp of a momentous change, and as they prepare to shed their virginities and old identities, they are thrown into a new life.

On Chesil Beach is a historical novel that explores the differences between the past and present. It looks at a time when discussing sex was impossible, and being childlike after marriage was frowned upon. 

As the two characters in the novel are desperate for a new beginning, they are left with a weight of expectation, and this novel explores this wonderfully.

The pain of this novel comes with their genuine love which is shrouded by their inability to communicate and understand each other.

Edward wants to lose his virginity, while Florence is terrified by the idea of physical contact that she wishes she could become pregnant by magic. 

This novel is a clever discussion of sex and gender, and the force with which shame and desire can collide.


On Chesil Beach is a beautiful novel that is split into five parts. It takes four of these parts for us to get to supper, and the act itself. During these parts, we encounter lots of awkwardness and anticipation. 

Yet, it is the conversation on the beach following this that is the heart of the novel. This part of the novel highlights how hurt can turn into a desire to cause pain to another.

Structurally, this novel is a beautiful masterpiece. It is a comment on social history and a reminder of the importance of compassion.


Linguistically, this novel is absolutely beautiful. It is written in such a way that captures the damage that can be caused by doing nothing, and the gaps between the words speak volumes.

This is a very difficult thing for an author to achieve, and it is done so well by McEwan.


On Chesil Beach won the Galaxy Book of the Year award in 2008 at the British Book Awards. At these awards, McEwan was also named the Reader’s Digest Author of the Year.

This novel has later been made into a film adaptation, highlighting the success of the story.

Speaking of awards, if you need a list of the best Nobel prize winning books, we have it! Plus, you can learn how to gift an audible book or brainstorm through our books by genre category to find your next fix.

Themes In On Chesil Beach 

On Chesil Beach is filled with lots of great themes.

These include:

Lost Hopes

The theme of lost hope is very prominent throughout the novel. This theme comes from the idea that both Edward and Florence understood happiness and love in their ways.

For Edward, it was wrapped up in sex and desire. For Florence, the love was very innocent and platonic. 

The pair could not understand each other’s needs, which were very different for each of them. Because of this, they have both lost hope. 

There is also a feeling of lost hope in the way that the pair marry so young. They both have their dreams, but as they marry, their expectations change, and they begin to lose this hope.


Love is a strong theme explored in this novel. It makes you question whether the pair love each other and whether they know what love is. The narrator of the novel allows the reader to consider these questions. 

In the novel, Florence loves Edward, but she doesn’t feel the desire to have sex with him. Edward, on the other hand, is driven by sex.

His actions are driven by the act, proven when he proposed because his desire was taking over and he couldn’t resist the temptation anymore. 

True love is explored here as a mix between constant compromise and wanting to maintain who you are. 

Speaking of love as a theme, you might want to give our Home by Marilynne Robinson book review a shot!


Sex is a very important theme in this novel which is highlighted throughout.

In 1962, sexual relationships were considered to be unacceptable before marriage, and young people, like Florence, were educated on sex from guidebooks that tell you what to do on your wedding night. 

This has left Florence with a misguided view of sex, as she considers it a duty.

At times when marriage was the only way to become a mature member of society, young people were thrown into adult life and they had to take on this new role. 

This novel explores the damage that this can cause, and the complications between Florence and Edward are highlighted through their differing understanding of sex. 


Edward and Florence start with a large number of plans for the future.

Florence wants to follow her musical career, and the two of them have a lot of plans for the future. However, these plans do not become reality because they are very childish. 

Edward and Florence expected to have a magical life, but they are bound by society, and they learn slowly that they are bound by obligation. They are thrown into adult life, and they struggle to learn about the different rules of society. 

Imagery In On Chesil Beach

There is some very strong imagery in the novel.

This imagery includes:

The Wedding Ceremony

The wedding ceremony provides a lot of imagery for where the novel is going. The narrator at the ceremony is emotionless, and his words are very plain.

There is very little emotion when it comes to the wedding ceremony, with everything just being ‘fine’. 


Ian McEwan uses nature very well in this novel. The beautiful seaside landscapes are dropped into the narration, with the imagery being very picturesque and detailed. 

Nature is used in this novel to resemble the innocence of the couple, and it is also used as a backdrop for the events that take place.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it! After reading this article, you should now have a detailed understanding of the novel On Chesil Beach.

You will have an understanding of the success and popularity of the book, some of the things that were said about it, as well as some of the important themes within the novel. 

If you haven’t yet, On Chesil Beach is worth a read. It is packed with fantastic themes and features, and it will not disappoint! 

Sophie Andrea

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