Thursday, 30 April 2009

Veggie Books: On Chesil Beach

They could see the beginnings of a footpath, dropping by muddy steps, a way lined by weeds of extravagant size - giant rhubarb and cabbages they looked like, with swollen stalks more than six feet tall, bending under the weight of the dark, thick-veined leaves. The garden vegetation rose up, sensuous and tropical in its profusion, an effect heightened by the grey, soft light and a delicate mist drifting in from the sea, whose steady motion of advance and withdrawal made sounds of gentle thunder, then sudden hissing against the pebbles.

Ian McEwan - a writer who knows how to use a comma.

I read On Chesil Beach on holiday, along with The Child in Time, and was captivated by them. Admittedly, they had an easy ride. I'd just finished Victoria Hislop's The Island (thinking it would be perfect reading material for Crete) and found the writing horrible, the characters flat and the plot mechanical. So going on to McEwan was a huge relief.

I wasn't without reservation, however. Other books I've read by him all had similar endings, where the beautiful writing gave way to a sudden rush of sexual violence that made me feel a bit soiled. I was certain On Chesil Beach would end with blood and death and general nastiness on the marital bed. But it didn't. It had the perfect ending. Phew.

Cabbage and rhubarb and a sowing of great commas - hurrah!

2 comments:

Frances said...

Re Chesil Beach - I just don't think they'd have given up so easily. For me, the ending didn't ring true somehow. I was rather disappointed. But glad you had a lovely holiday and that tbe Munchie had a good time.

Aliya Whiteley said...

I hadn't thought of that. I was too busy watching out for the sexual violence.

Thanks, Frances!