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On a summer evening in 1962, two newlyweds sit down to dinner in the honeymoon suite of a Dorset hotel. Edward and Florence are both aged 22, both virgins and both are anticipating the consummation of their marriage with anxiety. Edward is enthusiastic, if a little worried about his lack of experience, but is determined not to let his worries spoil an event he has been anticipating for so long. Florence, on the other hand is terrified and rather revolted by the thought of what is going to happen. She has read a “bride’s handbook” which described the sexual act in purely medical terms and this has merely served to add to her fears and feelings of disgust. The events of their wedding night will have a profound impact of the future happiness of Edward and Florence…

At only 200 pages and 5 chapters, it was a breeze to read but it made me question certain issues – when does a couple start to address the physical part of a relationship? Before or after marriage? Or is it about love and patience, not forcing the other party or is it about giving up one’s entire being to the other because of love? The final chapter is one of the most moving piece of writing I have encountered… totally heartbreaking and yet a moment of pure clarity encompasses everything. McEwan stretches the story to decades after the fateful night at a Chesil Beach hotel that lets us know the far-reaching consequences of their decision made after the sex (interested now?). I just love the finely-honed prose… several times I actually reread many pages just to savour it….

When he heard her moan, Edward knew that his happiness was almost complete. He had the impression of delightful weightlessness, of standing several inches clear of the ground, so that he towered pleasingly over her. There was pain-pleasure in the way his heart seemed to rise to thud at the base of his throat. He was thrilled by the light touch of her hands, not so very far from his groin, and by the compliance of her lovely body enfolded in his arms and the passionate sound of her breathing rapidly through her nostrils. It brought him to a point of unfamiliar ecstasy, cold and sharp just below the ribs, the way her tongue gently enveloped his as he pushed against it. Perhaps he could persuade her one day soon- perhaps this evening, and she might need no persuading- to take his…

… That’s it. Anymore words and I will get in trouble. This is a poignant meditation on love’s ebb and flow.

On another note, for e past week I have been sharing e story of Naoko in various Primary and Secondary classes I teach. In all these fortunate classes that I shared the story, a few kids will hang around after lesson to ask me more of about the book and where to get it. Really warms my heart that they want to read it.

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