There is a particular skill in taking a relatively small narrative episode and weaving an entire novel from it. In “On Chesil Beach” Ian McEwan displays such talents. The incident of the title – short, climactic, tense, complex, emotional – is perhaps the natural outcome of the story as it is laid before us. How – we might think – can the history of the two protagonists possibly conclude in any other way?
Undoubtedly there are two other potential endings, one happy and one violent, and I found myself expecting one but wanting the other (I won’t say which way round!) – but of course the ending McEwan had chosen is completely the ‘right’ one. In a way, the narrative would have lost its meaning and purpose without it.
It is a gem.
Having read “The Cement Garden” so long ago I no longer remember it, I have just ordered three more McEwan novels. Well, it would be rude not to…!