Friday, January 30, 2009
ON CHESIL BEACH by Ian McEwan
McEwan's On Chesil Beach is a fine, fast novella that seems after a first reading to be more complex that it initially appears. What are we to make of the novel's narrator and his choices (outlandish comic metaphors that come at moments of dramatic intensity, thus provoking bathos; the decision to 'focalize' [if that's the correct narratological term] the 40 years after the end of the story through Edward's consciousness rather than Florence's; his simultaneous intimation and veiling of Florence's possible molestation by her father on his boat)? The motivation for these choices seems to lie below the level of the narrated events, in the nature of the narration itself. It's as if McEwan has taken the superfluous postmodernism of Atonement and integrated it into his narrative voice here, subtilizing it and making it a deeper, more profound element of the novel because it's now part of the fabric and process of the story rather than an extra episode designed to deconstruct the previous ones. This is real progress. McEwan continues to improve.