“On Chesil Beach”, by Ian McEwan

A meditation on Hardy, Forster and Larkin, with all McEwan’s levers in full working order: newly-weds, one called Florence [Forster], their honeymoon in Dorset ending (sort-of) tragically [Hardy], and the main tension being that pre-60s sexual repression destructively and messily released by Florence’s gentle grasp [Larkin], all with the usual flashbacks to fill in the two lives, give period colour, and provide depth to the actual narrative’s spiralling from the bedchamber of fear onto the wild nighttime beach of dry stones, where violence is (thankfully) averted and things fall apart in respectable ways.

But if only they could have TALKED to each other! It’s so wonderful that for us the ’brilliant breaking of the bank’ has made such matters, where appropriate of course, er, laughable… And yet were things really this bad? Do we think of the pre-Pill generations as more benighted than they were? Was it only a narrow band of middle-class aspirants who suffered in this way, while the proles and the nobs got on with it like rabbits?

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