A Life in a Night: McEwan's On Chesil Beach

While, fittingly, on the beach, I finished Ian McEwan's latest, On Chesil Beach. Lingering in the ambiguous space between novella and novel, the book is exquisite. McEwan sketches worlds in fine-grained detail, but does so with a minimalist, almost sparse style. What I found most intriguing and remarkable, however, is his command of time. It is the rhythm and cadence of the novel that struck me. In the course of a focused, slice-of-life story about a wedding night, he also manages to narrate two complete lives. And he does so without having to resort to tricks or gimmicks like flashbacks. Instead, the story wends from past to present to future to present without missing a beat, and without the least jarring of the reader's temporal sensibilities. One of the summer's few "beach" reads that will repay re-reading.