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Snared by the past

Ian McEwan's new novel, the story of a young couple's disastrous wedding night, is both a triumphant piece of social history and a reminder of the misery caused by an earlier age's sexual decorum

By Tom Chatfield   April 2007

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (Jonathan Cape, £12.99)

When John Banville demolished Ian McEwan’s last novel, Saturday, in the New York Review of Books, he reserved particular scorn for the amatory encounters between its main character, Henry Perowne, and his “unfailingly fragrant” wife. How, Banville asked, could we be expected to take seriously this self-satisfied world in which “no one suffers from morning breath, and women long-married wake up every time primed for sex?” Banville will, I suspect, breathe a sigh of relief as he reads On Chesil Beach, which…

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