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Wine & Book Group Pick for August '07

abstract:The Saxon word for pebble is chesil. Ian McEwan's brilliant new novelette, On Chesil Beach: A Novel is this month's Wine & Book Group pick. Set in 1962, it begins on the wedding night of a young virgin couple, Edward and Florence. After meeting and falling in love at a London college, they anticipate their vows as the entry into 'real adult' life; however, naiveté brings disappointment. The story is a touching examination of relationships, love, sex, the era, and how, despite best intentions, people somehow manage to get it wrong. McEwan asks, "Can the entire course of a life can be changed –- by a gesture not made or a word not spoken?" Despite differences in sexual politics today, readers will resonate with these two characters. Chesil Beach is an excellent choice for the last month of the summer. So pack your beach bag and slip in a delicious wine selected by our partners at Women and Wine. McEwan calls this a movie-length book that will take about three hours to complete -- just right for a lazy afternoon picnic!

article:

July 30, 2007

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  • About the Author

    Ian McEwan is one of my favorite modern writers. It would seem he is most at home with the short novel form where the prose is tight, the structure clear, and the reader-capture maximum.

    Ian McEwan was born on 21 June in 1948 in Aldershot, Hampshire, England. Much of his childhood was spent hop-scotching the world to destinations where his father was posted as an Army Officer; from the Far East to Germany and North Africa. He read English at Sussex University and got his MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the Royal Society of Arts, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was awarded the Shakespeare Prize in 1999 and CBE in 2000.

    He first published two collections of short stories in 1975 and 1976. First Love, Last Rites: Stories (1975) won the Somerset Maugham Award. Dr. Sean Watts, who summarized the biographical notation for Contemporary British Writers, says, "These stories -- claustrophobic tales of childhood, deviant sexuality and disjointed family life -- were remarkable for their formal experimentation and controlled narrative voice. His first novel, The Cement Garden (1978), is the story of four orphaned children living alone after the death of both parents. To avoid being taken into care, they bury their mother in cement in the basement and attempt to carry on as normal a life as possible, and an incestuous relationship develops between the two eldest children as they seek to emulate their parents' roles. It was followed by The Comfort of Strangers (1981), set in Venice, a tale of fantasy, violence, and obsession. The book was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction."

    Watts continues, "His next novel, The Child in Time (1987), won the Whitbread Novel Award, and marked a new confidence in McEwan's writing. The story is centered on the devastating effect of the loss of a child through abduction. The Innocent: A Novel (1990) is a love story set in post-war Berlin. Black Dogs: A Novel (1992) visits the most significant events of modern European history, ranging from Nazi death camps to post-war France and the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Enduring Love: A Novel (1997), begins with the death of a man in a ballooning accident, an event that triggers a tale of stalking, fixation, and erotomania. Daniel Craig acted in the movie adaptation. Amsterdam: A Novel (1998) is described by McEwan as a contemporary fable. Three men, a composer, a newspaper editor and a politician, meet at the funeral of their former lover, sparking off a bitter feud. It was awarded the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1998."

    "...Atonement: A Novel (2001), shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction and the Whitbread Novel Award and winner of the WH Smith Literary Award, begins in 1935 and tells the story of Briony, a young girl and aspiring writer, and the consequences of the discovery she makes about Robbie, a young man destined to play a part in the Dunkirk evacuations. The film version starring Keira Knightley as Briony comes out Sept '07. Saturday (2005), set on one day in February 2003, won the 2006 James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction)."

    "In addition to his prose fiction, Ian McEwan has written plays for television and film screenplays, including Ploughman's Lunch (1985), an adaptation of Timothy Mo's novel Sour Sweet (Aventura) (1988) and an adaptation of his own novel, The Innocent (1993). He also wrote the libretto to Michael Berkeley's music for the oratorio Or Shall We Die? and is the author of a children's book, The Daydreamer (1994)."--Read an in-depth analysis of McEwan in relationship to twenty-first-century literature by Dr. Sean Watts at Contemporary British Writers 2002

    Film adaptations of his own novels include First Love, Last Rites (1997), The Cement Garden [1992] (1993), and The Comfort of Strangers [Region 2] (1991), for which Harold Pinter wrote the screenplay.

    Ian McEwan lives in London.

    Podcast Interview

    Charlie Rose interview with the author: This is the best interview of the author I have seen to date. Click on the www.charlierose.com website, click on books and alphabetized author links to view the podcast. Well worth it.

    Women Wine Picks

    Our partners at www.womenwine.com are brilliant at matching wines at three different price points for our books. Please click through to their website and you can purchase by the bottle or by the case and share with your book group when you discuss this book (with extra bottles added to your growing cellar).

    Previous Wine & Book Picks


  • July The Last Chinese Chef, set in Shanghai
  • June The Birth House, set in Nova Scotia
  • May Water for Elephants, set in Depression-era America
  • March-April Snowflower and the Secret Fan, set in China
  • February Cloudstreet, set in Perth, Australia
  • January The Good German, set in Berlin
  • December The Historian, set in Eastern Europe
  • November One Good Turn, set in Edinburgh
  • September Lost in the Forest, set in Napa Valley
  • August The Hummingbird's Daughter, set in Mexico
  • July The Devil Wears Prada, set in NYC
  • June Woolf in Ceylon, set in Ceylon
  • May Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living, Australia
  • April The Mermaid Chair, set in South Carolina
  • March Memoirs of a Geisha, set in Japan
  • February Get a Life, set in South Africa
  • January The Shadow of the Wind, set in Barcelona
  • December Pride and Prejudice, set in England
  • November Beyond Measure, set in Renaissance Italy
  • October Breakfast at Tiffany's, set in New York
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