McEwan’s On Chesil Beach, a crisp and pocket-sized novel that takes place—with the exception of a number of flashbacks—over the course of a single summer night in 1962, is as tautly constructed as anything he has written, though sprawling in imagination. It’s emblematic of a generation, a semi-scornful elegy for a repressed age, sarcastic about mores and unrelentingly honest about psychological and sexual intimacy. It’s a big book in a little space.
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