A good choice to read on holiday, this was lent to me while away in Turkey. A short novel, skillfully written by Ian McEwan which could have had completely the wrong tempo had it been handled perhaps by someone else.
Briefly, the story evolves around a couples first night of marriage, in 1962 where attitudes to sex and relationships were more restrained, innocent and even ignorant. The story examines their courtship and their internal anxieties regarding their first night of conjugal matrimony.
The novel builds up the tension slowly and brilliantly throughout, so that by the time we have all the background and we face that first night with them, you firmly believe anything could happen.
The greatest part of this novel for me, and why it works so well, is that the narrator tells us this story retrospectively, from the present day, letting us know early on that things would have been much different for the couple had they taken place now. It would probably have been somewhat different just a few years on, at the other end of the '60s (post Pill and Liberation) where taboo issues like sex may have been more talked about. The characters have their worries, but reading about them, their needs, fears, their naivete, with a modern perspective, brings the reader to a fever pitch of helpless frustration, where at times, I wanted to yell at them, slap them out of their politeness, their Englishness.
Although for different reasons, our frustration almost matches theirs as the book builds to a conclusion, along with our deflation and feelings of regret and needless loss for them. I left this book with such a heavy feeling, which deposited me alongside the couple from 1962 in a hugely profound way, and this was because of the skill of the writing. The narrator clearly sympathises with their situation with great empathy as he unfolds the events. As a couple who love each other, if only they had belonged to today, it might have been so much different.
Here are some links you may find useful:-