Reactions to ‘On Chesil Beach’ and ‘Three Women’

Reactions to these two books

In an effort to avoid a complete free fall into my anxiety and depression pit, I’ve mostly limited my social media activity (only three hours a day on twitter as opposed to my usual all-day scrolling), news consumption, and Revolution marathons (but I did watch seven episodes last night…please don’t judge me), and have instead tried to read all of the unopened books on my bookshelf. I recently read these two books in a span of three days and I have so many thoughts on them! I normally stick to nonfiction books on race and incarceration, but at the recommendations of my sister Megan, I finished these two novels* (Three Women is technically nonfiction, but is written like a piece of fiction) with many, many reactions to them.

The first book I read is On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, which I previously described as a “sad, confusing marriage story” and that is basically the sum of my reactions to it. The whole novel is set in the 1940s on a newly married couple’s wedding night and it features flashbacks to the day they met and moments they shared throughout their relationship. Both Florence and Edward are virgins, which is one of the most important aspects of the book, as their conflicting views on and experiences with their sexualities eventually decides the fate of their love. The book’s plot moves extremely slowly, almost like the waves on the namesake beach, but I loved 98% of the story. I didn’t much care for the ending, or should I say, how quickly the dissolution of their marriage occurred and I wish McEwan developed Florence’s trauma past one solitary mention. However, I did thoroughly enjoy the book and I would recommend it upon further reflection (contrasting my initial reactions to the ending when I texted Megan, HELLO I JUST FINISHED ON CHESIL BEACH AND I HAVE TO SAY WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT ENDING”).

My second finished book is Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, which I finished in one day. Holy shit, this book. I wanted to read it forever. Taddeo is a journalist who spent eight years interviewing and developing the stories of the three women subjects—real women whose names were obviously changed, and whose lives were so remarkable and simultaneously common. The book is about women: their desires, their heartbreaks, and ultimately, their sex lives, written simultaneously from the beginning of their intimate encounters until where they are at the end of Taddeo’s reporting. Maggie, Lina, and Sloan all live completely different lives, but their stories have similar experiences and feelings that I, and I’m sure all cishetero women could completely relate to. Each narrative was exciting and painful and sexy and reinforced my desire to never marry a man, so that was reassuring. If there is one book I could recommend to any woman ever, it would be this one. It’s one of my favorite books I’ve ever read.