The Primness of the Sixties

Ian McEwan, well-known for his quite recently filmed story ‘Atonement’,  is famous for his remarkable descriptions. Something he’s doing this time as well. He describes the lives of newly weds Florence Ponting and Edward Mayhew to explain the way two different personalities respond to one special occasion, their wedding night.

The book starts with the two eating dinner together. In this piece of text in which noting extraordinary happens, they’re just eating; the reader feels the unbearable tension between the new husband and his wife.

The event that’s about to happen is something they both have been thinking about for months. Each with their own reasons. Edward can barely wait for the moment of relief. The moment he looses his virginity is something he’s waiting for for a very long time. She, on the other hand, is pondering on this because she worried about her feelings of disgust that appear every time the subject comes up in her thoughts.   Since the moment the relation with Edward had become more serious she had realised that she had a problem. Physically she’s disgusted by Edward. She loves him, but every move that could be interpreted as something sexual makes her nauseous.Florence also realises that being intimate is one of the things couples did. This is a difficult fact for her given that every sexual advance nearly gives her a panic attack.

Edward also had noticed that Florence didn’t react to his approaches the way he had hoped, but he thought it was just shyness and nervousness.

Her anxiety causes a terrible awkward moment at their wedding night, which means the end of the new marriage. This sad story that takes place in a time in which honest conversations about sex aren’t usual, shows exactly how this could mean the end of the love dream.

McEwan has done an amazing job by describing this situation. The reader feels curiosity towards the end of the story yet the need to put the book aside because it’s to painful and embarrassing.  There’s only one thing that McEwan could have done differently, the dividing of the  story into five different parts. The pieces about the wedding night are the most interesting to read and the parts between the wedding story are distracting. And, compared to the main story about the wedding night could be considered boring.

Apart from that it’s nicely written and gives a good idea of that times’ primness.


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