On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

On Chesil Beach

I read another McEwan’s book a while ago, Atonement, and didn’t quite like it, despite all the high praises. I really so wanted to like his books. I just couldn’t believe that I didn’t. I thought his types of books were just the ones that I would like. I still couldn’t let it go for a while, so I started On Chesil Beach.

I was so glad to find that I enjoyed it.

On Chesil Beach tells a story about a newly married couple, young, virgin, extremely shy and awkward. Setting is in old Europe 1960s, the time when talks about sex were far and few.

I thought only a genius could write a novel on a few hours of a wedding night and be nominated for Booker Prize (2007). And genius he is. There’s just something about McEwan’s use of words and language. Like people say, he’s a master of English. It’s just great. The words he uses to explain all things that we often can’t put into words. (Well as you can see, I’m definitely not a master of English.)

[spoiler]I read around forums to see what other people think of it. People mentioned about possibility of Flo being abused by her father, which caused her to be so frigid and revolted at sex. There are several hints in the book, which I have to half-heartedly agree. I probably subconsciously tried to ignore them at first, because it disappointed me a bit. I thought Flo’s character would be more interesting without the abuse (which would make things make sense in a too easy way).[/spoiler]

Love the ending. Sad. But poignant.

Rating: 4 out of 5
terrible » poor » mediocre » okay » good » very good » excellent » superb
A short, full of impact novel, written by a literary genius. His books still contain the longest sentences I’ve ever found in books.

First line

They were young, educated, and both virgins on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when a conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible.

Last line

Instead, he stood in cold and righteous silence in the summer’s dusk, watching her hurry along the shore, the sound of her difficult progress lost to the breaking of small waves, until she was blurred, receding point against the immense straight road of shingle gleaming in the pallid light.


“This was still the era – it would end later in that famous decade – when to be young was a social encumbrance, a mark of irrelevance, a faintly embarrassing condition for which marriage was the beginning of a cure.” ~ p6

“He was discovering that being in love was not a steady state, but a matter of fresh surges or waves, and he was experiencing one now.” ~ p125

“This is how the entire course of a life can be changed – by doing nothing.” ~ p166

10 out 100 out of 1001 Books YMRBYD Challenge

10 out 100 out of 1001 Books YMRBYD Challenge

Update 2 Nov 2008
See the wrap-up post here.


If you’re like me, and you haven’t read many of the books in the 1001 Books YMRBYD list, the list could become overwhelming to you and you’re not sure how to “conquer” it, then you may want to join me in this challenge.

I have an idea of how to sweep through the books in the list reasonably. Most of us wouldn’t be able to read all 1001 books in our lifetime, especially with all the new books coming out every year. So let’s not even try :). What I want to attempt is to read 100 books out of this list, which is distributed as evenly as possible. But chances are, if you haven’t read many books in the list, you’re probably a slow reader like I am, so even 100 books is far too many. So to start, let’s just have 10, one for each month. I will start from book #1 to 100.

The rule is, pick one book for every group of 10 books. So pick one book from book #1-10, then another one from book #11-20, and so on. If you have read one book from the group in the past, you can skip that group, or you can pick another book that you haven’t read in that group.

This is my list:
[01-10] #1 Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro read 12/05/08 (review)
[11-20] #19 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon read 01/07/08 (review)
[21-30] #28 Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami
[31-40] #40 Platform – Michael Houellebecq
[41-50] skipped – I’ve read #42 Atonement and #49 Life of Pi
[51-60] #51 An Obedient Father – Akhil Sharma
[61-70] either #63 The Blind Assassin or #64 After the Quake
[71-80] skipped – I’ve read #78 Sputnik Sweetheart. Might read #80 Intimacy.
[81-90] skipped – I’ve read #90 Veronika Decides to Die. Might read #85 Tipping the Velvet.
[91-100] skipped – I’ve read #93 Memoirs of a Geisha. Might read #92 The God of Small Things or #95 Enduring Love.

Looks like I have 6 books that I have to read, and the rests are optional.

Well initially, I’d like to have the challenge going on for 10 months, so if anyone hasn’t read any book from the first 100 books, they would actually have time to read 10, assuming a month time to each. But I’m being optimistic and assume other people most probably have read quite a few from the first 100 books. So let’s have this challenge for 6 months! You can join anytime but finishing date is 31 October 2008. Who knows, if all goes well, we can continue to book 101-200 :)

Update 4 May 08
I posted this on goodreads forum but didn’t get any response. I posted it on Bookcrossing website and (as usual) people are responding (BC people are the most book-crazed bunch I’ve ever met). So we got quite a few people that are up for the challenge. See the discussion here. I’m thinking to put people’s list at somewhere more organized if I have the time.On the other hand, I found this other challenge that could be done in conjunction with this challenge: 1% Well-Read Challenge. I would probably join, since it starts at exactly the same time with mine (1 May 08).

I’m using Mr. Linky for auto linking below. Please add the link to your specific blog post containing the list of your books (this should be where you update your progress too). It’ll be interesting to see what books that people choose to read out of a group and what books that most people have read.

Happy reading!

The Key by Junichiro Tanizaki

The Key (Vintage Blue)
I’m reading thin books in between Harry Potters just to get away a bit from the wizard boy, as much as I like him. So I read this very thin 160 pages book that I got a while ago from some book fair. And what a weird intermezzo that was.

The Key is a story about a 55 years old Japanese husband who’s madly in love (and lust) with his 11-years-younger wife. They each keep a diary, with the hope that the other would read it. The book contains their alternate diary entries, from his side and her side. Each insists that they would never read the other’s diary, even though they know it exists. Which is apparently a big lie. Each entry is smartly calculated with the account that the other might very well read it. It’s in a way, indirect communication.

There are so many Japanese elements in it, that I don’t know where to start. It’s all just very very Japanese-y. From the need to be modest, the facade, the obsession, the weirdness, the very opposite of frankness, the mind games, the secretive tendency, the conservative roles, and again the facade, lots of them. Damn the ending is WEIRD!

Rating: 4 out of 5
terrible » poor » mediocre » okay » good » very good » excellent » superb
As weird as it is, I enjoyed every page of it. What a page turner, and what a fresh breeze air from any of the ordinary draggy fictions. Love the first few pages. I have to write 2 first lines below, can’t resist :)

First line

This year I intend to begin writing freely about a topic which, in the past, I have hesitated even to mention here. I have always avoided commenting on my sexual relations with Ikuko, for fear that she might surreptitiously read my diary and be offended.

Last line

That is what he tells me….

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Just finished the 2nd of Potter’s book a short while ago. Not gonna spend much time reviewing this. Again, like the first book it’s enjoyable reading. I found it slightly more boring though, because it spent almost a good half of a book re-introducing the characters and scenes, before something started to happen.

I watched the movie ages ago, but I totally couldn’t remember the details of the story (in fact, none of the HP movies was that memorable to me, except probably the first one). I just remembered there was a flying car, and the big snake at the end. Actually I didn’t even remember there was a big snake. I kept wondering about what monster lied in the chamber of secrets, until it was revealed. So it’s good in many ways, because of the surprise elements here and there as I went through the book. The same with the rest of the movies, I can’t remember any of the story elements at all (I did watch each and every one of them). So I’m looking forward to reading the books as if it’s my first time to be in touch with the stories :). I do remember that there’s Harry’s uncle came into the picture in the third movie, and some kind of time traveling. That’s it. Don’t ruin it for me. I’m going for the third book!

I re-watched the 2nd Harry Potter movie and definitely enjoyed it much more after reading the book, as oppose to just watch the movie without reading the book like what I did the first time. Movie unavoidably often omits a lot of details, which makes people who are totally clueless go “HUH?”. By reading the book first you are familiar with the details and storyline, and can then fully enjoy the visuals and the other interpretation medium of the story.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
terrible » poor » mediocre » okay » good » very good » excellent » superb

First line

Not for the first time, an argument had broken out over breakfast at number four, Privet Drive.

Last line

And together they walked back through the gateway to the Muggle world.

I Choose to Live by Sabine Dardenne

I Choose to Live

In 1996 Sabine Dardenne was kidnapped by Marc Dutroux, the man who turned out to be one of Belgium’s most heinous paedophiles. She was 12 years old. She was his prisoner for 80 long days. Surviving, at the age of 20 years old, she finally decided to write this book, for three reasons: “so that people stop giving me strange looks and treating me like a curiosity; so that no one asks me any more questions ever again; and so that judicial system never again frees a paedophile for ‘good behaviour’.”

A quick and packed book, I finished it in one weekend (and a bit more). Sabine is strong and it’s shown in the book. There’s nothing too graphic, so it’s not too disturbing to read (doesn’t mean the whole thing is not horrifying of course).

I found Sabine was very strong and full of dignity. There was no trace of self-pity and indulgence in sorrow and misery. The writing is clear and straight to the point. I really admire her. I thought the book was great as a memoir and biography. It’s almost flawless.

Rating: 4 out of 5
terrible » poor » mediocre » okay » good » very good » excellent » superb

First line

My name is Sabine.

Last line

And then to forget.


“Falling in love is a serious business, especially when you’re sixteen.” ~ p143

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