Having enjoyed Ian McEwan's The Children Act, I checked out of the library On Chesil Beach, which was published in 2007, seven years before The Children Act, and which I remember reading somewhere was in the hand of the Prime Minister, David Cameron, when he was seen traveling somewhere. Here is the opening sentence of On Chesil Beach:
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.
The narrative interest aroused is along the line, then, of: What's going to happen when these two endeavor to consummate their marriage? Fortunately, it's not like waiting around for the Great White Whale to arrive on the scene, for the work is barely 200 small pages, with considerable white space between the lines, and, notwithstanding the backwards-looking narration of two biographies and one courtship, the promised sexual failure occurs at just about the half way point. One learns from Wikipedia that the book comes in at fewer than 40,000 words, and that controversy ensued when it was nominated for the Booker Prize, an award for novels, not novellas, though I'm not sure there are definitions of these terms. I'm saying that if you want to find out what happens, or doesn't, on the wedding night, it's not a huge investment in time to find out. But the power of the book, which I think is considerable, derives from the second 20,000 words.
Being an Ian McEwan beginner, it seems to me noteworthy that I've now read two of his books, and at the center of each is an undersexed woman who is the object of the (male) author's intense and very sympathetic scrutiny.