From On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan (an English author):

This was a snatched Saturday afternoon. They knew that it was one of the last days of full-blown high summer—it was already early September, and the leaves and grasses, though still unambiguously green, had an exhausted air.

I don't own the book, and the excerpt I have access to starts with this paragraph. I haven't been able to find a dictionary definition of "snatched" suitable for this context. What does it mean?

1 Answer 1


The meaning is right in the previous sentence:

"Their hours together were not always easy to arrange, and all the more precious."

"Snatched hours" means hours /stolen/taken out with some difficulty/ from their very busy schedule.

  • I didn't have access to the previous sentence. It was a translation exercise, and "This was a snatched Saturday afternoon." was the first line in my handout. I don't get why I should have provided that link, since this question is about a copyrighted book and you can't read it from that page (at least not from my country).
    – user117592
    Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 5:39
  • The link to the book text doesn't work for me, either (Germany). Google Books is so conservative that it hides even the full texts of some 19th century printings from European readers.
    – user86291
    Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 6:17
  • How about if instead of going to the link I've provided you go to the Google Books site available in your countries and search for "This was a snatched Saturday afternoon." (in quotes) Aren't you getting a link to the book which allows preview? Just curious. Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 12:08
  • I've already accepted your answer. Thank for your help. You don't need to post any more comments in bold. As I told you, my exercise started with that sentence and I thought that the second chapter started like that, so it didn't even cross my mind to look up the previous sentence to understand "snatched" better.
    – user117592
    Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 13:30

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