[Review] Atonement by Ian McEwan

Title: Atonement: A Novel
Author: Ian McEwan
Page: 384 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Subject: Sisters, England, Guilt, Psychological Fiction
First Published: 2001

We meet 13-year-old Briony Tallis in the summer of 1935, as she attempts to stage a production of her new drama The Trials of Arabella to welcome home her elder, idolised brother Leon. But she soon discovers that her cousins, the glamorous Lola and the twin boys Jackson and Pierrot, aren't up to the task, and directorial ambitions are abandoned as more interesting preoccupations come onto the scene. The charlady's son Robbie Turner appears to be forcing Briony's sister Cecilia to strip in the Fountain and sends her obscene letters; Leon has brought home a dim chocolate magnate keen for a war to promote his new "Army Amo" bar; and upstairs Briony's migraine-stricken mother Emily keeps tabs on the house from her bed. Soon, secrets emerge that change the lives of everyone present...
- Excerpt from Goodreads summary

I've never read anything by Ian McEwan before but I have seen the movie Atonement and remembered feeling moved by it (I recently watched it again on DVD). It was a great story telling and as much as I like reading about that period of history, my movie choices tend to swing that way too.

And so I feel that I owed it to the author to read the book. Atonement the novel proved to be as entertaining and as moving as the movie. The story was told from the third-person but from the point of view of various characters, which offered so much room for character development, it was as though I knew each one of them well.

The language and writing was beautiful, and the fact that I already knew the ending didn’t really matter as it was the journey leading to the ending held more importance. I especially love the last chapter, the only chapter narrated by the first-person, Briony Tallis as an old woman. It was heartbreaking and profoundly moving – I just had to read the words out loud to myself.

The plot itself was refreshing and different from any other wartime stories I’ve read before. It was deep, dark, intense and heartbreaking. It was something of another level altogether.

Perhaps I should read The Reader next =)


Mary (Bookfan) said…
I read the book and then saw the movie and remember thinking I was glad I'd done it in that order because I wasn't sure I'd have known what was going on. So I'm impressed that the reverse order worked for you :) Isn't the book wonderful? It's one of my favorites.