Thursday, December 27, 2007

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Rating: 8/10

Published: 2001
Number of pages: 372
ISBN: 0099429799

Started: 16 November 2007
Finished: 27 November 2007

Summary (taken from blurb):

On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her sister Cecelia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching her is Robbie Turner, her childhood friend who, like Cecelia, has recently come down from Cambridge.

By the end of that day the lives of all three will have been changed for ever. Robbie and Cecelia will have crossed a boundary they had not even imagined at its start, and will have become victims of the younger girl's imagination. Briony will have witnessed mysteries, and committed a crime for which she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone.

This is the first novel of Ian McEwan's that I have read and it likely won't be the last. I found his writing style to be absolutely beautiful. And I've found that where wonderful writing is concerned, I'm much more amenable to forgiving plot holes and other irritating aspects of a novel, and this one certainly had a few of those.

I found the first part of the story very slow going. There was a lot of nice writing but not much actually happened until the very end. I thought that this section could have been made a lot shorter without actually taking anything away from the book. I enjoyed the second section a lot more. In the context of the rest of the story, it probably could also have been made shorter, but historically it was very interesting to me (not previously knowing much about this particular event).

Like others, I was a bit disappointed with the ending. I thought it was a bit of a cop-out. Highlight to view spoiler: I didn't like being tricked into thinking the story ended one way, only to find that it ended differently. I also think that if Briony was really trying to atone for her crime, then she should have told the story the way it really happened. I recall there being an explanation of this at the end, but it wasn't to my satisfaction.

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