Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Atonement - Ian McEwan

"She could have gone in to her mother then and snuggled close beside her and begun a résumé of the day. If she had she would not have committed her crime. So much would not have happened, nothing would have happened, and the smoothing hand of time would have made the evening barely memorable."

The Good:

Briony Tallis is a writer. She is also thirteen years old and has a very defined view of the world. Her brother Leon is home from school and she's writing a play in his honour. In the midst of this she spies a flirtation between her sister Cecelia and Robbie Turner, the housekeeper's son. One night she believes she sees something that will change her life and the lives of all those around her.

The story takes place in the 30s and the writing style, while wordy and somewhat archaic, lends itself to the time period, confirming McEwan as a master. Also, the level of detail is, in a word, delicious. Here's a great example.

"An old tin petty cash box was hidden under a removable floorboard beneath her bed. In the box were treasures that dated back four years, to her ninth birthday when she began collecting: a mutant double acorn, fool's gold, a rainmaking spell bought at a funfair, a squirrel's skull as light as a leaf."

The story is divided into three sections and I liked this form as each section had different themes and voices. The style also seemed to change as the sections progressed through time.

This is definitely a writer's book, which I love. Briony is a writer and by the end of the book, you realize how important that fact is. The ending is a rug-puller. It was absolutely maddening in some ways as I felt that to truly understand the book I'd have to read it again. The title is truly appropriate.

The Bad:

Just as with "Life of Pi", the first part of the book sets up the rest of the story. It may seem slow in some parts with little plot development but McEwan uses this time to develop the characters and their various relationships.

While the writing style felt appropriate to the time period it was so wordy. There were some amazing paragraphs of description and dialogue but I usually subscribe to the Hemingway style of writing. Less is more.

The Ugly:

Somebody find Eli Wallach.


Stephanie said...

Atonement is one powerful book and a favorite of mine from 2007. Glad to hear that you enjoyed it too.

Great data for iPad Repair Bellevue said...

McEwan's technique of nesting a book within a book, ironies within ironies, blurring the margins between truth and fiction, between the creator and the created, between art and imitative life, was simply breath-taking. I am hooked.