|Purchased: Amazon | Chapters|
Genre: Literary Fiction
Start Date: Jan. 10, 2011
Finished Date: Jan. 19, 2011 (10 days)
Where Found: Chapters-Indigo
Why Read: Heard lots of positive reviews, and loved the movie.
Summary: In the summer of 1935, an impressionable young girl makes a poor judgment call about her sister's lover, leading to a series of terrible events that stretch over years and affect all their lives.
I am writing this review very carefully to avoid even minor spoilers as it would completely take away from the unique experience of reading Atonement. It was written poetically, hauntingly, and delicately, pieced together very precisely, coming full circle as only the best novels do. At first, Atonement comes across as a tale of British middle class society, reminding me of a modernized Jane Austen. It took me some time to settle into the author's style, but once the initial fountain incident occured, I was taken with it. I became anxious about what Briony would do with her perception of this scene, and her shock over what she witnesses in the library. This decision hung in the air for so long that I became frustrated with the in-between dalliances that deliberately stalled the novel's progression. In hindsight, this was brilliant storytelling--it made the situations settle, harden & clump into a ball, weighing on you, as it did Briony, and only until you continue reading is it lifted off you. But the irony is that it doesn't really leave you.
By the end of Part II and into Part III (titled "London 1999"), I had a lump in my throat. The consequences of Briony's decision at age 13 stay with her for so long that every character she encounters is affected by her choice, and all she can do is imagine how things could have been.
I saw the terrific 2007 movie adaptation with Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Saoirse Ronan (who was a brilliant young presence) and Vanessa Redgrave before reading the book, so I was aware of the major plot events and ending, but the book had numerous subplots that unmentioned in the film and McEwan's style of writing the story came off very differently than the director's style of filmmaking. I thought it was very appropriate for the movie to tell the same story but with different brushstrokes that changed the mood that McEwan wrote very specifically. I would recommend reading the book first as it felt a tad awkward knowing such important parts of the novel, but seeing the movie first did not ruin my experience at all.
Rank: (A+)- Amazing, A Must-Read!