lover of written words

Atonement by Ian McEwan

on August 23, 2010

I’ve watched the film adaptation prior to reading the book itself. The film is released in 2007 and directed by Joe Wright. I don’t know if seeing the movie before reading the book detracted me from the story or not. The book has such a different feel than the movie, maybe because of all the description over action. Besides having images of the characters as the actors who portrayed them, other difference is that I knew who the convict was from the movie, while in the book it’s not really clear until near the end. In fact, in the movie I knew right when it happened, but the book doesn’t give it away.

Atonement is a story of love, crime, war & tragedy. The story itself is broken up into three parts. The first part is extremely traditional which shows Briony’s childhood and the tragic incident which drastically changed the lives of everyone. The second part shows Robbie as a soldier during World War II and Cecilia as a nurse. Briony leaves her literary dreams to pursue a course in nursing which is mostly out of remorse. The third part is about Briony as a successful writer in her old age.

It took me awhile to finished the book and I had to skip some pages like in those long descriptive parts where not much was happening. There is too much of prose in some places to describe situations and scenes. It often slows down the story a bit more than it should. Almost half of the book describes a single day alone. I felt disjointed a lot of the time that I was reading it.

What I like with this book is how the author captured the characters’ mind, especially the 13-year-old Briony. I think the author has succeeded very well in capturing the complexities of a human mind. He has a knack for taking his readers deep into his characters’ minds, letting them share their most intimate, most uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. I found Briony as the most interesting and most complex character. At first I found her actions and thinking scary but at the end of the story I fully understand her. I found her misunderstood somehow. But still I wish she had really made an atonement in the end.

More than the love story and tragedy, Atonement is about the thin line between fiction and reality. The power of imagination and believing fabricated things. It deals about a person’s thinking process which can let her believe in something very different from what is true. It’s not just about believing what is wrong and lying, it’s about a mind’s ability to make a person believe the imagination as what actually is true and the ability to stand about it.


One response to “Atonement by Ian McEwan

  1. […] Hanif Kureishi Austerlitz, W.G. Sebald Platform, Michael Houellebecq Schooling, Heather McGowan Atonement, Ian McEwan The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen Don’t Move, Margaret Mazzantini The Body Artist, Don DeLillo […]


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