Atonement is one of those books that is well-loved among my peers. I didn’t really understand why – I was curious enough, but not that curious – until a few months ago when I decided to pick up the book and finally read it. I also knew there was a movie adaptation but since I’ve always been one to read the book first before watching the movie, I went ahead and dusted off my pre-loved copy from the shelf and read Atonement.
It was all I expected, and more.
Principally, it was a love story that spanned decades, but one that never really came into fruition. The love story of Cecilia and Robbie was one that withstood time, but it was also one that never really begun. Confused? I know. I guess you just have to take my word for it, or read the book yourself.
For context, Cecilia belongs to a well-off family in England, while Robbie works for her family as an all-around errand boy/gardener. (Forgive any inaccuracies in the details; I've read this months ago and am too lazy to verify.) They’ve known each other since they were children, but didn’t realize that they have feelings for each other until much later, when they were older. The war was imminent at this time, and Robbie had his sights set on medical school, to be sponsored by Cecilia’s father.
Enter Briony, Cecilia’s little sister.
Briony, the character who was responsible for everything that went wrong in the story. And I will leave it at that.
I loved McEwan’s writing. It was languorous, fluid, and will draw you in to its depth until you find yourself wanting more. Reading the prose felt like being rocked gently to sleep, you wouldn’t even notice that you’ve read through the most shocking scenes and climactic plot twists, it was that amazing. McEwan has this remarkable way of making even the most mundane things sound delightful, or downplaying the brilliant stuff into something less dramatic. Briony’s four-letter word, the one word that sent everything spinning out of control, is a perfect example. How powerful that one word is, in the deft writing hands of McEwan!
A few days after I read Atonement, I watched the movie adaptation. While it didn’t evoke much feelings in me as the book did, still, seeing Cecilia and Robbie being portrayed on the silver screen, watching their story unfold before my eyes nonetheless made me feel sad. And Briony, oh Briony. If I were to name my most loathed fictional character, you’d be up there vying for top honors.
This is my first Ian McEwan book, and definitely not the last. I will make certain to pick another McEwan book next year, and I know I’ll love it just as much as I did Atonement.
Book Details: Trade paperback, pre-loved copy
Read in July 2015