Monday, 8 February 2016

Review: Atonement by Ian McEwan

Title: Atonement
Author: Ian McEwan
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Pages: 384
Genres: Historical Fiction

All the Bright Places

On the hottest day of the summer of 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her sister Cecilia 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 Cecilia, 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 Cecilia 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 quite the heavy read. After watching the film when it was released, I was so emotionally moved. I was not sure reading the book afterwards would add anything I didn't know already. I was wrong, the book does differ from the film and I am glad I decided to read it.

Atonement is essentially about a misunderstanding. A series of interconnected events lead a young girl, Briony Tallis, to give false evidence that she believes to be true. The ripple effect of the consequences of Briony's actions is then examined throughout the entire book. It's a moving and emotional story.

The best thing about Atonement is the detail, there are lots of layers to the story that I don't think could be gleaned from anywhere else but the book. The first half of the book is structured traditionally, each chapter focusing on a different point of view. The second half has a much looser structure and was the most enjoyable to read for me.

I do think the finale is something the film handled much better then the book in my opinion. I was a sobbing mess at the end of the film when it came to the final confession. The book sort of glosses over it and it didn't give the same emotional punch. Nonetheless, the book is worth reading and savouring as it is truly brilliant.

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