Tracy's Reviews > Atonement

Atonement by Ian McEwan
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's review
Jul 26, 2015

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, modern-classics, girl-woman-feminine-tales, books-made-into-movies, boy-man-masculine-tales, love-tales, the-fam-connection, a-1001-bymrbyd, donated
Read from April 24 to July 24, 2015 , read count: 1

** spoiler alert ** I had planned to read this and then watch the movie, but I decided to watch the movie first. Unlike many book-to-movie adaptions, the movie stuck very closely to the plot, which was a nice change for adaptions. I think seeing the movie first was the push I needed to read the book, which has been sitting on my bookshelf untouched for years. This took a little while to get through, but I did enjoy it overall. The writing is beautiful, stunning, insightful, deep, descriptive. I didn't even mind the long paragraphs. I found the first part the most "trying" to get through, especially the very last two chapters that were entirely spent in Briony's head/her point of view. I did, however, like the first part, and the rest of the novel as well. I was surprised at how "easy" reading parts two and three were in comparison to the first part, which was the longest and set a tone of the oppressive summer heat, young love, childish games and ultimate betrayal all in the span of a single day, whereas parts two and three span weeks or months during WWII and its aftermath, each graphically and realistically described.

The only part from the movie that was pure movie invention was the "epilogue" part with seventy-seven year old Briony going on a TV show to talk about her newly published novel, "Atonement". In the book, there is no TV show but instead, Briony's birthday party where grandchildren and nieces and nephews surprise Briony with a rendition of her first play from that long ago summer in 1934 (which starts the story), "The Trials of Arabella". Briony tells the readers (from a first person POV, which is the only time in the whole book we don't see the third person POV) that she's been told she has dementia and, within a few years, she'll forget everything. She tells us she's written her last draft of "Atonement", which is the entirety of the novel we've just read, but it's largely a true story with all the names unchanged. She tells us her publisher won't allow her to publish it until both Marshalls are dead, and assumes that she will also be dead by that time too. And then she tells us that, though she embellished the details of Robbie and Cecelia's life after the war, she did it as a way to rewrite history, because over time she'd come to realize she made a huge mistake accusing Robbie of raping Lola (that was Paul Marshall, whom Lola later married) and thus tearing Robbie and Cecelia apart forever. She tried to atone for her sin by rejecting traditional college and instead becoming a nurse like Cecelia during the war (though Cecelia became a nurse to cut off ties with her family, since she was the only one who stood by Robbie and believed he was innocent), and then later wrote Cecelia that she meant to recant her accusations. But Robbie dies of an infection while in WWII service (after serving 4 years prison time) and Cecelia is killed when an underground train station is bombed. Briony never has the chance to recant, or even see Cecelia again, so she spends years perfecting her novel and deciding it's best to let her readers believe that Robbie and Cecelia survived and are together and still in love.

I liked the "epilogue" because it seemed like Briony was finally getting some "peace", or even some roundabout justice for being such an obnoxious little girl. But all she wanted after her horrible mistake was to make amends, and as she's surrounded by her remaining family members, her brother Leon, one of the twins—Pierrot—and all of their children and grandchildren, in their old family house that's now a hotel, and that long lost play is being put on in her honor, it feels like love, that she's adored the way she wanted to be as a child, but now has an adult's perspective. It feels like she has made her amends.

Definitely a "1000 Books You Must Read Before You Die" choice pick. Worthy.

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Reading Progress

04/24/2015 marked as: currently-reading
04/24/2015 page 8
2.0% "Finally saw the movie and now for the book."
06/14/2015 page 221
62.0% "Onto part 2 and finally out of Briony's head. So far am enjoying the war retreat (though I know some parts later may be harder to read)."
06/22/2015 page 273
77.0% "Liking this but also looking forward to finishing it."
07/20/2015 page 329
93.0% "Getting closer to the end!"
07/26/2015 marked as: read
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