Ben's Reviews > Atonement

Atonement by Ian McEwan
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Mar 17, 12

Read in March, 2012

Jess and I listened to the audio book as read by Jill Tanner. This book presents an intricate high-modernist mystery masquerading as a turn of the century manners novel. While largely character-driven, the plot makes studied precise cuts at the narrative's prim veneer until the horrible, sad wounds are exposed. Make no mistake, Ian McEwan wants to tear your heart out and stomp on it, but he's polite enough to take his time doing it. What most impressed me was his control of detail and the strange machinisations of impressions and phenomena by which he conveys psychology. The final movement falls flat on its face philosophically, comparing novelists to God in terms of lack of absolution... It feels too thinly veiled a moralism from the author and not quite organic to the character, but it's still a devastatingly beautiful story and very well told.
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Trenton Judson Ben, it seems far too often that you and I are on differing terms when it comes to tastes in books and I feel disappointed by that, probably because I value your friendship and want you to find the same joy and happiness and frustration in books that I do, and yet we rarely seem to come to common ground. I am SO happy that we have on this novel. I completely agree with everything that you said in your review. I found the same love for the narrative in this piece and the same disappointment in the conclusion. All in all though a great piece.


Yulia i liked on chesil beach even better. it is amazing how much detail he can provide without boring the reader... well-crafted his writing is


Andrew I disagree that the final movement falls flat. I think this is what pushes the novel out of the manners/modernist tradition by putting pressure on the omniscience with which the story is told. There's all kinds of mise-en-abyme (or something like that; story within story) going on here, and what this does is elevate the tragic characters in the story into a position of power over even the narrator. Briony is never in control of her narrative because her memory keeps getting in the way, obscuring some things and highlighting others. I agree with everything else you've written (I love the book, obviously), but I'd say what troubled you about the ending is actually one of its virtues.


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