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Atonement by Ian McEwan
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Apr 04, 09

bookshelves: historical-fiction
Read in January, 2008

On an English country estate in the jittery, gilded era between the two great wars, two young people stand in the summer's heat, arguing by an ancient fountain. Cecilia is the daughter of the household, and Robbie is the cleaning woman's son, a brilliant boy whose Cambridge education has been benevolently financed by Cecilia's father. During their quarrel, the two manage to break a valuable porcelain vase, and in a fury largely engendered by her unacknowledged feelings for the young man, Cecilia strips off her clothes, leaps into the fountain and retrieves the fragments. It is a dazzling moment, full of beauty and ruin, lust and innocence, so highly charged that it's no wonder Cecilia's little sister, Briony, observing unseen from a window, feels a sense of menace. She concludes that Robbie has compelled her sister to do something shameful. This assumption, when combined with later events, brings disaster not simply to the two young people who are discovering themselves to be lovers, but to everyone else in the well-intentioned, prosperous family.

I saw the movie first with a group of friends and enjoyed it so much I checked it out at the library later that week. I was presently surprised how little they left out in the film. Atonement was a throughly enjoying book, it was a little slow at times but overall very good. The middle, where Robbie goes into the army I found to be rather tedious as it was mostly descriptive of his troop walking and sharing the occasional meal with fellow travelers. It's really amazing how one action can effect so many people's lives.
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