I had heard so many great things about this book in the blogosphere and then in looking forward to the movie, I was really wanting to read this book. I had a vague idea of what the premise was, but only little pieces. As I read through the first section of the book, I was pulled through each page with anticipation of what was going to happen. I was hooked to McEwan’s beautiful and smooth prose and his subtle use of suspense.
Atonement is the story of a young girl, Briony, who is on the brink of young-adulthood, but still has so much to learn about life. She witnesses a number of events that revolve around her sister and Robbie during a summer afternoon and makes several assumptions that lead to Robbie’s implication of a crime. That’s all I knew going into the book, so I’ll leave it at that.
The book is divided into three very different sections (at least in terms of style). The first section–the one that describes Briony’s transgression, moves from perspective to perspective giving a glimpse into each of the characters feelings and motivations. Because of the way that McEwan gives just a little bit of information at a time, the buildup was very great for me. I was drawn into the narrative–needing to receive answers. Once I found out what Briony had done, the second section–Robbie’s narrative of World War II seemed slow. By the time the narrative moved back to Briony in section three, I grew a little restless with the story. The ending came together beautifully–and McEwan masterfully shows the reader how powerful atonement can be. It is an ending that stuck with me for a few hours after closing the book (I was on a plane), and it will be an ending that I will continue to remember, which is what I hope for in a book.
I would recommend this book and I will certainly be seeking out McEwan’s other works.