Sunday, March 2, 2008

Atonement :: Ian McEwan

If you've been on my blog, you'll know that I recently finished Atonement, and that I struggled with this book in the beginning.

I actually HATED Part I. With a discontent bordering on passionate anger. I DESPISED Briony, felt the thoughts of the characters were self-indulgent and trivial and utterly annoying. I actually started to somewhat skim through the last 30 pages of Part 1 because I was so SICK of their little internal whims and fantasies, and I just wanted to know the basic plot. If I hadn't been a person who sticks through a book til the end, I probably would have closed the book and never picked it up again (until I saw the movie and my curiosity got the better of me).

But as it was, I kept going. And after my initial reaction, the rest of the book was actually really good. I enjoyed it. And of course the ending (which I won't give away here, but I talk about on my blog).

It's hard to say much about why I ended up liking the book without giving away the ending. So I'll say this: McEwan is great with language, but I could have done without the beginning drivel. Even if I understand why now he did it, I still hate it. But ultimately what redeemed this book for me was the question and theme that it was situated around. The concept. It's an incredibly brilliant way of executing a theme such that the reader asks themselves certain questions. And it's on this alone -- the ending, the reveal, the big picture, that this book redeems itself to me.

Hey, and maybe that's part of his genius. In the end, it gains atonement.

So, this is a book for a patient reader. But good. And the movie does not do the ending justice, but how could it?


ChristineEldin said...

I am so glad somebody posted a review of this book.
I saw the movie and thought some of it was great, but much of it could have been better.

I have the book, and thanks for saying that you made it through the beginning and it was worth it. I will give it a try!

bookfraud said...

i appreciated this review more than you can imagine -- i despised part 1 with, as you put it so well, "discontent bordering on passionate anger."

unfortunately, i gave up on it, which about 1,349 people have said was a mistake. maybe i'll try again. it took me about three times to get past the first 50 pages of "one hundred years of solitude," and after i did, it changed how i write.

Cheryl said...

I know part of this story is about war. Would you say it was very violent--akin to Cold Mountain?

Lisa said...

I was recently telling someone else who couldn't get past Part 1 to power on because it's worth it. I didn't have as much trouble with Part 1 as a lot of people seem to, but I'm a pretty indulgent reader and I do love McEwan's style so much that I probably overlook quite a bit. I was probably a bit more willing to give Briony the benefit of the doubt because of her age, so I never got angry with her.

cyn said...

i liked it well enough to want to read on chesil beach. and i tend not to read literary fiction much.

angelle said...

cheryl: not at all. i mean i haven't read cold mountain, but even though a large portion takes place during the war, the focus isn't so much on the war itself than on robbie amidst the backdrop of war. i don't think you should have trouble with it.

Cheryl said...

Okay, I'm reading it now and I hope I'll like it! So far, I love the first chapter.

Cheryl said...

I finished the book. And I have to say I really don't understand the point in reading it if you hate Part 1. Part 1 is the whole book! I mean, it's half the book, but it's the meat of it. It surprises me that anyone could care about the ending if they didn't like Part 1.

But I'm glad that people do like the ending because I really loved this book. I think I'll post my own review, just because it will be a different perspective.

I'm really glad I read this review, though, because otherwise I wouldn't have gotten interested in reading the book.