In 2007, I saw and liked the movie. But somehow, I never got around to reading the book. Strangely enough, even as I was calmly (mostly) reading Milton, Spenser, Faulkner, Joyce, Woolf, and Co. for my undergrad... Ian McEwan's work always seemed to leer at me from the shelves with this subtle challenge. And, understand, my bias was solely based off the film adaptation of Atonement; I had never ever ever read any of his books, and yet I had this preconceived notion of sadness, depression...a general, weighty pith of gloom and deep thought.
Don't get me wrong.
Atonement is bone-wrenchingly sad. It makes your soul ache. But McEwan's prose?
Such. A. Pleasure. To my surprise, I couldn't put the book down. I carried it around in my purse to steal five minutes here and there in McEwan's finely crafted world.
I hate to use a book-review-cliche but, in my opinion, his prose really does flow. He just effortlessly moves you through a character's thoughts. Before you realize it, you've glided through four or five pages of interior monologue as thirteen-year-old Briony muses on life and consciousness and the place of herself/her Self in all this muck. And you never get bored. Or at least I didn't. You just glide effortlessly through the sentences and descriptions and details, never missing a beat.
Set in pre-World War II England, the book is about 13 year old Briony who accidentally witnesses her sister's fledgling romance with their charlady's son. Briony is just old enough to have vague notions of adult life and emotions; just old enough to realize that there is a whole world opening up before her; just old enough to feel too young to understand it. She is just old enough to be fascinated by it and just young enough to be scared by it. Of course, curious and confused little sister gets in the way and her actions and perceptions have ramifications that reverberate through the next fifty years.
Basically, that's the book's general plot.
But Atonement is also about story: about the disconnect between fiction, perception, and reality, about the reality we create by our perceptions, about the space between the inner space and the outer physicality.... It really pulls you through some deep arguments while all along making you fret and worry and bit your lip over the trials of these young lovers.
In short, I loved the book. It was really enjoyable (despite the sadness). And I highly recommend it, if you're looking for a thought-provoking yet approachable read.
And that's that.
---> P.S. Four days til my wedding, folks!!
I'm getting butterflies! <---