Wednesday, July 24, 2013

IGIATL: Atonement



by Ian McEwan


I wish I would have picked up this book earlier.  I've looked at it many times before but didn't grab it until I saw it in the Staff Picks shelf at my local library.  Even after I grabbed it, I still thought it would be a story I would have to slog through.  I was actually pleasantly surprised and was drawn in immediately.

On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her older sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house.  Watching Cecilia is their housekeeper's son Robbie Turner, a childhood friend who, along with Briony's sister, has recently graduated from Cambridge.
By the end of that day the lives of all three will have been changed forever.  Robbie and Cecilia will have crossed a boundary they  had never before dared to approach and will have become  victims of the younger girl's scheming imagination. And Briony will have committed a dreadful crime,, the guilt for which will color her entire life.

I wish I could elaborate more on the plot but it would give so much away.  This story spans years from 1935 to 1999.   It begins with the crossroads of lives that happens all on that one summer day.  It then moves to Robbie as a soldier on the retreat to Dunkirk.  The third section of the book shows Briony during her nurse's training in London and the regret she feels over the mistake she made five years earlier.  The final section is set in 1999 and shows Briony about to celebrate her seventy-seventh birthday with family.  

The first part of Atonement is told in alternating narratives from Briony, Cecilia, Robbie, and others.  Normally I'm not a huge fan of this as it makes things hard to follow but in this book, it was nice to see how the characters came to decisions they made.  I was a little disappointed by the ending because I became invested in the characters. 

I highly recommend this book.  It's a great selection for book clubs.  It isn't something that is so exciting that you stay up till four in the morning to see what happens next.  Even if those are the kind of books you like, this one will still hold your interest because the characters get under your skin in a very good way.  I'll leave you now because I want see if this is on Netflix.  Of course, the movie is never as good as the book.

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