Fiction – paperback; Vintage; 372 pages; 2002.
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2002, part one of Ian McEwan‘s Atonement features some of the best fiction I have ever read.
Set on the hottest day of the summer of 1934, it evokes richly the individual lives of a family living in a lavish country house, and the preparations they undergo to stage a welcome home dinner for their eldest son.
But the happiness and excitement of the festivities soon turn on their head when a tragedy occurs on the estate and the finger of blame is pointed at the wrong person. This is something for which 13-year-old Briony Tallis spends the rest of her life trying to atone.
Unfortunately, I found that parts two and three of the book did not live up to the promise of the first (it didn’t help that I had guessed the perpetrator of the crime).
While McEwan’s writing is gorgeous, with a deep undercurrent of suspense running throughout, I found that the “tricks” he played on the reader towards the end were mean-spirited and disappointing.
‘Atonement’ by Ian McEwan, first published in 2001, is listed in Peter Boxall’s 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, where it states that the epilogue “brings into question the author’s struggle to relinquish control over the reaction of his readers”! It adds that some of the novel’s themes include the “challenges of writing, the burden of guilt, and, above all, the danger of interpretation”.