‘Atonement’ by Ian McEwan

Atonement

Fiction – paperback; Vintage; 372 pages; 2002.

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 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 turns on its head when a tragedy occurs on the estate and the finger of blame is pointed at the wrong person. This is something 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.

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3 thoughts on “‘Atonement’ by Ian McEwan

  1. I completely agree 🙂
    I was mesmerised for the first part, but felt let down with the remainder of the book.
    I enjoyed McEwan’s seemless changing between the characters take on the fateful day, it makes other authors (only Tracy Chevalier) who employ that technique look rather clunky in their approach.

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  2. It’s been awhile since I read this, but I still remember the first part of this book as if I read it yesterday. But the remainder of the novel has gone to the same spot old telephone numbers/black socks/biros go! – ie. a big black hole.
    Glad you enjoyed it though.

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  3. I enjoyed the very industrial, mechanical tone to Part Two of Atonement, complimenting the situation. The crudeness and the pace with which McEwan developed (and essentially aged) Robbie’s character gave a true sense of reality associated with coming of age. However, compared to Part One – an exquisitely rich and heated flow of ideas – it was an extreme contrast in style. I do think this was intentional.

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