Day 1173: Atonement

Cover for AtonementBest Book of Five!
Ian McEwan is a master at turning everything you think you know about a novel on its head, and he does that effectively in Atonement. This novel is a reread for me, the first one by McEwan I ever read, and I found it breathtaking. It is just as enjoyable when you know its secrets.

On a hot summer day in 1935, Briony Tallis commits a terrible crime. At thirteen, she is an imaginative but naive girl, a budding novelist. She misunderstands some interactions she witnesses between her older sister, Cecilia, and Cecilia’s childhood friend, Robbie, and this misunderstanding provokes her to tell a dreadful lie that ruins lives.

Five year later, Briony is a nurse at the start of World War II. She is trying to get published as a writer, but she is also concerned to atone for the lives she ruined.

This novel draws you in to the hot summer day and carries you along. It is beautifully written, and it shows great insight into the mind of the romantic, self-important child that Briony was. I can’t say much more about this novel without giving it away to the few of you who haven’t read it or seen the movie, but I believe it to be a postmodern classic. In short, this is a great book. It is intelligent, with ideas to ponder but with a narrative that just sweeps you along.

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14 thoughts on “Day 1173: Atonement

  1. Geoff W February 1, 2018 / 12:56 pm

    I’ve had this on my shelf for a few years but haven’t gotten around to it. I also haven’t seen the movie so that’s a plus. I’ll be interested to see your thoughts on The Finkler Question, I just saw your Goodreads widget out of the corner of my eye.

    • whatmeread February 1, 2018 / 1:50 pm

      I’m just beginning it, but I can tell you that I didn’t like Howard Jacobson’s J, and this one is reminding me of it a lot. I’m only reading it because it’s on the shortlist. Did you read it yet?

      • Geoff W February 1, 2018 / 5:54 pm

        I did because it won the Booker a few years ago and I was like sure why not. I did NOT enjoy it.

      • whatmeread February 2, 2018 / 12:11 am

        So far it doesn’t look like I’m going to enjoy it, either.

  2. Helen February 1, 2018 / 3:24 pm

    I haven’t read this, or anything else by Ian McEwan, but it does sound good. I’m glad you enjoyed it just as much on rereading it.

    • whatmeread February 1, 2018 / 4:23 pm

      This is an excellent book. You should read it. The movie is also well done, but I recommend reading the book first.

  3. Naomi February 6, 2018 / 10:23 am

    Atonement is almost too good – it just about killed me. I was worried about seeing the movie, but it wasn’t as powerful as the novel.. so I survived. 🙂

    • whatmeread February 6, 2018 / 11:58 am

      I saw the movie at a little distance from the book and thought it was good, but I might not have had the same reaction if I saw it right after reading the book.

  4. Jorie February 22, 2018 / 4:33 am

    Hallo, Hallo Kay,

    I saw your name on your About page – I try to address the bloggers I’m visiting but on your short bio I didn’t see it listed. I wanted to let you know I’m one of the bloggers finally getting her tail into order and actively participating this year in the HistFic Reading Chall via Passages to the Past! 🙂 I’ve been tracking my readerly progress these past years, but never had the proper chance to visit/interact with the bloggers who take part in it. I noticed we’re also keen on Classical Lit and are both members of tCC! How lovely! In that regard, I’m practically the worst classical reader in the club due to my inability to get into the Classics since I first sorted out what I wanted to read! At least I have nearly a year to redeem myself,.. before I renew my List!

    This title spoke to me in the linky tonight because it’s a title I’ve been curious about reading – when I first read there was a secret which turnt into a lie and thus affected lives, the first thing I thought about was my first viewing of .. oh dear my .. what was the name of that film? It’s the one where the grandmother says she say something wicked in the the shed or barn or something other? Oy. Wells, for whichever reason, I made a note read both novels and then, re-watch the first film I had originally seen whilst settling into seeing Atonement for the first time thereafter.

    I’ve had the unlucky luck of finding Classical or Contemporary novels made into films w/o first realising the back-history of the stories and thus feeling as if I saw the film too soon w/o first reading the stories! *le sigh* This is why I try to make better notes about which film is based on which novel – in this case, I knew the title ahead of it’s film debut so that made it slightly easier!

    Thanks for giving a short insight into Briony – I nearly could have read a bit more of your thoughts as it sounds like she truly touched your heart – not just for her self-growth as the story matures but for the message she had to say in order to ‘atone’. I do love powerful dramas and this I daresay isn’t going to disappoint me! #Blessed I came across your review and blog!

    In a similar vein of interest, one of the more emotional reads I had myself recently (outside of the Seven Sisters series) was The Forgotten Girl which is based on the author’s great-grandparents. I was truly captured by how she fused the emotional keel of her great-grandmother’s perspective into the backbone of the novel itself. You truly felt the anguish as she felt it and the desolation of how hard-won her freedom in America became to achieve.

    You’ve happily left me museful,…

    • whatmeread February 22, 2018 / 11:06 am

      I think the grandmother novel you are thinking about is Cold Comfort Farm.

      • Jorie February 23, 2018 / 2:30 am

        Yes! yes! I can’t believe I had forgotten it was called Cold Comfort Farm !! Bless you!! 🙂

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