The story of ATONEMENT is well told by others commenting at this website. What makes this illuminating novel so momentous is the crux of a story at once seeming so simple but ending as an indelible landmark in contemporary writing. This is a contemplation of morality, of love, of the unspeakable disaster of war, of the indefatigable resources of the human soul, of the staggering implications of a lie from the lips of a child of what ever age, and of mortality, of love.
If the first chapters of this book feel slow, making the reader ask why are we detailing every move of what appears to be another languid, hot summer day in a 1935 English household, we are slowly discovering this is a well paced prelude to the brassy blast that WWII exploded throughout the world. A family gathering becomes a microcosm for exploring the thoughtless poisons that produce devastating wars. Once the tale begins to unravel there is no turning back on the series of events that continue to surprise and amaze us and maintain a tension so great that only the interludes of McEwan's matchless descriptions of nature provide breathing room.
The author creates characters so adroitly painted that they are destined to become enduring literary names to reference when describing archetypes like Stephen Daedelus, Holden Caulfield, etc. His ability to draw us into the war plains of Dunkirk, the hospitals of war-torn England, the mossy lawns of English gentry is matched only by his ingenious ability to go back and forth from character to character, from chapter to chapter, showing all the retracings of thoughts and deeds as seen by his various characters.
While reading this magical book I was tempted to remember phrases to use while reviewing, phrases that were such beautiful examples of how fine a wordsmith McEwan is, but that endeavor was quashed when I realized that such phrases and word pictures of drama and still lifes were on all 351 pages of this opus. To try to entice raders by such quotations would be robbing them of the joy of discovery when this book falls hopefully in the hands of everyone who loves literature, who needs nourishment of the sould, who cherishes fine writing. To say more would be unfair. Read with welcome.
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We meet 13-year-old Briony Tallis in the summer of 1935, as she attempts to stage a production of her new drama "The Trials of Arabella" to welcome home her older, idolized brother Leon. But she soon discovers that her cousins, the glamorous Lola and the twin boys Jackson and Pierrot, aren't up to the task, and directorial ambitions are abandoned as more interesting prospects of preoccupation come onto the scene. The charlady's son, Robbie Turner, appears to be forcing Briony's sister Cecilia to strip in the fountain and sends her obscene letters; Leon has brought home a dim chocolate magnate keen for a war to promote his new "Army Ammo" chocolate bar; and upstairs, Briony's migraine-stricken mother Emily keeps tabs on the house from her bed. Soon, secrets emerge that change the lives of everyone present....
The interwar, upper-middle-class setting of the book's long, masterfully sustained opening section might recall Virginia Woolf or Henry Green, but as we move forward--eventually to the turn of the 21st century--the novel's central concerns emerge, and McEwan's voice becomes clear, even personal. For at heart, Atonement is about the pleasures, pains, and dangers of...