Atonement by Ian McEwan
Atonement by Ian McEwan, published in 2001, was shortlisted for the 2002 Man Booker prize but went on to win the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction (2002), the Exclusive Books Boeke Prize (2002), the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction (2002), and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book in South Asia and Europe (2002). Atonement, as the title suggests, has to do with the consequences felt by a number of family members as a result of a terrible lie told by 13 year old Briony as well as the guilt that follows.
Laura Miller’s article Atonement by Ian McEwan in the Salon describes beautifully the crux of this novel:
“Ian McEwan’s latest novel is a dark, sleek trap of a book. It lures its readers in with the promise of a morality tale set in an English country manor in 1935. There will be a crime, we learn, and so far the novel’s furnishings are at once cozy and exciting; we expect a certain kind of entertainment from this setup, not an Agatha Christie mystery by any means — McEwan is a literary author with a reputation for the macabre — but a story that permits us to observe any wrongdoing from a comfortable distance. Once we’re caught in his snare, though, McEwan takes us deep into far more menacing territory. […] At first McEwan unspools the action languidly, adopting the viewpoint of several different characters as they move through the sultry summer day and toward the fateful, moonless night. There’s fussing about the dinner, the concoction of what sounds like the most disgusting cocktail ever devised, lost socks, a broken vase and, behind all this, large, ominous emotions shifting their way to the surface. The most violent acts of the day happen offstage, so to speak, but the most enduringly destructive one is a lie Briony tells, a lie that will ruin two lives and overshadow her own for decades.”
The story is told through the alternating perspectives of Briony Tallis and Robbie Turner and the New York Times article Books Of The Times; And When She Was Bad She Was… by Michiko Kakutani shows us how, through McEwan’s skill, we will be able to follow a character such as Briony:
“In such earlier novels as ”The Innocent” and ”Amsterdam,” Mr. McEwan has used his gifts as a writer to put across the point of view of decidedly unsavory characters, and in ”Atonement,” he manages to make the state of mind that leads Briony to make her false accusations against Robbie plausible, if not sympathetic. He conveys the ways in which her willful naïveté and self-dramatizing imagination lead her to ignore the truth, the ways in which her ignorance about the grown-up world result in a terrible crime — a crime she will later try to expiate through both rationalization and gestures of atonement.”
Atonement is a very popular novel with readers. Not only have I noticed it on many peoples’ TBR lists but it is highly acclaimed by those who have read it as evidenced by the ratings and reviews on GoodReads. Have you read this novel? What did you think of it?