by Ian McEwan
Summary: On a summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives and her precocious imagination bring about a crime that will change all their lives, a crime whose repercussions Atonement follows through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century.
I struggled between giving this book 3 or 4 stars. This book is certainly well written and descriptive. The plot is good, though parts of the book are really slow. This book is powerful and ugly and shocking. But 3 stars won out because overall, I had to ask myself what the point was. I get it and I’m glad I read this book and it certainly goes to show you what happens when things get out of hand. But I’m never a big fan of giant lack of communication. It’s a plot device in practically everything. Don’t get me wrong, real life is riddled with miscommunications, I just hate that one miscommunication and misunderstanding turned into this massive mess.
I could definitely relate to Briony. She was young and imaginative and loved to write and create stories. But there was that moment in the book where I no longer related to her at all. There’s a point when kids just take imagination too far. I think perhaps we as a society have learned not to trust everything children say. I only wish Briony’s family and parents learned this lesson. Kids lie. There’s a variety of reasons why, Briony’s was her desire to be a part of a story.
I don’t want to spoil this story. If I write about anything in the last half of the book, I’ll be giving something away.
As I said, the writing was descriptive. The characters were well developed. The setting and characters were almost too developed, as the heavy writing really masked the action in the book. I felt like it took about 2 pages to get to what happened next because of all the descriptions or the thoughts of someone you don’t care about at that particular moment. It was like running in a swimming pool- you can see where the other side is but it’s taking you forever to get there. Sure, descriptive is good, but I felt like there were some moments where it was inappropriate. It weighed the story down and made it harder to get through.
I hate to only criticize this book. It really was good and parts of it made me drop my jaw or sigh in disappoint or frown (especially at Briony). But there’s no resolution, no lesson learned.. at least in time. I guess that’s the point.
I’m not a “sunshine” reader where I want everything to work out and things to end all sweet and perfect, so that isn’t why I dislike the story. I think it’s powerful and it works, but there was just something missing for me. I suppose I wanted more. Less detail, more substance. Less pages of descriptions of things that in no way move the plot forward. I felt like the story jumped miles ahead, stalled, and then slowly backtracked. Then it did the same again. And then one more time. So when you finish, you have the entire story, but realize there was still points of view and events missing.
Overall, it was a decent book and one that I’m glad I reread. I marked as 2 stars a few years ago and I’m glad I gave it another shot. Sometimes how you see a book depends on what you read before it or what mood you’re in and I think my previous 2 star rating was unfair. 3 stars it is.