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[[ Read Book ]] × Atonement ó On The Hottest Day Of The Summer Of , Thirteen Year Old Briony Tallis Sees Her Sister Cecilia Strip Off Her Clothes And Plunge Into The Fountain In The Garden Of Their Country House Watching Her Is Robbie Turner, Her Childhood Friend Who, Like Cecilia, Has Recently Come Down From Cambridge By The End Of That Day The Lives Of All Three Will Have Been Changed For Ever Robbie And Cecilia Will Have Crossed A Boundary They Had Not Even Imagined At Its Start, And Will Have Become Victims Of The Younger Girl S Imagination Briony Will Have Witnessed Mysteries, And Committed A Crime For Which She Will Spend The Rest Of Her Life Trying To Atone Atonement Is Ian McEwan S Finest Achievement Brilliant And Utterly Enthralling In Its Depiction Of Childhood, Love And War, England And Class, At Its Centre Is A Profound And Profoundly Moving Exploration Of Shame And Forgiveness, Of Atonement And The Difficulty Of Absolution I feel that perhaps I have sabotaged this book somewhat as I read it directly after finishing Love In the Time of Cholera, and perhaps in retrospect should have read a poetry book or some non fiction in between Clearly anything I would have read after finishing a Masterpiece would pale in comparison but I decided that the critical raves this book had received and high praise from people around me should be enough to encourage me to see it through to the end.Here is why I found this book lacking without giving too much actual plot away to those who would want to read it themselves.I found all of the characters completely devoid of any true personality or any reason I should care or feel connected to them The details described in the book do a lot for physical surroundings but we know nothing of Cecila except she went to college and chain smokes, so I don t particularly care about anything that happens to her, besides the fact that much of her life is lived outside what information the book provides Briony is a terrible child, a narcissistic teenager, and and at last a harmless grandmother who I don t especially care about at any of these three points in her life The only character with the least bit of humanity seems to be Robbie who is still somewhat confined to his role as the victim All the lovely descriptions of ponds and hospital wards and French war torn villages could not make up for the fact that none of these characters were the slightest bit interesting to me or seemed to connect to anything They simply floated through long locational descriptions being powerless to the world around them and unfortunately for me I didn t need 350 pages to get that point It could have easily been accomplished as a short story or novella I just kept feeling that the book had all this great detail but didn t focus it on anything that it shoud have I know this may sound exceedingly harsh and once again I do chalk some of this up to reading Atonement directly after a much better novel it had no hope in eclipsing or even paralleling in its structure but I also know how quickly and easily I fall in love with characters How quickly I can get pulled into a good story and I sincerely feel that although I wouldn t call this book a complete waste, that my time would have been much better spent elsewhere. There are many reviews already of this book, and I did wonder whether the world needed any But I disagree so strongly with some of the opinions expressed that I m afraid I have to exercise my right to reply Two things in particular stand out Let me deal with the simpler one first Some people seem appalled that the author is putting the guilt for this dreadful tragedy on the shoulders of a young girl She didn t know what she was doing, they say she was too young to understand the import of her actions, and we shouldn t hold her responsible Well, it seems to me that this is completely beside the point The novel, we finally learn, has been written by the girl herself She s giving herself the blame for what happened She s evidently spent her whole life wondering why she behaved the way she did, and she still doesn t really know She s just trying to get the story as straight as she can, mainly so that she can understand it herself, and I found her efforts extremely moving If anyone is claiming that people don t behave this way, all I can say is that their view of human nature is so different from mine that it ll be hard to have a meaningful conversation on the subject So now the second and controversial part Many reviewers dislike the post modernist aspects They complain that McEwan is taking a perverse pleasure in tricking the reader into a view of the story which is finally revealed as incorrect that he s playing the unreliable narrator card out of sheer willfulness Again, I completely disagree I don t think these aspects of the book are irrelevant or peripheral I think they re at the very core of it, and are what make it a great piece of literature McEwan shows us a girl who becomes an author precisely because she wants to expiate the dreadful feelings of guilt she has suffered all her life He lets her explain how it happened, in what we eventually discover is a book within a book And the truly awful thing is that she can t do it She cops out with a fake happy ending, because she still can t face what she did.I don t think this is a trick I think he s saying something about the very nature of writing Many, many writers are like Briony They write to absolve themselves of their guilt, but in the end they don t say what they want to say It s too horrible to write down They skirt around the issues, and end up presenting them in a favourable light If they re lucky, they may finally reach an age when they are so far removed from what happened that they can tell the story straight This is what Briony does in the postscript, and I don t find it far fetched To take just one example, the first I happen to think of, look at Marguerite Duras All her life, she kept thinking about her first love affair, and it coloured most of what she wrote It was only when she was nearly 70 that she could set it down as L Amant.Before the events of the fountain, Briony was indeed just a little girl all she could write was the amusingly mediocre Arabella Afterwards, she had something that was worth saying, though it took a long time to figure out how to do that When she d completed her task, she was able to get back to the one she was engaged in when she was interrupted I love the circular structure, which ends with Arabella being staged 60 years late Of the many infuriating changes in the movie version, I think I was most annoyed by the removal of this key scene.Wood burns, observes Monty Python s logician, as he gives an example of an incorrect syllogism therefore, all that burns is wood Similarly, the fact that much trickery is post modern does not imply that all post modernism is trickery This is a great and heart felt novel. In World War II England, 13 year old Briony Tallis misinterprets her older sister s love affair with their family s gardener to be something much worse than what it is Her innocence and partial understanding of the world begins a chain of events that tears the family apart and alters the course of the rest of the girl s life.Sounds a little dry, right Wrong I guess I forgot to mention that the book was written by Ian McEwan, the king of uncomfortable moments, weird sex stuff, the rotating third person close perspective, and I ll say it writing about the human psyche While I ve found some of his earlier books to be a little too uncomfortable or, rather, too uncomfortable without good reason or a little too sexually deviant again, in the way that it seemed for shock value than with a reason , this was a freaking great book.I think the one thing that makes this book so wonderful is McEwan s eerily accurate understanding of how a 13 year old girl s mind works her understanding of the world and her emotional reaction to it Briony is trapped between childhood and adulthood She s old enough to recognize the dark and startling behind the scenes facets of her proper British family s life, but not old enough to properly analyze or judge them She s old enough to impose her will and her ideas on others, but not wise enough to know when to act or when to question herself It s a frustrating and fascination and uncomfortable time, and he has it down pat.McEwan also experiments with structure in ways that are truly innovative and new without being gimmicky Briony is an aspiring writer who grows and develops her style throughout the 60 years that the novel covers, and McEwan s novel mirrors her literary growth Part One of the story is extremely traditional broken into chapters, with a clear rotation of perspectives and a uniform chronology Parts Two and Three are much modern the story, which switches gears to follow the gardener into WWII France and Briony to her experiences as a nurse in London, loses structure and fluidity and uses modern storytelling techniques Finally, the last section is utterly contemporary the story becomes even abstract, with unreliable narrators and conceptual writing favored over simple narrative.And yet these games with structure and story and perspective in no way take your focus from the story and the characters Instead, they add to the experience of watching the main character grow and develop.If the book suffers from anything, it might be a little slow in some places and move too fast in others Since McEwan tends to be very thorough when it comes to interior thought, the story often slows down a bit than it should so that he can explain how every single person felt about a certain moment in time although the story spans 60 years, the first 200 pages span a single afternoon and evening The slow story a necessary evil, though, if we want to keep the detailed character studies in place And we do And the action filled second half of the book, which covers the British retreat from the Germans in 1940 and the over capacity army hospitals of London, makes up for the sometimes austere and rigorous first half It just takes a while to get the story rolling. That I can remember, I ve never before disliked the start of a book so thoroughly, and by the end, gone on to think so much of it as a complete work.The last 2 3 of this novel are as good as contemporary fiction gets The first 1 3 is like reading a Jane Austen plot trapped in amber.As the title indicates Atonement is about a future artist s massive effort to redeem herself for ruining the character of a young man when she is a younger girl There are parts of this novel that are disjointed or if they aren t they appear so because the opening act moves so slowly that one is barely conscious and later unable to recall that anything much happened at all.Halfway through this novel, when its greatness starts to happen, a reader almost laments his earlier opinions of it But whose fault is that The beginning is such an act of endurance that the later parts make a reader wish that McEwan had moved things quickly in the beginning and used those words for character development in the middle so the reader could declare this novel, unequivocally, one of the five best novels he s ever read.McEwan is at the top of the art form throughout, though, whatever a reader opines of the product He knows what he s doing every step of the way, right down to an allusion to the disjointed narrative methods employed by Virginia Woolf.The ending is brilliant, unexpected and harsh But unlike the case of the returning Baxter character in the third act of Saturday, this ending is consistent and at once surprising and inevitable.After a person has read a few hundred novels, he grasps the art form well enough to know when an author is writing usually it s when the author s employing some top heavy descriptive technique that makes the water droplets gathered on a rose petal somehow important than the protagonist s motives for anything she s done to that point and it fairly well cries out, Look at me, my creator is a writer Knowing when an author is writing means knowing that if there s a surprise coming, it s either going to be predicted about 50 pages out or done in such fantastically poor form that its inconsistency mars the rest of the work.McEwan is fine enough at his craft that the ending is both unanticipated and perfectly consistent That alone makes this novel excellent.