Briony, a young English girl, reads a note intended for her older sister, witnesses an encounter which she wrongly interprets, and makes a choice which will change the lives of her and her family. I don’t dare say much more about the plot. Only that it was not what I expected.
Atonement, by Ian McEwan, is wonderfully written. There are shifts, changes, to help the reader understand. But only when completed does the reader fully understand. Only then does the force of the narrative strike. It is love, tragedy, sorrow, regret, hope. It is certainly a novel that must be taken as a whole. The reader grows, ages with the characters, feels the result of independent actions and words.
The story seems to move slowly, but without dragging on. And it is soon over. Much of the writing does not seem to push the plot forward, yet it does not seem forced or unnecessary. Everything has a purpose, to flesh out the characters, to give them their chance at atonement. It may sound like a book of contradictions, it is difficult to explain.
This is a story which drew me in; in the end caused me to hold my breath, plead with the characters to speak, to listen, to act. I didn’t intend on finishing the book last night, but had no choice as I approached the end. This is my first experience with Ian McEwan, I’m looking forward to reading more.
One more thing, I normally don’t like book covers that have photographs of people, but for some reason it works here.