I read Atonement, by Ian McEwan, while I was in Europe. It’s an older book that is being made into a movie, but I hadn’t heard of it until recently. I hadn’t read any reviews so didn’t know what to expect. What I found was a delicate, sensitive book with divine storytelling and rich characters.
Atonement tells the story of Briony, who, as a child, tells a lie that ruins the life of Robbie, a family friend and her sister, and for which she spends the rest of her life atoning for.
It’s a simple story, told in three parts. The first part takes place in a few days and is concerned with the family home. It has a languid feel to it, highlighting the lazy days when the family had few worries. This all changes the night of Briony’s sin, and the pace really picks up in the second part of the book. The scene changes to several years in the future, and is set against the war. The tone changes completely, and there is action on all fronts, both literally in the front lines in the war and back in London where Briony has followed her sister Celia’s footsteps to become a nurse. The final part of the novel ends again even further in the future and sums up the story nicely – ending with Briony’s gaining of wisdom, and eternal feelings of regret for the life she has lived and those she had ruined.
Not a particularly cheery book, but so beautifully written. I can’t wait to see the movie!