What to do with this novel?
Atonement is a rich, emotional story with outstanding characters, and Ian McEwan is a fantastic storyteller. But, yet, portions of this story bothered me…a lot.
I’ve mentioned this in prior posts about Atonement, but the novel, at times, feels like it was written with Hollywood in mind. Certain turning points in the story are too perfect, too clean and convenient, and that puts a stain on the story for me.
But I’ll get to more of that later. Let’s focus on the good stuff first.
One thing I love about Atonement is the character development of Briony, the main protagonist in the novel. The story takes place during three time periods in her life–the final one being when she is a famous novelist approaching the end of her life.
During this final portion of the novel, Briony reminds me a lot of Iris Chase from The Blind Assassin. She just says what’s on her mind in stereotypical old lady fashion.
And every now and then, she’ll throw a little zinger out there, like this one toward the end of the novel:
As I mentioned in an earlier post about Atonement, this novel at times feels like a handbook on writing.
The central character, Briony, is a young girl who wants to be a writer. She uses her creativity and imagination to write plays and novellas. As the story moves forward, we find out that Briony has become a famous author. As a result, Ian McEwan is able to throw in some great zingers on writing.
Here’s several of my favorites:
The more I read through Atonement, the more I can see how this novel became an Academy Award nominated movie. It’s a great story, just made for Hollywood.
At times, though, the plot feels almost too Hollywood with too many perfectly timed coincidences. A few incidents in the plot are the action movie equivalent of the sniper who shoots the gunman seconds before the gunman shoots the hostage in the head.
I think I’m going to like this novel.
The star character of Atonement is clearly Briony, a 12-year-old imaginative girl who writes short plays and novellas in her spare time. She’s 12. So that means she has a lot of spare time.
Having Briony as the protagonist, at least early in the book, allows author Ian McEwan to talk up writing and creativity. McEwan does that early and often, which makes Atonement, at times, feel like a handbook on writing more than a novel.
This quote from early in the book jumped out at me. Great insight on writing a story here:
Any novel authored by an English gentleman named Ian has to be pretty good, right?
Atonement is one of those novels that has always stayed on the periphery of my reading list. I’ve heard a lot about it, and always thought I’d get around to reading it, but never have.
At first glance, it seems a little sappy and sentimental. But that’s why you read the book. And I know Time wouldn’t include it on the list if it was sappy nonsense.
So here’s a few quick facts about Atonement and its author, Ian McEwan.