Friday, April 9, 2010

Book Review: Atonement, by Ian McEwan

Atonement, by Ian McEwanAtonement, by Ian McEwan, is one of those rare books that I don't like. I have observed in recent months that the more I anticipate a book, the less I seem to enjoy it when I finally have the opportunity to read it.

The story is that of Briony Tallis, who during her childhood witnesses a brief incident between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie, the son of a servant. Her young and imaginative mind make the encounter into something dirty and disastrous, and Briony lives out the rest of her life struggling to make atonement for her accusations against her sister's lover.

I didn't particularly like Ian McEwan's Atonement at first. The book progressed (for me) very slowly and I found it difficult to pick up the threads of plot that should have been holding the overall story together. When I was finished, I swore that I would never read this book (or anything else written by McEwan) again. Three months later I realized that I was wrong.

While Atonement didn't surprise me in the way that it seems to surprise other readers, it did leave me with an aching desire to know more, to go deeper, to have a greater sympathy for Robbie and Cecilia, or even Briony. Atonement left me with an ache that wouldn't go away, and told me that I would read this book again.

Atonement is incredibly slow, and the story could be told in a few paragraphs rather than 496 pages. At times the book was overwhelmingly descriptive, even repetitive. The characters (yes, all of them!) are unlikeable and perhaps too realistic as a result.

But those characters have stayed with me for a reason, and I know that I will read (and enjoy) Atonement again.

Ian McEwan has a gift in this respect: I can't stop thinking about this book. Whenever I look up and see it on my shelf, a little pang of longing goes through me: a desire to read the book and experience it again (and perhaps again). You never know, Atonement might just wind up on my "favorites" shelf!

You can get your copy of Atonement on Amazon.

Atonement by Ian McEwan: 3 Star Reviewed and Rated


  1. I am watching the movie as I read this (netflixed it). Let us know if you like it better next time around, or else I won't bother with the book.

  2. O I LOVED the film. Long live James McAvoy! :) But yah...I can imagine the book being slow.