[RGC 13.] Atonement by Ian McEwan

[read: not for your vacation to the Bahamas, this is beautiful but a downer]

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» Must haves: vacation, beach, whatever you like to do wherever you go to relax. I, for one, sat on a beachy chair by the pool in the Bahamas to pick up this read. » Pairs well with: sunlight and a lot of time, maybe a lemonade. It’s not the heaviest book you’ll read, but it’s also far from the lightest. I find it helps to have something light to take the weight off too.


As you can discern from my clarification, I read this book while in the Bahamas for vacation. Actually, at Atlantis. True undersea magical realm turned fancy shmancy resort in Nassau. I thought I’d bring some light reading (#springbraaake) and picked McEwan’s masterpiece. Which was indeed a masterpiece, I just would rather not have cried sitting under the palm trees by the lazy river where many children stared at me, which was rather unnecessary.

There are some great things this novel does: it speaks for the unspoken. The perspective of a child in the wrong as she becomes a grown woman gives a voice to the one in the wrong. I mean, I was mad at Briony. But, by the end, I couldn’t hold that anger anymore and McEwan’s writing style, I think, made that happen. As he’s considerate of Briony, so am I as a reader. Even more so, I’m deeply attached to Cecelia and Robbie, regardless of their ending. However it happened, it happened. With historical references as the basis of a novel, you have to take everything for what it is. It’s representative of a time when people were lost to war, to civil strife, and to distance no matter how hard anyone tried.

I’m not saying I forgive Briony (as she doesn’t forgive herself given her invented narrative) but I understand her. There’s a lot of artistry here to make me feel that way; I admit I can be a little ruthless towards the ‘bad guy’ in novels. But Atonement gives us another perspective, the guilty unspoken yet narrated one, that allows for clarity and just a little room for sympathy.

10 out of 10 would recommend.

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