Yup, we’re back with that boring old thing.But since people are just begging to hear form us..
Atonement by Ian McEwan :
In this case, I think it’s safe to judge the book by it’s cover which, if it isn’t apparent, I love.Or the title- take your pick.
On one level it is ” Ah, another romance novel” and that’s what the movie deals with, mostly, but I think the author’s genius lies in the first half of the book.Briony Tallis. There are very few characters as compelling or believable.Well, that’s a bit of a contradiction, isn’t it? Because what I’m getting at is how unbelievable a character she really is.This, coupled with the brilliant ( I can’t say this enough) imagery elevates the book to ‘must-read’ status.
The psychology of a thirteen-year -old who takes herself too seriously, who is almost frighteningly self-assured and heady is brilliantly played out. She writes her first short story at 11- a little foolish, pretentious but her ponderings speak otherwise. She wonders if her characters reveal too much of herself, she is forever looking for long-tailed words, she means to have a good influence on her brother (several years senior to her) through her work..In short, an uncommon child, and very interesting.And these are the very traits that later cause her to devote her entire life to atoning for separating her sister Cecila from the charlady’s son, Robbie (who also goes to college with her, and whose education is paid for by the Tallis family). She misconstrues a confrontation between the two for a threat to her sister and resolves to ‘save her sister’ ( Like I said– heady!) from this ‘maniac’. And so it is, that when a terrible crime occurs, she believes Robbie guilty and goes to her parents with her theory. There is enough ‘evidence’ that the police are called.Briony repeats her fabricated story, although at first with a little reluctance and suggesting that it is only theory, with increasing confidence in her judgement.The result is that Robbie is sent to jail. Meanwhile, Briony grows up and realizes the enormity of the consequences of her actions, particularly as she now knows who the real culprit was. She spends the rest of her life atoning for this- first, through being a nurse instead of heading off to college as was originally planned and then (more importantly) in her old age, writing a novel ‘Atonement’ that tells the entire story. It is the perfect ending to a great novel because it also explains how the story is written– as things happened, and then through Briony’s eyes with the meaning she gives them.
Long story short, I would definitely take it along were I ever asked to pick a bunch of books and get marooned on a deserted island. 😀
Some of my favourite quotes:
“She raised one hand and flexed its fingers and wondered, as she had sometimes before, how this thing, this machine for gripping, this fleshy spider on the end of her arm, came to be hers, entirely at her command. Or did it have some little life of its own? She bent her finger and straightened it. The mystery was in the instant before it moved, the dividing moment between not moving and moving, when her intention took effect. It was like a wave breaking. If she could only find herself at the crest, she thought, she might find the secret of herself, that part of her that was really in charge.” ( Briony)
“Their south-east aspect had permitted parallelograms of morning sunlight to advance across the powder-blue carpet. Her breathing slowed and her desire for a cigarette deepened, but still she hesitated by the door, momentarily held by the perfection of the scene – by the three faded Chesterfields grouped around the almost new Gothic fireplace in which stood a display of wintry sedge, by the unplayed, untuned harpsichord and the unused rosewood music stands, by the heavy velvet curtains, loosely restrained by an orange and blue tasseled rope, framing a partial view of cloudless sky and the yellow and grey mottled terrace where chamomile and feverfew grew between the paving cracks.” ( See what I mean by brilliant imagery?)
“Was being Cecilia just as vivid an affair as being Briony? Did her sister also have a real self concealed behind a breaking wave and did she spend time thinking about it, with a finger held up to her face? Did everybody, including her father, Betty, Hardman? If the answer was yes, then the world, the social world, was unbearably complicated.” ( Also Briony)
“Bernini’s intention must have been for the water to trickle musically from the wide shell with its irregular edges into the basin below. But the pressure was too weak, so that instead the water slid soundlessly down the underside of the shell where opportunistic slime hung in dripping points, like stalactites in a limestone cave. The basin itself was over three feet deep and clear. The bottom was of a pale, creamy stone over which undulating white-edged rectangles of refracted sunlight divided and overlapped.” ( Of a fountain)