So, as long-time readers of this blog (yep, you exist, I’ve convinced myself of that) will know, I was on a bit of an Ian McEwan kick this summer. But now it is officially winter - here in Scotland, at least - so here is my final review of of the last Ian McEwan I read. Yeah of course it was Atonement.
I have to admit, it lived up to the hype. The way it was told entirely through Briony’s eyes was highly effective, and reminded me strongly of L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between, which is always a plus for me. Actually, Atonement as a whole was pretty similar to The Go-Between; illicit lovers seen through the eyes of a child who gets drawn into it all, the setting, the underlying tones of social commentary about class structure and wealth…I could go on. But there is an interesting difference between the two novels as well. In The Go-Between the young protagonist is corrupted by the lovers, whereas in Atonement it is the adults whose love is warped by the child. I enjoyed that little twist, but man, did I hate Briony for screwing things up so entirely.
Although, as usual, I found it very difficult to actively feel fond of any of McEwan’s characters, even the star-crossed lovers. It’s not just that they are all flawed human beings (that generally makes for convincing and likeable characters, in fact), but they also all just behave despicably and/or have extremely unattractive personality traits.
The only part of the narrative that I didn’t really like was the end [SPOILERS, I guess], where old-lady-Briony does her first-person bit. I felt that was a bit unnecessary, and actually shed some rather unfortunate light on the preceding part of the book - Briony wrote a sex scene (and a pretty intense one at that) about her sister? Um, creepy?
Not to mention the fact that that last bit snatched away what is probably the only happy ending Ian McEwan has ever bloody written.*
Final Word: As expected, an impressive novel; unexpectedly (for McEwan) also rather moving.
*Yep, because even if I don’t love the characters, I do love to have a happy ending for them.#books #reading #Atonement #Ian McEwan #review