Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thoughts: Atonement by Ian McEwan

I’m not sure if it’s just me or if it was hyped that way, but, after seeing the movie trailer, I came to think of Atonement as an EPIC LOVE STORY. I was expecting the guy who prepares candlelit dinner dates, buys me bouquets of roses, and comes up with the BIG ROMANTIC GESTURE. So, I admit I was disappointed. At first. I realized, though, that despite not being an EPIC LOVE STORY, Atonement is still an EPIC STORY. Instead of the GQ-ish date, I got the guy with hipster glasses who happens to be well-versed in the field of psychology, the kind of guy I can have meaningful, seemingly endless conversations with.

The premise of Atonement begins with a dinner party. With war looming on the horizon, the Tallises gather together for, unbeknownst to them, the last time, along with the gardener’s son Robbie Turner, the “cousins from the north,” and the oldest son’s friend, Paul Marshall. These characters’ lives are changed by a series of events, and a single lie that crashes down on the reader like an avalanche.

And, oh God, the writing. I can’t gush enough about the writing. Never has a writer made me this envious, except for the time I read The Great Gatsby—nobody can beat the Fitz. McEwan mentioned so many little details, but they didn’t bog down the story. They were weaved into the story, and I enjoyed letting them wash over me. There were so many subtle interactions between the characters, and I loved analyzing—over analyzing might be a better word—every single one.

Also, I kowtow to Ian McEwan’s skills when it comes to point-of-view. The first part of the novel is told from the points-of-view of the different characters. Even without revealing the chapter narrator’s identity, I could tell who was talking. Each character not only has a distinct voice, but their thoughts exude a certain individual flavor. McEwan is that good.

This is going to sound lame, but Atonement was pure awesomesauce. I first read McEwan’s The Cement Garden, and that kind of turned me off his work. Now, I can’t wait to get started on his other novels. Not only was Atonement a beautiful story, it made my brain exert a lot of effort as well.

20 comments:

mooderino said...

I didn't like the ending of this book, turned into a very writerly exercise in 'Hey, what is fiction?' that annoyed me. And the film made me want to punch myself in the face. He is a very skille dwriter, I just don't like his subject matter very much. Enduring Love was also very off-kilter. Shame, as I wanted to like his stuff.

mood
Moody Writing
@mooderino

Kristi said...

I love his writing, but sadly, Atonement is the only book of his that I have loved. I have read Amsterdam and On Chesil Beach and was pretty disappointed, although the writing in each was still great. His subject matter and characters are difficult for me to get into. I hope you enjoy the rest of his work, I think I'm done with McEwan's others, but I will definitely read Atonement again. It was that good.

Teacher/Learner said...

I loved this book, too. His writing is lush but has a dark tone to it. The first 1/3 of the book was slow for me, and having already seen the movie, I was waiting for things to pick up, but once they did, whoa nelly!

Zibilee said...

This is one of my favorite books of all time, and that ending just blew me away. I am glad to hear that you loved it, and have to agree that while it was a tough read, it was also heartrending and beautiful in a way that I didn't expect when I picked it up. Fantastic review!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I loved this one too. It was my first McEwan and after 5 more I still haven't found one that's quite as good. I agree with Kristi, the writing is always steller, but the plot never quite hooks me in the same way Atonement did. I can see it being a huge disappointment if you're expecting a love story though. That's what happened with Wuthering Heights for me. I thought it was a romantic love story and it's anything but that.

Tiny Library said...

I've not read any McEwan, but I've wanted to read this one for a while. Loved the film too!

Shelley said...

It truly is "awesomesauce!" I have not seen the movie, and have wondered exactly why they made it into a movie. It seems like the most powerful parts of the book could not be conveyed on film.

Brenna said...

Have you read any Nabokov? If you appreciate beautiful prose, you would love his stuff.

llevinso said...

I second Brenna's comment about Nabokov. That man could WRITE.

Sadly, I truly disliked Atonement. I felt the whole time that the author was trying too hard. Like he was kind of snickering to himself saying "oh this is totally going to be a classic someday, I write so beautifully." But to me it just felt forced.

Andi said...

Testing!

Andi said...

Whew! Sorry about the test comment. For some reason Explorer hasn't been letting me comment for a few days. Switched over to Firefox and all is well.

But onto the comment! *HAPPY DANCE*

I'm sooo glad you liked Atonement as much as I did. I love McEwan's writing. If I were to suggest your next McEwan novel, it would be the very short and SUPER FABULOUS, On Chesil Beach. It blew my socks off.

LBC said...

So good right? I'm glad you were pleasantly surprised by this book. It is one of my favorites.

Biblibio said...

I read Atonement around the time the movie came out, but without actually knowing that there was a movie or that the book was super hyped, or anything at all about the book. No expectations meant that I was able to enjoy the book for what it is - an interesting piece of historical fiction, coupled with clever and interesting writing. I was later surprised to learn that the movie focused on the romance aspect of the story, despite how minor it felt compared to everything else in the book.

Audra said...

I read this book right when it came out and hated it -- I still don't get the swoons over it and I'm a big fan of lovely language. Maybe I need to reread or maybe I'm just broke -- I didn't like The Time Traveler's Wife either which everyone else loves.

Jillian said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this novel. I love that it starts out slow, then explodes! I've heard Enduring Love is his next best. :-)

Nicola said...

I loved Atonement too, but as others have said I haven't read anything else by him that I've really liked. Love Fitzgerald, too.

College Papers said...

Cover is nice...very impressive write up.Thanks for posting this great post.

Erin said...

I don't know why, but I am so hesitant to read this book. I've never read anything by McEwan, and I can't explain my reluctance, except perhaps that in my mind horrible tragedies abound in his works? Is that even true?? I'll have to try one sometime. Sounds like I'm seriously missing out.

Milli said...

I've just discovered your blog, and it's amazing. I just LOVE the humor and writing style in your reviews! It sounds like a great book. I'll make sure to check it out sometime C:

-milli www.doodlereads.blogspot.com

Stephanie M. Hasty said...

ok, so i can tell you like the writing style, which i agree is just amazing. how do you feel about the characters and the outcome? just curious, as this is a book i love to hate, but recommend to everyone because it is just that awesome!

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