Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bookworm Time with Bebb...Part Five...'Atonement' by Ian McEwan

It's been a little bit quiet here at Bebb and the Bubs over the last few weeks, and for that I apologise. Being on holiday, combined with the hot weather, has made me come down with a massive case of the can't-be-bothereds and I've struggled to motivate myself to do much besides sleeping in and lying around reading. The last few days have been busy and I think it has kick-started me back out of my 'slump' somewhat. I do feel better, having had time to quite literally do nothing, and am ready to leap into some exciting upcoming holiday plans. More on that later...for now, it's Saturday and time for my weekly book review.

On the hottest day of the summer of 1934, thirteen year old Briony watches from afar as her twenty-three year old sister Cecilia strips off her clothes and plunges in the fountain set in the garden of their country house. Standing by is Robbie, Cecilia's childhood friend and son of the housekeeper. Briony does not know why Cecilia is doing so, and as she is a dreamy, story-writing child much taken by flights of fancy, she invents a reason for herself. By the end of that day, Robbie and Cecilia's life will be shattered. They will have become victims of the younger girl's imagination, and Briony herself will have committed a crime, one that once she realises the enormity of what she has done, she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone.

If you asked me to name my favourite book of all time, Atonement would be a definite contender. I first read it in 2002 when my English Literacy teacher gave it to me to read as he thought I could use it for my Year 12 major essay. I read it in two sittings and when I told him how much I had loved it and tried to return it, he urged me to keep it. I'm glad he did as it is a book I can read again and again and discover a little more each time.

Ian McEwan is a master story-teller. He has the ability to weave such a spell with his words that the reader is carried along on a wave of imagery so vivid that one can almost smell the scent of sun-warmed grass or see the stately country home through a haze of heat. We are caught up in a slow, smouldering build up of suspense and tension and are powerless to look away, even as we know that terrible events surely lie ahead. The plot is intricate and presented from the viewpoints of several characters; segues into each character are flawless and the writing so assured, the voices so authentic that it is almost like having a window into the private minds of others.

The story is told in three parts- the dreamy hot day of 1934 in England, the depths of war some years later, and finally, into the far reaches of the future as we confront the lifelong attempt for atonement. This book is heartbreaking, a genuinely sad story that nonetheless does not leave one feeling depressed, but rather saddened by the tale and at the same time uplifted by the sheer beauty of the book itself. Having loved this book for years, I was very much looking forwards to the movie, starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, while at the same time nervous that the movie would not do justice to the book as is so often the case. However, this is one movie version that definitely lives up to the book, and is also up there on my favourite movie list.

I can't recommend this book highly enough for novel-lovers who enjoy an intricate, finely crafted plot and genuinely brilliant and masterful writing.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars. Powerful, devastating, beautiful.

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