This book was bought for me, as a present, by a work colleague after I had enjoyed the film 2 years ago. I have had a mixed relationship with Ian McEwan's books. The first one, Enduring Love, I really enjoyed, and I have recommended it to a number of people. I quite liked On Chesil Beach (click for review). I found Saturday interesting but also disappointing, and I didn't get on so well with Amsterdam either.
I waited a while after seeing the film of Atonement, which I loved, so as to get it out of my head, then a few weeks ago a friend told me she was reading it. It was time to pull it from my TBR pile and give it a go.
It tells the story of a family broken apart by the younger sisters accusation, fuelled by an over active imagination, with consequences that last for the rest of their lives, most tragically for her sister Cecilia, a ward of the family called Robbie, and herself, Briony, the accuser. It spans from 1935, a summers day at a country house, and then throughout the second world war, and finally to 1999 where the far reaching consequences are laid to rest.
I was captivated from the first page, and it did not let me go until the last. The words are rich and skillful, and there is a sustained quality all the way through. I wish I'd taken some of the passages down to share with you, but I couldn't put it down long enough. I intend to go back over it and revisit certain passages for my own pleasure. It was memorable throughout.
I don't know if I enjoyed it more because I had seen the film first, and I have tried to imagine how the book would be for those who do not know the story. Every location is vividly recreated in my head. Each character wrenched my heart as I read about their predicament. The ending brought tears, even though I knew what was coming.
I loved it, and it has joined my list of favourites. I recommend it with enthusiasm. Totally heartbreaking. Brilliant and complete.
For reading groups you can click on the link for Atonement discussion questions.
For Ian McEwan's website click the link.
Also, there are plans to turn Atonement into an opera, and you can read the report on The Guardian Book Blog by clicking the link.