Atonement by Ian McEwan

Book blurb:Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose.

On a hot summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’ s incomplete grasp of adult motives–together with her precocious literary gifts–brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece (from Goodreads)

Genre: literary fiction

What I liked: It’s a good story overall. It’s very well written. The historical aspects appear “spot on.”

What I didn’t like: It’s a good story – starting about page 120. It’s well written – though I would say verbose. If McEwan were reading it aloud, I would say he wrote it because he likes to hear the sound of his voice speaking such eloquently created sentences. They are well written sentences, to be sure, but there is just too much of it. As I read in one review, it’s like one of those books you’re forced to read in English class and pick apart so much you hate the thing by the end. And I’ve never read something that has such minimal dialogue.
From the reviews that fill three full pages of the beginning of the novel I had I would have thought this was truly an “astonishing…enthralling…masterpiece of moral inquiry…” but it wasn’t. I think that’s what bothered me the most. It seems like these reviews were written by literary snobs who wanted to make sure they said what everyone else was saying. Kind of the Emperors new cloths phenomenon. And the ending; I dislike when author tell you – ‘Oh, by the way, the piece I wrote earlier, the character just made that up, or was dreaming or…’  I think it’s supposed to add a twist and more reality to the tale (which it does) but it still makes me feel cheated.
It’s not a bad book – though again, be ready to read a lot of it before you actually feel like you want to read more – it’s not the “astonishing…enthralling…masterpiece…” the critics would have you believe.

Rating it 2.5/5

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