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[22] The Atonement – Ian McEwan

When the novel begins with Briony Tallis’s writing a play to celebrate the return of her cousin, one might not be able to identify the immediate, or most conspicuous connection to the book’s title. She might be all contentedly wrapped up in her musing and bathed in oblivious daydreaming. Propelled from the depth of her ignorance, or innocence some sympathetic readers deem, the 13-years-old witnessed flirtation between her sister Cecilia and Robbie, the son of the charlady. Bearing with an exhilaration to protect her sister, Briony perpetrated a crime that not only changed all their lives but also enmeshed the family into an estrangement fixed in the unchangeable past. This crime is serious enough to qualify for a redemption.

As a result of this misdemeanor, the most affectionate memories of the Tallis were bleached colorless through burning bridges. Briony’s perpetration was obviously in the wrong but what about her motive? Once she was finally able to reveal that Robbie was the incarnation of evil and that she could never forgive him his disgusting mind, Briony embarked on this proxy-Pride-and-Prejudice justification to vindicate her view. The Atonement follows the repercussions of her crime through the public upheaval of World War II. The carnage and chaos of war that once seemed distant to her private anguish now compounded the severity of her misconduct.

The Atonement explores the ineluctable consequence of this misconduct prompted by a child’s incomplete grasp of adult relationships. In following Briony’s secret purge of her wrongdoing, McEwan delivers a story redolent of the nuances of love, guilt, and forgiveness. The unfettered objectivity of the prose provokes one’s sympathy with the vulnerability of human heart.

3 Responses

  1. This was a good book. I even ordered it from the UK when it came out, but then I made the mistake of loaning it to someone, and I never got it back. Ugh.

  2. Danielle-

    I make it an unspoken rule that I won’t loan books for anyone, at least my treasured, favorite titles. I do have my guests in mind so I keep sometimes a second or even a third copy of titles like Bulgakov, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Ishiguro, Mashima so they could borrow.

    I freak out at coffee stains, cups cicrle marks, dog-earred books, and other damages or blemishes on my books. Am I too much?!

  3. I try not to loan out books anymore either. I also hate it when something is returned all dog eared. I look for the nicest copy in the bookstore, and I hate library books that are grody–I usually try and request only newly published books (where I am the first to read it!)–LOL. So no, you aren’t alone!

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