Monday, August 13, 2012

Atonement by Ian McEwan

To be honest, I was a little disappointed by Atonement by Ian McEwan. Not because it was a bad book— I thought it to be quite good— but because it was kind of over-hyped. When a book is listed under TIME magazine's 100 best novels of all time and named as one of the 10 best books of the decade by the Guardian, you would naturally expect a lot of it. And unfortunately, this book didn't live up to the high expectation that I had for it.

Anyway, Atonement is quite special in that the first half of it is used to describe the events within one single day— the events that led to Briony's horrific crime. Although everything was probably significant in one way or another, I found this part to be a little too long. I don't know, I just wasn't interested in all the descriptions. This might be because I was busy and could only read this book chunk by chunk (so by the time I have read the next "chunk," the last chunk was already slipping away from my mind).

Then, part two and three described the aftermath of Briony's crime— what happened five years after. Part two was all about Robbie and his time at the war, and part three described Briony's experience as a nurse, as well as what happened when she went to visit Cecilia. And again, I found part two to be a bit long. Yes, a certain length was required to illustrate how important Cecilia was to Robbie and how she was his reason for survival, but I felt that some of the descriptions were overly detailed. I liked part three, though, because I was particularly interested in how Briony would act and whether her personality would've changed within five years.

(spoiler ahead)

As for the ending, I thought it was excellent; it made my heart pound fast even after I had finished the book. I thought it was a good twist that the entire book was written by Briony, and I was heartbroken to learn about the actual fate of Robbie and Cecilia. Man, when reading part three I was so happy that Robbie and Cecilia were back together!

What do I think of Briony's crime? Well, to be honest, I couldn't restrain myself from cursing and swearing at her when I learned what she did— especially when she told the police that she had seen Robbie in the dark. I got pretty emotional and wished that she had never been born. And throughout the novel, I resented her. However, things changed when I learned that she was the author of the entire book. If a person could truthfully write down what she has done — without trying to make herself seem more forgivable— and present herself as a ***, then I believe that the atonement is sincere. So by the end of the book, my anger towards Briony was converted to sadness at Cecilia's and Robbie's fate.

There are a lot to think of this book. However, I don't think I have read into it that deeply to be able to properly think about the themes/concepts. In the future, I would like to read the novel again, perhaps when I have more time and can slowly appreciate it. Then, maybe I would consider it as one the best novels of all time.