Wednesday, June 19

The Aftermath of 'Atonement'

Here is my promised review of Ian McEwan's masterpiece, Atonement.  And I hardly know where to start.  


Cecilia Tallis as played
by Keira Knightly
The thing that drew me so irresistibly to Atonement was the writing.  From page one, my appetite for his words could not be sated.  

In her interview with McEwan, ABC's Jennifer Byrne described his style as almost "crystalline", and I completely understand what she meant by that.  The people, places, and images that McEwan constructs are amazingly specific and clear.  I feel that this made each person, place, and image so much more wondrous, as I was presented with the intimate intricacies and difficulties of them.  

While some authors prefer to give the reader plenty of space to colour in the story with their own imagination, the glory of Atonement is being able to step into a world that is already perfectly articulated.  

Perhaps it's better described as falling forwards into McEwan's world, as though down the rabbit hole.  Indeed, I felt as though each page was like tunnelling deeper in a version of Wonderland.  


Instead of feeling cheated of the chance to let my imagination run wild, I felt honoured by the opportunity to live a reincarnation in an alternate reality.  I emerged from the end having lived another lifetime, and it was exhausting, but endlessly enriching.  

It definitely boils down to being able to make mistakes and decisions through the characters instead of in my own life, watch the consequences and outcomes, and not have to make those errors myself.  This is undoubtedly one of the greatest privileges of reading.  


Walking away from this book was incredibly hard for me.  The intimacy of the narrative and the specificity of the descriptions made it feel as though I was uprooting myself from a lifetime of experience.  

It was painful.  I needed to have a good sob.  But now, after the tears are dry, I'm left with the tendency to reminisce sadly but sweetly on the memories it has allowed me to add to my own.  


Upon finishing Atonement, I knew immediately that I would have to get my own copy, because this is a book that must read again and again.  (I think I may just add to to out 100 Books to Read Before You Die.)

The experience of it was incredible, and thank goodness it's possible to relive the memories. 

If you would like to read more about Atonement, follow the link to the page.  

If you would like to watch the Ian McEwan's interview on Jennifer Byrne Presents, follow the link to my blog post, A Sweet Tooth for Ian McEwan.  It goes for 30 minutes, and gives a very eye-opening insight to his writing style and backstory.  I think I might need to re-watch it myself!

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