I had actually read Atonement by Ian McEwan right before I heard it was being made into a movie, and ironically I've been on a kick of reading books turned into movies.
The book is about a young girl, Briony, who through a youthful misunderstanding of a situation condemns an innocent man. The book is about guilt, despicable actions that can't be undone, and what people will do to hide from their actions or ultimately to atone for them. The story is heartbreaking and written with a vivid eye to the minds and hearts of each character.
Although the book started out slow for me, the build up is intentional. You get a sense of the slow paced, sweet gentility of Briony's life before the "incident." It is an innocent world she lives in and after certain events and her decision to condemn Robbie Turner, everything drastically changes and the pace quickens. You're taken directly into the war, where Robbie is fighting in order to escape his prison sentence, Cecilia is a nurse to escape her family and Briony is a nurse to atone. The vividness of McEwan's writing is stunning. The images he gives us of war are chilling and feel real and personal to you. It is a world that brings together misery, desperation, love and forgiveness. Easily my favorite part of the book is when we're taken through the war. I was stunned and moved by the images and feelings of the characters.
The ending is average and not as emotional or as vivid as the rest of the story. It's more functional than anything, giving context and tying up the loose strings for the story. I can see it's purpose, but the romantic and dramatic in me would have hoped for a more dramatic and emotional ending. Not that I feel the events should have played out differently, but the way it was written wasn't in real time, it was written from the future and lacked the immediacy of the rest of the book. However, I can see McEwan's purpose, perhaps some of the reflections he wanted Briony to make couldn't be made until she was much older, and so he felt compelled to bring the end of the book towards the end of her life. It did have a "full circle" effect, with her grandchildren reading her play for her birthday, and it was a satisfactory ending.
I can't wait to see the movie, I'm in love with Keira Knightley. Not necessarily for her acting skills but just because she's freaking hot!
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