Monday, June 16, 2014

Review: Atonement by Ian McEwan

I love a good fast read.  This was not one of those.  I have spent the last two months trying to get through this book.  It's not bad but it is a slow read.  Part of me wanted to finish the book as part of the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die and the other part of me was just too damn stubborn to give up.  Ironically, in perusing the list of books, I found this one that I already had and it was next on my OCD list of reading all books I own which have been alphabetized by author.

From the back cover:
Ian McEwan's symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness combines all the satisfaction of a superb narrative with the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose.  On a summer day of 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses the flirtation between her older sister, Cecelia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant.  Buy Briony's incomplete grasp of adult motives and her precocious imagination bring about a crime that will change all their lives, a crime whose repercussions Atonement follows through the chaos and carnage of WWII and into the close of the 20th century.

Part 1 dragged-- this was the section that set the whole story up.  It couldn't have been more miserable.  The author took his time setting up every single detail in nauseating prose that I almost didn't make it through.  I realize that part one sets everything up and is the foundation of what is to come but I think it should have only been half as long.  The main character is a shitty pre-teen girl.  I didn't like preteen girls when I was one and she was an insufferable character.  The irony here is that one of the long winded sections to part one is how much she dislikes her insufferable preteen girl cousin.

Part two was fantastic.  I loved the WWII battlefield and hospital.  It was superb and I'm sure I won't do it justice.  If you read this book and part one puts you to sleep, hang on for part two.  It's the redeeming feature.

Closing the book in the third part was silly and a waste of pages again.  I really would have just enjoyed the middle but the author closed the book in the same way he began so at least he is consistent.

I can't decide if I'd recommend this book.  At the same time, I can't decide if I should keep it for a future re-read or if it should go to the Goodwill pile.  For now, it's going back on the shelf in the hope that 5-10 years down the road, I'll decide to give it another go.