Saturday, April 12, 2008
Atonement by Ian McEwan won the 2005 NBCC Award. At first the story seems to be about an incident witnessed by 13 year old Briony Tallis. At the time, she believes she has witnessed an act of brutality. She advises her family of what she saw which involves her sister, her cousin, and a family protege; the police are called, and people's lives are changed forever on the mistake of a child with a colorful and productive imagination.
The story moves on to describe the lives lived by Briony's sister Cee, and the family charlady's son Robbie Turner. Robbie's life takes him into war, and the scenes written for this part of the book are as vivid and heart stopping as any war-themed story I've ever read. This is when it starts to become clear that Atonement is about more than a child's misunderstanding. Whether or not Briony was correct about what she believed she saw, Robbie Turner's life is altered immeasurably by what he witnesses in war and how he deals with the horror he is forced to experience.
It is the third part of the book that describes how the story of these people comes together. Or does it? In this section of the book McEwan talks about writers and how what they commit to paper can change perspective or alter emotions. By the time I got to this part of the book I was hopelessly hooked on the story, and I was very impressed the way McEwan chose to end it.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys becoming engrossed in interesting characters written just exactly how people are. None of us goes through life holding to the same ideas we had in childhood - not if we truly grow up at all. And all of us, no matter how some may try to ignore it, have a conscience that in some part plays a role in how our lives are lived. The question is, can we ever really Atone for mistakes we may have made along the way? McEwan wisely leaves that question for each reader to decide for her/himself.