First Published in 2001 Atonement is on of McEwans best selling novels winning unanimous praise by the worlds literature critics but perhaps is also known for splitting the public opinion. Since its best selling status it has officially been revered as a British Classic slotting into line with titles from Bronte Conan Doyle and Eliot. It has also been made into an award winning film starring Kiera Knightly and James McAvoy. As a keen reader one cannot help but be sucked in by all of this success and hype. But to be honest I for one am always sceptical of hype. Nonetheless I had to put my dubiousness to one side and give this novel a go. The question is, should you?
Well firstly it is very hard to explain the story of Atonement without giving the twist away that unravels itself in the final part of the novel. The story starts in the summer of 1935 inside the household of an upper middle class English family. Briony Tallis is an avid writer for a thirteen year old girl a girl with a fantastic imagination desperately trying to understand the adult world as well as grabbing any attention she can with her self written play The Trials of Arabella. However it soon becomes apparent that she looses interest in her family production when she misinterprets a complication between her elder sister Cecelia and the family gardener Robbie Turner. There is obviously sexual tension in abundance between Cecelia and Robbie but what Briony doesnt realise is that there is a big difference between lust and manipulation. It doesnt help matters further when Briony walks into the library and interrupts an encounter between the two lovers. From then on Brionys imagination has severe consequences for Robbie as a series of events unfold which she will forever attempt to atone
Linguistically though this novel is most definitely not for children or the amateur reader. A high understanding of challenging vocabulary is a must and poetic use of elongated sentences may be too much for some casual readers. Paragraphs can sometimes be made up of only one or two sentences yet stretch the breadth of a single page. It is beautifully written on one hand which makes use of wonderfully thought out metaphors with its long line of adjectives and superlatives but on the other hand you can find yourself wandering off the straight line and forgetting about the plot altogether.
There are many pleasures to be had with Ian McEwans Atonement there just so happens to be some downsides too. Its a beautifully novel in many places very imaginative and detailed but this elevates it from everyday reading. This book will simply not be for everyone. The detailed paragraphs can be too boring and there is also the issue of character depth but on the whole there is life to be found in places throughout. Its most definitely worth at least one read but when the shock ending reveals itself it can be difficult to see any point reading it again at a later date. Refreshing yes but lacks real substance.