Atonement by Ian McEwan
Hardcover, 351 pages, Published March 12th 2002 by Nan A. Talese (first published 2001)
Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose.
On a hot summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses the flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant. But 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 World War II and into the close of the twentieth century.
S4: E3 Rory's first day of shopping week at Yale, she arrives to a class she may be interested in taking before the TA even passes out the syllabi. Participating in a studious version of classroom musical chairs, she finally picks a seat and opens Atonement to wait for the rest of her classmates. She then anxiously closes it, decides to get back up and leave, then sits back down again as other impatient Freshmen also begin to arrive.
S4: E3 Surprise! Rory is actually spotted picking up the same book more than once, albeit in the same episode. It is the beginning of the semester, and parties are in full swing while students are still shopping their classes. The first party of the year will be thrown on the ground floor of their dormitory, and Paris has opened up their shared suite to join in the festivities. Rory recedes to her room to continue reading her book, disinterested in joining in on the revelry. She has the novel open for barely a minute before heeding her mother's advice to mingle and look for Paris, who has taken it upon herself to conquer the party scene and change her own reputation.
The novel is an intense retelling of a young girl's perception, shifting between third-person narrators to complete full-rounded perspectives. While I don't believe that this book has been purposely placed here for this reasoning, it can be pulled that perception is everything; Rory, Lorelai, and Paris are each forming a different perspective on what they think is best regarding a girl's first year away from home. It can also be assumed that because this episode of Gilmore girls aired in Fall of 2003, and the American edition of Atonement was published in 2001, that Rory would have been interested in any book receiving such high awards in Fiction. While browsing through Stars Hollow Books or perusing Amazon the summer after graduation, she most likely would have seen reviews and sought out this book to read.
"Was everyone else really as alive as she was? . . . If the answer was yes, then the world, the social world, was unbearably complicated, with two billion voices, and everyone's thoughts striving in equal importance and everyone's claim on life as intense, and everyone thinking they were unique, when no one was." - Part 1, Chapter 3
"a story was a form of telepathy. By means of inking symbols onto a page, she was able to send thoughts and feelings from her mind to her reader's. It was a magical process, so commonplace that no one stopped to wonder at it." - Part 1, Chapter 3
"To strip off like that - yes, her endearing attempt to seem eccentric, her stab at being bold had an exaggerated, homemade quality. . . .But he loved her fury too." - Part 1, Chapter 8
The last three paragraphs of this book change everything, and you only need read it to genuinely appreciate this novel. Ian McEwan's prose is outstanding and beautiful, and the imagery unparalleled. Upon finishing the book, I realized how many types of passion the author had described; all were able to be felt and clearly realized from the most innocent, to the forlorn, and even the most enraging. This is truly a book that you may enjoy reading more the second time.
WHAT THE WHAT?:
McEwan's book was shortlisted for the 2001 Booker Prize for Fiction, 2001 James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and the 2001 Whitbread Novel Award. Also awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 2002, as well as the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction, the WH Smith Literary Award, and the Boeke Prize in the same year. In 2004, it won the Santiago Prize for the European Novel. In 2010, TIME Magazine named it in its list of the 100 greatest English-language novels published since 1923. It is additionally listed in Entertainment Weekly as #82 on it lists of the 100 best books from 1983-2008 and The Observer as one of the 100 greatest novels ever written.
CARO'S RATING: 5 of 5 STARS
This is the top rating I can give. Were it not for the ending of the book, which I will not address due to my fear of spoiling the experience for anyone, I would have given it a 4 because I assumed I knew what was to happen. A 5 rating is something that I see myself fan-girling over for months after reading it. I now want a green dress like Cee. I want more information on the family of the man Briony spoke to in French and the inner-workings of Lola's marriage. I just want more. I believe that to read this book for a second time would amass a different kind of appreciation for the input of detail and precision from McEwan.
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