***this is an old review I wrote on the 9th of May 2008, after having just finished reading Atonement by Ian McEwan.
hmmm... sigh, isn't this shot just beautiful? I think it epitomises everything I like about period pieces (ie flowers, costumes and emotive looks - obviously the all important dialogue is missing).
I finished reading Ian McEwan's Atonement a week ago. I have to confess that I was inspired by Joe Wright's movie version which is coming out soon (I was a big fan of his Pride and Prejudice and I know its sacrilege to the 1996 BBC TV version, but I do like his interpretation even if it wasn't a strict adaptation).
Anyway, continuing on (I refuse to be sucked down a Pride and Prejudice tangent yet again)... I felt the book was beautiful despite its heavy description and raw war scenes. Actually these 'raw' war scenes and follow up hospital chapters were McEwan's strong point. The sudden switch between a Britain disconnected from war across the channel and a Britain reeling from the Dunkirk evacuation, made the book and strengthened McEwan's rush towards an **spoiler** unhappy end. But I couldn't help but feel that the war scenes and the grimy 'otherworld' reality were vaguely reminiscenet of Sebastian Faulks Birdsong (maybe I should check my dates before I assert that and work out which one was published first)!
The first act and its long, languid description of the hottest day in 1935 had all the steamy tension necessary for a romantic pre-war drama, plus a little more. Lets just say a four letter word, a missent letter and two bodies -very much alive- in the library had a lot to do with speeding/steaming up McEwan's plot.
The suffocating heat of the book's opening act morphed into the cold, clammy war reality, tinged with psychological suspense. The pace of the book also increased before it crashed (unfortunately in my opinion), into a heavy, 'years later' epilogue - it reminded me of a certain Rowling book which left too little to the imagination in an all inculusive and binding epilogue.
Thankfully this epilogue and McEwan's knife twist final plot turner, which he spung on an unsuspecting and trusting reader, did not quite extinguish all my love for the book and its characters. I'll definitely be there when the movie eventually reaches Australia's shores in December (I think they must be sending the movie over by super slow snail mail as lucky UK and US movie goers get to see Joe Wright's version right about now).
Inspiration Item #10