Ian McEwan’s “Atonement” is now a successful film, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from reading the book. While the film is fantastic, the book still manages to surpass it in greatness.
“Atonement” is split into three sections. The first section begins in 1935 and goes over the events of a few days from three different perspectives. McEwan takes us through the perspectives of Briony Tallis, the loner and younger sister; Cecilia Tallis, the older sister who has outgrown home while away at school; and Robbie Turner, their neighbor and good friend.
All of them lead up to the night when young Briony sees something she shouldn’t have, and as a result commits a crime that will affect the three of them for the rest of their lives.
Cecilia and Robbie begin a strange courtship on the hottest day of the summer. An argument, a broken vase, and a quick dip in the fountain is for them a beginning to something wonderful, but for Briony, who sees the action from her bedroom window, it is something much more sinister.
This begins Briony’s mistrust of Robbie, eventually leading to an accusation of rape.
Robbie, of course, is completely innocent. He’s sent to jail until he’s let out to fight in World War Two.
Cecilia, the only one on his side, waits for him, becoming a nurse in London and cutting off all contact with her family. And so begins the second part of the novel, taking the reader into war-torn France with Robbie.
The third and final part of the novel is Briony’s atonement for her sins. After years of not seeing her sister she is thought about what she is done, and is sorry for it.
“Atonement” is so much more than a love story. It’s a story about people, and misunderstands. It is a story about war, and the tragedy of one mistaking ruining a life.
Ian McEwan’s writing style is artful. He manages to bring to the story something real, and beautiful. He truly is a genius.
Don’t just watch the movie—read the book. It’s without a doubt worth the time.