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Friday, March 09, 2018

Atonement (2001) by Ian McEwan


Book Review

Atonement (2001)
by Ian MacEwan

  Another in a remarkable succession of books that were critically acclaimed, commercially succesful and the basis of succesful film versions,  Atonement is the kind of novel that really deserves to be called "meta fiction," with a narrator who is a novelist who is writing a novel about a "real" event about her life, and a novel about her life.  That person is Briony Tallis, who starts out as a young woman who wrongfully identifies her sister's new lover as a rapist, leading to his false imprisonment.  The title refers to her atonement for that false accusation.  Revealing that much is no spoiler, since Briony presents the initial accusation with a preface that she regrets what happened.
   And although there is a very personal and intimate betrayal at the heart of Atonement, which is classic Ian MacEwan, there is little else to link this book to his earlier works, except the generally high level of execution and a history of twist-like third act resolutions.  He's not know for historical fiction, and Atonement is mostly a work of historical fiction.  No one is murdered, no animals are tortured.  You could almost say he was selling out, were Atonement not based on a blatantly false mis-identification and subsequent imprisonment.


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