There isn’t much of a pattern with the books I read. One minute I’ll be engrossed in young adult dystopia, the next I’ll be pinning every book by Emily Giffin. I am generally open to all genres, perspectives and subject matter. There are books that are perfect pick-me-ups, ones that I may not think twice about reading again, but nevertheless enjoyed. And then there are books that keep me thinking about them for hours, days or even weeks after I finished the last page.
Atonement by Ian McEwan definitely falls into the latter category.
Add this book to your to-read list if you are interested in books that explore psychology and how we interact with one another. It is also a fierce romance, the kind that is poetic without being over-the-top, obvious without being sappy. I would also read this book if you enjoy historical fiction. Ian McEwan’s descriptions of World War II were incredible and humbling, both from the perspective of the soldiers and those who stayed behind.
This book was deeply psychological. Told from the perspective of three people — two of them sisters, the third a young man who is the love interest of the older sister — it shows how our sometimes skewed perceptions of how and why people behave the way they do can have lasting consequences. The youngest sister, Briony, has a wild imagination. Upon seeing the interaction between her sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of their family’s servant, she conjures a story that ultimately brings about a horrific crime, dramatically altering the course of all three of their lives.
McEwan breaks the book down into four parts: the first part describes in great detail the summer night in 1935 that would change everything; the second and third parts follow the characters into World War II; and the closing part of the novel takes place at the end of the twentieth century.
It was an emotional read that took me longer to get through than I expected, not because I wasn’t interested, but rather because it was so detailed and descriptive that I felt I had to take everything in slowly, so as not to miss anything. I wouldn’t call it a page-turner in the suspenseful sense of the word, but it was certainly a book that I did not want to put down and I was eager to discover the ending.
Personally, this book caused a lot of reflection in my own writing. I realized through reading it that there are so many ways to get to know a character beyond dialogue. It inspired me to further consider how action and inaction can be significant in character development. What a character does not do can sometimes be even more meaningful, especially if, by the end of the book, they undergo a change that allows them to overcome this inability to act. There is a certain sense of pride and “you did it!” cheer felt by the reader whenever the characters we’ve grown close to over the course of 300 pages are finally able to muster up the courage to do what we knew they had in them all along.
Hopefully it’s not just me who gets that excited. 😉
Overall, I think this was one of the most captivating books I’ve read this year. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I have continued to think about it and the characters involved, which is definitely the exception, not the norm.
I’m very curious as to how it will compare. The movie is typically not as good, in my opinion, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy watching it. Especially when it has a great cast!
Thanks to my friend Lauren for the book suggestion. More about her in my next post…