Love it or Hate it: Atonement
Have you ever noticed how some books seem to drive a wedge between people? You check the reviews and find almost no middle-of-the-road ratings. Instead people either seem to love it or hate it. Well, welcome to the new Love it or Hate it post category! Each month, we’ll pick one book to review. Two contributors will battle it out to convince you to pick it up or throw it out. Our February book is Atonement by Ian McEwan.
Special thanks to guest contributor Nicole R for writing one of the points of view this month!
Make sure to read to the end and cast your vote. And to celebrate our first Love it or Hate it category we are giving away a gently used copy of the book to one randomly selected person who writes in with a comment saying “I want it.”
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Synopsis (modified from GoodReads): Ian McEwan’s Atonement is a symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness. On a hot summer day in 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives—together with her precocious literary gifts—brings about a crime that will change all their lives. The novel follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century.
LOVE IT (reviewer A): I love this book! Atonement is beautifully written, provocative, and psychologically complex. Although it did start off quite slowly, it builds quickly after the incident. The slow start, that bothers many readers on the “hate it side,” is intentional to highlight the idyllic lives of the characters prior to one life-changing incident. McEwan is a smart writer. The change in style between parts 1 and 2-3 reflects the stark contrast between fantasy and escapism on the one hand and reality on the other hand. Small, seemingly unimportant details become relevant at the end in a way that makes you smile at the cleverness of the author, but the reader needs patience to be able to fully see these things. Although seemingly a romance story, it is anything but your traditional romance. In fact the romantic relationship is only a tiny fraction of this book (and probably why I liked it so much) and the tone is emotionally detached. In reality, this is a novel about mistakes, the limits of forgiveness, and the what ifs. I loved the fact that the author didn’t take the easy way out by providing us with a perfectly polished ending where everything works out perfectly. Rather, he highlighted the psychological complexity that would most certainly be involved if such events were to occur. McEwan is known for writing books that highlight issues of moral ambiguity. This is not the book for those who dislike ambiguity and prefer all loose ends tied in a neat bow. McEwan doesn’t let the reader off that easy. It’s the sort of book whose themes stick with you long after you turn the last page.
HATE IT (reviewer B): Sweet mother of all things holy, this book was horrendous. I wish I could think of a less harsh descriptive word in deference to people who actually enjoyed it, but horrendous is the least harsh that I can think of. People are RAVING about this book. Everyone I talk to loves it and thinks it is brilliant and recommends it whole-heartedly. On paper, I should love this book. I love World War II tales and appreciate complex storytelling that weaves together a story that is revealed piece by piece. However, that book was nothing like that in execution. Instead, it was bbbooorrriiinnn….sorry, I dozed off. Confession: Technically, I couldn’t finish this book. I got to about page 150 and dreaded picking it up to read more. The thought of cracking the cover literally made me sick to my stomach. Between the book blurb and the movie, the critical point around which the story hinged was not a secret. However, at page 150 the author still hadn’t gotten there. Instead, he told the story of the same hour or so from multiple perspectives, each one in WAY too much detail. It wasn’t interesting. It wasn’t suspenseful. It wasn’t creative genius. It was written like someone trying desperately to hit a page count. Someone said that if I stuck with it that it would get better but I still wasn’t interested at halfway through. I saw the movie though which was highly enjoyable, probably because the critical turning point happens at approximately 10 minutes in, which left the remainder of the movie to play out the implications and repercussions—by far the most interesting aspects of the story. This was one of the rare occasions where a movie is better than it’s book counterpart! So, skip the book and just watch the movie.
What to try it yourself? One randomly selected commenter will be selected to win a gently used copy. To be eligible, simply add a comment to this thread that includes the statement “I want it.” Last day to comment will be Thursday, Feb 5th, 2015. Only one entry per person. The winner will be announced on on friday Feb 6.
If you don’t win, you can buy a copy on Amazon by clicking Here