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Love it or Hate it: Atonement

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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

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 DO YOU THINK? Cast your votes below:

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

20 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hi all,
    If possible please include your comments here and not in the poll website so I can keep track of all the entries. Thus far I have Lynsey and Andrew down the raffle of free book copy.

    Like

    February 2, 2015
  2. Melinda Morrill #

    Nice to see you yesterday!This book sounds interesting, “I want it:-)” Love the dueling reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 2, 2015
  3. Rachel #

    Hey Jen, Nice work on the blog. I actually am a member of a book club now and not just for the food and friends:) I am reading the books!! I’ll keep checking in to see what you have to say.

    Like

    February 2, 2015
    • thanks Rachel! Did you want to enter in the raffle to win this book?

      Like

      February 2, 2015
  4. Great review! I haven’t read it anything by McEwan, but now I’m curious if I would fall in the love or hate camp. 😀

    Like

    February 2, 2015
    • Hi Paula,
      Did you want to enter the raffle to win the book?

      Like

      February 2, 2015
  5. Kristel #

    I liked the book a lot. A 5 star read for me when I read it but have to say, I enjoy Nicole’s review of it 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    February 2, 2015
  6. Diane #

    I have not read the book and I am not sure how to answer the poll. I read one other Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach, which I did not like. I have been uninspired to pick up another one of his books. I saw the movie Atonement and loved it. So I am not sure whether to skip the book like “hate it” says or give it a go. Decisions, decisions. Look forward to the poll.

    Like

    February 4, 2015
    • Lynsey #

      @ Diane – I have read several of Ian McEwan’s books and On Chesil Beach is my least favorite. Atonement is my favorite. Give it a try!

      Like

      February 5, 2015
  7. John #

    I have not read the book and, based on the Cement Garden, I’m not sure I really want to. I do have a two book rule for authors, though, so give me a shot at the book, if it’s not too late.

    Like

    February 6, 2015
  8. The winner was picked using random.org with numbers assigned based on order of responding. I included all people up through John.

    And the winner is…..

    Lynsey! Congrats! Please contact me over email with your mailing address and I’ll send out the book today or tomorrow

    You can use the following email to contact me: jenlane3@yahoo.com

    To everyone else, better luck next time. There will be other opportunities to win books. If you want to buy the book, you can click the amazon link at the bottom of the post to take you to the book page.

    Like

    February 6, 2015
    • Lynsey #

      Thanks Jen!

      Like

      February 6, 2015
  9. Lisa #

    I loved this book and then I read Saturday by the same author. I hated Saturday.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 6, 2015
    • That seems to be a common theme with his books. I know lots of people who loved certain McEwan books and really hated other books. I think many of his books would fit into the Love it or Hate it category.

      Like

      February 7, 2015
  10. Tricia #

    I have not read the book but have wanted to and the loved it review really affirmed that for me.

    Like

    February 8, 2015
  11. Tricia #

    I have not read the book but have wanted to and the loved it review really affirmed that for me.

    Like

    February 8, 2015
  12. Melinda Morrill #

    So I am a couple of months behind you here (not surprising when it comes to reading:-) but finished Atonement and had mixed feelings. I had a VERY hard time getting through Part 1. I saw the “event” coming (wasn’t sure which little girl was going to be the victim), and was frustrated. However, Part II was much more interesting, and surprising, for me. And I was very impressed with the ambiguity at the end, wow. So overall I ended up feeling like it was a great book, but now can’t wait to see the movie where I can skip part I which also became quite painful for me and it was hard to get myself to open it back up for a while. Now I move on to Life of Pi!

    Like

    April 11, 2015
    • I love that you’re actually reading the books for these posts! I’ll be curious to see which side you fall on for Life of PI. We may do some other love it or hate it giveaways in the future.

      Like

      April 11, 2015

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  1. Mini-reviews: the worst reads of 2015 | Bayrock, Bookrock

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