Author: Ian McEwan
By Joseph de Kock
Atonement is a period drama set before, during and after The Second World War.
It tells the tale of young Briony Tallis, a gifted but precocious 13-year-old girl, who one day stares out her window and witnesses her older sister, Cynthia, and the maid’s son, Robbie, sharing an intimate, but peculiar, moment by the fountain. Her over-active imagination is indulged by her instinct to write and live dramatically and reeks havoc until ultimately a crime is committed that she will spend the rest of her life atoning.
I honestly cannot praise Ian McEwan enough for this masterpiece of melodrama, but what I can say is: pay attention to how he uses third-person narrative compared to first-person. He rarely uses first person and chooses to remain as an omniscient narrator that can only see and describe, but not inhabit the thoughts of the character. Ian McEwan does this in a lot of his work, and I think it is particularly effective in Atonement. It also features some excellent descriptions of Northern France during the war. His detail on the conditions of nurses is remarkable.
A near-perfectly written book and it’s even better if you’ve not yet seen the movie.