Atonement by Ian McEwan

Find in catalogAs McEwan starts his book, Briony, young and overly imaginative, creates a story that has terrible consequences for the rest of her family and for her life. This is certainly a gripping book, and I followed it eagerly to see the results of her action, to see how she will “atone” for her foolishness. And then McEwan ups the ante. What is real, what is the truth? How can we tell the truth, or at least our version? When we gather up our courage to make amends, will others be willing to accept us? What will the consequences be ? And then reflecting on the act of writing: if an author uses her own life as some kind of source, is it being used to reveal or to conceal? As usual, McEwan leaves the reader with after-thoughts.

Even when young, Briony reflects: “It wasn’t only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding, above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you. And only in a story could you enter these different minds and show how they had an equal value. That was the only moral a story need have.”


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