Posted 05 July 2003 - 08:27 AM
Posted 08 July 2003 - 09:29 PM
There's something just so true about this book. I found the characters and their relationships so dead-on believable, that even as the amazing plot unfolded, with all its twists and coincidences, I never once thought: No way! And it is a dazzling story: A young girl mistakenly interprets something that happens during a family gathering, to tragic consequences. It's set in England, beginning in the time between the two world wars, and it manages to tell the big story of that era through the prism of this one family's experiences.
For anyone who has read the book, I'd love to hear what you thought of the ending. (I won't reveal the ending, in case anyone is midstream or is thinking of picking it up, so sorry for the following obliqueness...) I think there were reviewers who felt betrayed by how it ended, but I thought it was amazing -- heartbreaking, and yet totally in keeping with the book's sensibililty. I felt it really captured how we organize our own realities, and, in fact, that's the only way to survive the vagaries of life, by writing your own ending.
Posted 08 July 2003 - 09:33 PM
Posted 17 July 2003 - 02:56 PM
I can see why McEwen thought he needed the plot twist at the end – imposing a neat fiction on messy reality is what got Briony into difficulties in the first place, and it also gives the novel's title its meaning ("Some bloody atonement, Briony," I imagine the unfortunate Robbie muttering out in the ozone somewhere). But I also think he might have done better without it. He's already made the point, and the ending is a trifle DuMaurier, not really worthy of him. I agree with you, scoop, that McEwan is saying, in part, that we organize our reality, but I don't think he's also saying that's a good thing.
The account of Dunkirk is virtuoso stuff.
Posted 19 July 2003 - 02:03 PM
I agree, dirac, that the end is more twisty than it needs to be -- but, on the other hand, I did miss the subtle indication at the very end of the next-to-last chapter, so maybe the hammer-them-over-the-head approach is useful for dolts like me. But I like to be shown, not told (I've never forgiven Charles Dickens for spoiling the opening image in "A Tale of Two Cities" by telling us pointblank, "The wine is a metaphor for blood." "I GOT that!" I keep wanting to shout at him.)
On to Briony: Does merely telling the truth, after having told a lie, constitute atonement? What's the line between assuageing one's guilt and atoning?
And finally: I recall thinking, as I read it, that a certain scene felt different, less real, than others -- almost dreamlike. Those who have finished the book will, I hope, guess the scene to which I refer. Did the quality of the writing, the voice, actually change at that point?
Posted 20 July 2003 - 06:55 AM
Posted 25 August 2003 - 05:33 AM
Posted 25 August 2003 - 07:56 AM
Posted 25 August 2003 - 05:34 PM
Actually, you're not going to learn much here because I'm not sure about the ending of the book myself. That's my question. Is the ending written in the final chapter titled "London 1999" the ending? Or is the ending in the chapter before that the ending? And why is the end of that chapter also labeled "London, 1999"? Or is neither the ending? I think I'm too simple minded to get these plots; give me non-fiction and less confusion. Go Seabiscuit!
Posted 02 May 2005 - 08:51 PM
I think the section "London 1999" is an epilogue, because of the way it is set off from all that came before. Other sections are Part One (with numbered chapters), and unchaptered Parts Two and Three.
Alexandra, have you read it yet?
:shhh: S P O I L E R
The adult Briony intends to atone but can't muster the nerve or humility when she has the opportunity. And then there was never another opportunity. The final coup (in London 1999) consigns her to a purgatory on earth. A lot of injustice all around.
Posted 03 May 2005 - 12:15 AM
scoop, on Jul 20 2003, 02:55 PM, said:
Amsterdam is a relatively minor work, methinks. (Weird title, too )
Really good McEwan novels are Enduring Love (soon coming to a theatre near you) and the recent Saturday, which 'handles' 9 / 11 in a brilliant, understated way.
Posted 03 May 2005 - 05:47 AM
I did go back and read Amsterdam, and, you're right Herman, I was surprised at how slight it was compared to Atonement....
Posted 03 May 2005 - 04:15 PM
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