Atonement by Ian McEwan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read Atonement because I hated the film, but a friend of mine adored the book and I was hoping that by reading it maybe I would find the connection to the characters that I missed when watching the film.
I've never read McEwan before and I enjoyed some of his quick, seemingly throwaway ideas that later took on more meaning when you look at the entire story as a whole. I'm specifically thinking about this passage written about the young Briony:
"She raised one hand and flexed its fingers and wondered, as she had sometimes before, how this thing, this machine for gripping, this fleshy spider on the end of her arm, came to be hers, entirely at her command. Or did it have some little life of its own? She bent her finger and straightened it. The mystery was in the instance before it moved, the dividing moment between not moving and moving, when her intention took effect. It was like a wave breaking. If she could only find herself at the crest, she thought, she might find the secret of herself, that part of her that was really in charge. She brought her forefinger closer to her face and stared at it, urging it to move. It remained still because she was pretending, she was not entirely serious, and because willing it to move, or being about to move it, was not the same as actually moving it. And when she did crook it finally, the action seemed to start in the finger itself, not in some part of her mind. When did it know to move, when did she know to move it?"
That is such a universal thought! Who hasn't thought that before? Who didn't as a child or even as an adult had those moments where your body seems a mystery of science and mechanics? And this idea presents itself again later within Robbie Turner while he is trekking his way to Dunkirk. . .
It's a rather lovely connection.
Reading the book made me want to re-evaluate the movie. The distance from the characters I felt during the film was also present during my reading of the book which has let me see that it wasn't a flaw of the film - it was intended. There are definitely some things, especially internal dialogue of the characters, in the book that could not be translated to the film which is a detriment, but it's to be expected in a transition from page to screen. That's why reading the book was a good thing because it filled in those holes. I will watch the film again with a new understanding and think I will ultimately enjoy it more than I did the first time around.
I think I would also like to read more McEwan. Any recommendations?