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Seldom do I come across a good piece of literature that I thoroughly enjoy as much as I did reading the newest novel by Ian McEwan called "Atonement." This fine piece of fiction was shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2001 and is the last in a series of subtle and powerful books by the author. I had never read anything from him before, so this was my first (successful) attempt.

The book is written from the viewpoint of a woman who as a young girl has witnessed a so-called terrible crime. Afterwords, she spends the rest of her life trying to come to terms with the way she reacted then and the resulting unpleasant consequences of her actions. Unpleasant for herself as well as for a couple whose perfect love was stolen from them for no good reason.

I will not go too much into detail, because I would just be giving away the intriguing plot which you do not really understand until the closing pages. The novel is divided into three sections:

  • Part One takes place in 1936 at an English country home where the so-called crime is committed.
  • Part Two describes the retreat of the English to Dunkirk during WWII and the experiences of a nurse tending the wounded at a London hospital.
  • Part Three is a fast-forward to the year 1999 during which the girl-turned-author has reached the last couple of years of her life and attains atonement in an unusual way.
The first fifty pages or so are by far the most difficult in that not much really happens. The descriptive texts go on and on to build up a complete picture of the situation as seen through the eyes of the young girl witness. Once you get past this (hang in there because it is worth it), it becomes good reading from then on. The speed picks up quickly and carries you to completion.

This book gets a very high score from me. I recommend it highly for anyone who likes to get lost in floral prose and gossamers of confused reality. Through patience and understanding, the reader is rewarded as the facts crystallize to become clear, and the fragmented picture dissolves into a coherent story.

Each reader will have his on interpretation I am sure. You might first want to check out the Gaurdian Unlimited Review to get more ideas whether or not this book is for you.

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Graduated from Stanford 6-5-1979 ago.

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