atonementKeira Knightley convinced me to read this book. It wasn’t until the big, awards-season push for the movie that I even considered reading it, and somehow my love for La Knightley convinced me to check it out.

It’s also the first book in a long time that I–gasp–returned to the library, overdue. (The shame of owing $1.50!) So instead of finishing the original, hardcover, I had to borrow the the paperback, Keira movie tie-in version I’d bought my mom for Christmas.

I didn’t love it.

I thought the first half was incredibly well-written…sometimes distractingly so. As beautiful and gracefully as the McEwan can circle around a character’s thoughts and feelings and the multiple meanings of a single action (a woman changing dresses for a party; a child hiding a squirrel’s skull), it became a little too much too quickly for me. (Of course, that may have had something to do with the fact that I was waiting in an airport, and then on a late-night flight on New Year’s Eve.)

There were passages I read over and over again–the chapters from the point of view of the mother were especially gorgeous–and I found myself writing down sentences and images that I loved. (I am still struck by the image of 15-year-old Lola twisting her tongue around a green-shell-coated candy bar.) The novel’s second half (mostly eschewing the interior for the exterior), weakened for me, and as for the twist ending…well…I’ll admit that I did gasp, and there was a power to the way it was handled, so straightforwardly as to be devastating.

Still, although I admired how masterfully it was done, I did not love this book. When I finish a book that truly moves me, I don’t physically want to let it go. I’ll look again at the cover, at the jacket copy, maybe flip through it again. I’ll stare at it, just letting whatever psychic essence it has soak up through my fingers, marveling at the fact that cardboard and paper, glued and stitched together, was able to transport me emotionally. I’ll hold it just as it held me, not wanting to break the connection, not just yet.

For Atonement, I simply put it in a priority mail envelope, addressed it to my mom and sent it.

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