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Atonement
by Ian McEwan


In Atonement, we meet 13-year-old Briony Tallis in the summer of 1935, as she attempts to stage a production of her new drama "The Trials of Arabella" to welcome home her older, idolized brother Leon. But she soon discovers that her cousins, the glamorous Lola and the twin boys Jackson and Pierrot, aren't up to the task, and directorial ambitions are abandoned as more interesting prospects of preoccupation come onto the scene. The charlady's son, Robbie Turner, appears to be forcing Briony's sister Cecilia to strip in the fountain and sends her obscene letters; Leon has brought home a dim chocolate magnate keen for a war to promote his new "Army Amo" chocolate bar; and upstairs, Briony's migraine-stricken mother Emily keeps tabs on the house from her bed. Soon, secrets emerge that change the lives of everyone present....

[The original discussion from 2002]








From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Wednesday, April 16, 2003 10:20 AM The novel opens in England in 1935, where we meet Briony Tallis who at 13 already knows that she is a writer. Her latest work is a play, the drama "The Trials of Arabella" which she is attempting to produce for her brother Leon's homecoming. All very innocent and innocuous but things do not remain so. Although the main character is Briony the novel is based on several points of view varying from children to seniors all of which were masterfully portrayed. Central to the novel is the difference in interpretation which each point of view brings to events. The excellently depicted psychology of each character provides vivid colour and made this book a pleasure for me to read. SPOILER There is a twist and what I call a "fold" to this novel. I was not surprised by the twist but found the "fold" very interesting. All roads lead to roam. Dean
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (2 of 9), Read 36 times Conf: Reading List From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Wednesday, April 16, 2003 10:31 AM Recently I read about a follow up on elderly Japanese men who had been soldiers during the Japanese invasion of China. These men had reportedly committed unbelievable atrocities on the Chinese people, yet the predominate post war profile was of a quiet, hardworking, model citizen. Atonement? After finishing Ian McEwan’s ATONEMENT I’ve been wondering how much of everyone’s life is molded by atonement. Do you recognize in yourself any life themes that may compensate for even non-criminal transgressions? I do. This was a very satisfying read that made me cry and still hums in my head. SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT Also, I wonder how many writers, like Briony, use their work to atone. I liked how the economy of twelve characters at the end of Part Two – BT London 1999 – added a new dimension to the narrative making the title of the novel not only a statement of theme but also identifies it as an act of atonement. Robt
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (3 of 9), Read 33 times Conf: Reading List From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Wednesday, April 16, 2003 11:12 AM In a way I am not surprised about the former Japanese soldiers. I think that they did then what was expected of them and they are doing now what is expected of them. They were model citizens then and they are model citizens now. For them to have chosen differently then would have brought harsh punishment. For them to choose differently now would bring harsh punishment. All roads lead to roam. Dean
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (4 of 9), Read 28 times Conf: Reading List From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Wednesday, April 16, 2003 02:17 PM McEwan’s oh-so-slow opening became irresistible to me by the end of Part One. I thought the achievement of the novel to be the characters and their situations but there were also long passages of great descriptive power such as the war segments in Part Two. Dean, During the invasion of China, the Japanese soldiers were obeying orders to some extent; but there were actions of such horror that I would never regard men who perpetrate them as being model citizens but rather the opposite. If I were to recount one "game" that the soldiers played, it would clarify the point but I cannot even put it in writing. It's one of those things I wish I had never heard. Robt
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (5 of 9), Read 26 times Conf: Reading List From: Mary Ellen Burns smeburns@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, April 16, 2003 06:36 PM I found this book totally absorbing, and agree that McEwen's powers of description are formidable, and his ability to create characters equally so. SPOILER ALERT! When I got to the final section of the book, and found out just how Briony had "atoned" in her final draft of the story, I was very upset, because I had grown so fond of the characters. I thought it wicked of her to change what had "really" happened to them -- to lead me on, so to speak -- and then realized that I was getting upset with a fictional character because she had not told me the truth! With that realization came a tremendous respect for the power of this book. But as to atonement: was Briony's writing really atonement? I thought it was more about soothing her own spirit than making amends to those she'd hurt (which she couldn't do, in any event.) In the process of writing she was able, for a while, to imagine that her actions had less serious repercussions than they did. Mary Ellen
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (6 of 9), Read 25 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Wednesday, April 16, 2003 08:12 PM SPOILER ALERT, I SUPPOSE... Mary Ellen: I shared your upset when I realized that the narrative I'd been reading was a "what if" version and not the real thing; I know what you mean about the irony of expecting the "truth" from a fictional character...just one more mark of McEwan's achievement here, I think. Only aspect I'd differ on is that, in retrospect, I don't think Briony felt any "real-world" satisfaction or abatement of guilt at having created a happy-ever-after version of what she so badly screwed up. The phrase "cold comfort" comes to my mind. I'm guessing one of McEwan's points is that however a writer of fiction is motivated by the compulsion to play God and make things right, or at least more complete and meaningful and "fair," the writer is not under any illusion that this lets him/her off the hook in the real world. It's just that creating an alternate universe is the only response a writer has. A very limited, and bittersweet, gift. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (7 of 9), Read 23 times Conf: Reading List From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Wednesday, April 16, 2003 11:28 PM SPOILER ALERT DON’T READ BE FOREWARNED SPOILER ALERT The way I think of Briony’s writing as being an act of atonement is to assume that the story is an account of an actual event which reveals the truth for posterity, so to speak. Robbie is exonerated as heroic and innocent, the Marshalls are sufficiently exposed as to eclipse any grand legacy they attempt to create for themselves and Briony confesses her transgression in full context. All of these revelations are to make amends as best as Briony can, even if it is after the Marshalls are dead and gone. Another interpretation is that Briony invents the whole story. The seed may be planted when she imagines Robbie and Cecelia at the fountain as viewed from her window, hence, her first short story. Then the story takes its more mature direction when Briony takes to heart the suggestions made in the rejection letter she receives from the publisher, such as the suggestion that the girl in the window somehow comes in between the lovers; or that the girl becomes a messenger between the two, both of which Briony eventually weaves into the story. Also, Briony’s ambiguity about Robbie and Cecelia’s fate supports this interpretation. Briony allows the reader to select the ending: Robbie and Cecelia were both killed in the war and never saw each other again or they were happily holding hands in the library at Briony’s 77th birthday party or whatever. Either way, McEwan fictionalizes Briony to begin with, so it’s “fact” within fiction or fiction within fiction. Robt
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (8 of 9), Read 20 times Conf: Reading List From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, April 17, 2003 01:54 AM I knew that it was going to be difficult to say anything about this novel without spoilers. SPOILER This changing over from McEwan's novel to Briony's is what I meant by the "fold." I agree with Dale about the writer's bittersweet gift. I found it rather sad until I read Robert's idea that the fiction may extend even farther is very interesting. Where do we determine "fact" in a novel of a novel? McEwan is playing with the reader's relationship with the novel and fictional characters. Robert, thanks for not going into detail about the atrocities in China. That they called it a "game" already says much. You make a good point that they weren't obliged by duty to do what they did but I want to add that they weren't punished for it either. The regret and subsequent need for atonement had to have come from within them and I don't recognize these in their present quiet lives. They may be submerging their personal responsibility beneath the certainty that what they did was accepted at the time. All roads lead to roam. Dean
From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, April 17, 2003 09:03 AM I read Atonement when it first came out in America and wasn't going to re-read it, only because my reading time has been limited lately, but your notes have just about persuaded me to read it again. This is one of my all time favorite books and reminds me a great deal of 'Corelli's Mandolin,' a book I use as a standard for all fiction. I really loved Atonement, and thought McEwan's execution was nothing short of brilliant. For anyone who has decided to pass on this one, I urge you to reconsider. I think Briony's atonement is her acknowledgement of how her sister's life could have been (ie: her fictional account) had she not done what she did. That discrepancy between what could have been and what actually was, is her life long punishment. I think one of the problems in understanding this atonement is that the people affected by her actions were no longer living. Can we atone for something when those we've hurt are not able to forgive? Beej
From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, April 17, 2003 10:02 AM For me atonement means that something is done to redress a wrong. Even though the damage can never be undone, the transgressor does something to repair some of the damage. When a Hindu told Gandhi that he had killed a Muslim child, Gandhi told him that he should adopt a child and raise him as a Muslim. So, atonement can occur after the death of someone who was hurt if the damage affects others. Some redress can be sought for those others. In this case, knowing that a friend or relative was falsely accused of a rape can provide some relief. Atonement is done without regard for forgiveness. All roads lead to roam. Dean
From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, April 17, 2003 10:07 AM Well, maybe it's a self forgiveness. Beej
From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, April 17, 2003 10:14 AM Sometimes that's the only forgiveness that can be had. All roads lead to roam. Dean
From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, April 17, 2003 11:11 AM True, and sometimes that's the most difficult forgiveness to get. Do you think Briony forgave herself? Was the re-writing of history cleansing for her? Beej
From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, April 17, 2003 11:42 AM I think so. She was very warmly received by her family and she seemed to have no regrets as she prepared for the fading away which she knew was coming. But maybe the family re-union was a fiction to help ease her remorse about what she had done or maybe what she had done was a fiction to make her story more interesting, as Robert pointed out. Because of the folding over of Briony's fiction onto itself and McEwan's work onto Briony's the novel has an unusaul topology. All roads lead to roam. Dean
From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, April 17, 2003 10:09 PM Robt, I found your take on the story to be very interesting. I have spent some time thinking about why Briony accused Robbie of raping her cousin. I had the feeling it was because everything came together at the wrong moment. She had seen her sister at the fountain. She had read Robbie's note with the "shocking" word in it. She had seen Robbie and Cecilia in the library, and she thought that Robbie was attacking her. Did all of these things persuade her that Robbie was the rapist or was she angry with Robbie for disappointing her? I was so completely taken in by the ending that I was upset, as Mary Ellen and Dale mentioned. Then when I thought about it, I noticed that Briony had given us clues that she did not always write the truth. For example, she mentioned that she did not take accurate notes of the injuries that were coming in to the hospitals. She often made things up which was something that she later regretted. What a fabulous book! Jane
From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Friday, April 18, 2003 12:08 AM Jane: I think your observation that "everything came together at the wrong moment" for Briony's disastrous decision is right on the money. There's a page or so in which McEwan dissects what's going on in her mind at the time, and I think it's a virtuoso piece of writing...mixing tenses, voices, viewpoint to powerfully show how subjective our memories are. I believe the girl convinced herself that she was doing the right thing, even if all the facts were not 100 percent in line, and that hybrid of decision/emotion hits the reader so hard because we've all done it at some point in our lives. She was afraid, confused, jealous, hugely angry because her own crush on the guy was shot down. Impossible for anything objective to come out of that mixture. Lord protect us all, from people with an ax to grind who are convinced they're in the right. >>Dale in Ala.
From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Friday, April 18, 2003 08:15 AM BIG SPOILERS EVERYWHERE!! When I first read this, I came to the Epilogue and kind of skimmed it. I found it confusing, but didn't get that it was the most important chapter of the book. Then someone on CR (Beej, I think) pointed out that the whole book (minus that last chapter) was a book within a book, and I had to go and reread it. I was floored. A book within a book, and here I am mad at the author. Why? What does it matter? The whole THING is a fiction, so why can't I read the book without the epilogue and say that THAT is the book. What McEwan accomplishes here reminds me of what Tim O'Brien did in In the Lake of the Woods. He makes fiction matter so much that we agonize over what is "true," when in fact, nothing is true. But is it? Sherry
From: Steve Warbasse s.warbasse@worldnet.att.net Date: Friday, April 18, 2003 03:19 PM I post here now against my own better judgment because I have not quite finished yet. (Posting before finishing has been the source of no little embarrassment to me on occassion here in the past.) But there is going to have be a helluva lot of atonement later in this book for me to be able to regard Briony with anything other than disgust. I am not quite ready to give her the benefit of the doubt on so many scores, Dale. Objectively, I find all that interesting. The writer characters in fiction writers' books tend to be the put-upon heroes. I think there is something being said about malicious creativity here. Steve
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (19 of 29), Read 31 times Conf: Reading List From: Sara Sauers stsauers@att.net Date: Saturday, April 19, 2003 04:00 PM I really liked the Gothic elements of Part I. Certainly there are some pieces inspired by Charlotte Bronte in here -- melodrama with coincidences. By my rough count, this is now the third book we've read within a year or so where the subject of the 'unreliable narrator' has been a part of the discussion. (Also in A Gesture Life and When We Were Orphans) The phenomena is disturbing to me, but, as others have pointed out above, IT'S FICTION, why should it matter? I don't know how to explain it, but there's an aspect of broken trust about this for me. (But I am totally laughing at myself when I type that.) I was jolted by the London, 1999 epilogue. The book had enveloped me with it's steady development (which included plenty of overlapping, given the many points of view) and then suddenly and reluctantly I was on fast forward trying to deal with 1999. I think the book stands without this part. I'd already figured they were all going to die at the Balham tube station in 3 months anyway. Sara
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (20 of 29), Read 29 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Saturday, April 19, 2003 04:09 PM Sara: I know exactly what you mean about the "aspect of broken trust" involved. On reflection, I think this would be much more of a problem for me if not for the tempering factor that the ultimate unreliable narrator is life itself. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (21 of 29), Read 35 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Saturday, April 19, 2003 04:12 PM Sara, jolt is just the word. I never saw the ending coming. I hadn't heard anything about it, since the book had been just released, and when I got to the ending, I literally jumped off the sofa and just stood in the middle of the room, trying to figure out what the heck had just happened. I remember feeling uncomfortable and betrayed by the author, as tho I had been lied to. I read the other two 'unreliable narrator' books you mentioned, but with those, there were hints along the way and the knowledge of what was going on sort of grew slowly on the reader. With this book, it came out of nowhere, having a somewhat startling affect. Beej
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (22 of 29), Read 36 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Saturday, April 19, 2003 04:16 PM 'the ultimate unreliable narrator is life itself.' Boy, Dale, ain't that the truth! I think it's really interesting that in Briony's fictional account, her sister does not forgive her. (It's been awhile since I read this and hope my memory serves me correctly that she was not forgiven...) Beej
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (23 of 29), Read 29 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Saturday, April 19, 2003 08:43 PM I know just what you mean, Sara. In some ways it seems like a fancy card trick McEwan performed just to get that kind of reaction. I like to trust my books. I want my fictions to be reliable. Sherry
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (24 of 29), Read 28 times Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Saturday, April 19, 2003 09:34 PM Beej, I disagree. I think there were hints all along that Briony was unreliable in her life and in her writing. I guess we just don't know that Briony is writing the book until the very end. Jane
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (25 of 29), Read 30 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Saturday, April 19, 2003 09:39 PM Jane, I sure didn't pick up on the hints while I was reading this. I knew she was being untruthful about what happened, but I had no idea the entire bulk of her story was made up. in retrospect, I see the hints tho. Beej
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (26 of 29), Read 31 times Conf: Reading List From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Sunday, April 20, 2003 12:55 AM SPOILER One of my favorite passages is Briony's near encounter with Lord and Lady Marshall in 1999. Lady Lola is too much! Robt
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (27 of 29), Read 25 times Conf: Reading List From: Sara Sauers stsauers@att.net Date: Monday, April 21, 2003 12:04 AM Robert, indeed, Lady Lola is way too much. Same for Paul Marshall and his synthetic chocolate Ammo bar fortune. These are the two people in the book I can work up the most disgust for. I've been reconsidering "London, 1999." Perhaps it is a bit too clever -- the author stepping out from behind her pages -- but I do like the closure it gives to Briony's character, one greatly affected by the powers of her imagination, no matter what her age. I've also been thinking that the rejection letter from the editor at Horizon, which is really quite amazing, sets up that last part of the book very nicely. Sara
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (28 of 29), Read 22 times Conf: Reading List From: Mary Ellen Burns smeburns@yahoo.com Date: Monday, April 21, 2003 12:30 PM Robt: what an interesting idea! I have to give it a bit more thought. SPOILERS THROUGHOUT! As I was reading the first third of the book, (through Robbie's arrest) I was annoyed by a few plot turns that seemed to obvious and cliched: didn't you just KNOW that the vase would be broken, as soon as Cecilia walked outside with it? and that Robbie was going to put the wrong note in that envelope (how, when one was typewritten & the other handwritten?)? and that, even as the trap was being laid for him, Robbie would come back with the twins? (One on his shoulders--really a bit much, didn't you think?) When I got to the big epilogue punchline, I wondered whether McEwen wanted to show that Briony hadn't moved as far from melodrama as she'd thought? I'm now wondering whether these stagey bits of plot development don't support Robt's thesis. Mary Ellen
From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Tuesday, April 22, 2003 07:26 PM Time magazine, in an article about Gunter Grass, calls McEwan's ATONEMENT "perhaps the most admired British novel of the past decade." Robt, another ATONEMENT admirer Conferences Menu | Help
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (30 of 50), Read 30 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, April 24, 2003 09:31 AM *********** PLOT SPOILERS**************** I just finished Atonement this morning - beautifully written with wonderful characters. However, I definitely felt cheated by the ending. I didn't mind the twist that Briony was writing the book, but being told that half the love story between Celia and Robbie never happened after all was one too many authorial tricks for me. It's all well and good to say that all fiction is invention, so what does it matter? A good book creates a world for the reader that has its own reality and the author should be very careful about toying with that. I guess that's modern fiction for you - the authors just can't seem to resist being clever. Maybe that's why the classics still appeal to me. I am confused about Lola's part in all this. Did she know that Marshall was her attacker all along? Ann
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (31 of 50), Read 30 times Conf: Reading List From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Thursday, April 24, 2003 11:12 AM Ann, I think that Lola knew all along that Paul Marshall was her attacker and that he had likely attacked her earlier in the day as well as evidenced by the scratches and wrist burns that Lola said her brothers had caused but instead may have been caused by Marshall. Was it mentioned at Briony’s meeting with Robbie and Cecelia in 1940 that Paul Marshall also had scratches on his face that day? I seem to remember something like that. Robt
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (32 of 50), Read 26 times Conf: Reading List From: Mary Ellen Burns smeburns@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, April 24, 2003 12:32 PM Ann, thanks for expressing so well a feeling I shared as I reached the end of the book! And I was also puzzled by Lola. As Robt mentioned, it seemed pretty clear that Paul, not her little brothers, was responsible for her scratches earlier in the day (at one point or another, Briony says Marshall had a scratch on his face, too, and it is pretty clear that the injuries were inconsistent with the story of twins' roughhousing). I'm not as sure that she knew who raped her that night; she said that he covered her eyes and she never saw him. If she knew it had been him, would she have married him anyway, just to get away from her sad life & get her hands on all that money? I prefer to think Briony talked her into believing that her suspicions were wrong and it had been Robbie who raped her. (But even so, wouldn't the suspicions have returned sooner or later?) The other mystery, to me, is why Paul married Lola. I would have thought that he would want to get as far away from that family as possible. Mary Ellen
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (33 of 50), Read 26 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, April 24, 2003 03:29 PM Robt and Mary Ellen, It hadn't occurred to me that Paul had attacked Lola earlier in the day, but that certainly makes sense. I don't remember any mention of Paul's scratched face until the wedding scene, but I could have missed it. From the start, I figured he was the rapist. Mary Ellen, maybe Lola married Marshall for the money. He must have married her to keep her quiet. Briony was only 13 years old. What about the adults who took took her at her word, especially the mother and father? Did it make any sense at all that Robbie would attack Lola when he had just made his feelings clear to her cousin, who reciprocated his feelings? And I understood from the novel that Celia made this clear to everyone. Ann
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (34 of 50), Read 27 times Conf: Reading List From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, April 24, 2003 10:34 PM Is it possible, statutory considerations notwithstanding, that the sexual relationship between Lola and Paul was consentual? How else would Lola have found herself alone with Paul by the temple? I don't think that a girl who had been sexually assaulted earlier in the day would be walking alone after dark. Then Lola could be seen to have gone along with Briony's accusation of Robbie to protect Paul whom she later married. All roads lead to roam. Dean
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (35 of 50), Read 27 times Conf: Reading List From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Friday, April 25, 2003 07:33 AM Good point, Dean. Robt
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (36 of 50), Read 28 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, April 25, 2003 08:55 AM I presumed that Lola bought Briony's story that it was Robbie who raped her, but Dean, you brought up an interesting point; if a woman is raped, would she then be so willing to wander around alone that same night? Now I wonder how much of that was part of Briony's fantasy. I didn't do a re-read of this, so I'm going by memory..can we be certain Paul was really scratched? that's the problem with these unreliable narrators. Once the reader's trust is violated, how do we know what to believe? (I'm hoping this unreliable narrator fad fizzles out quickly.) Beej
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (37 of 50), Read 28 times Conf: Reading List From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Friday, April 25, 2003 09:16 AM When I read this, I understood this as Lola and Paul had an earlier encounter which left a scratch on his cheek -- Briony's blaming Robbie was based on her own confused feelings for him and about those scenes she witnessed and heard throughout that day -- Lola simply did nothing to point the finger away from Robbie as she was involved with Paul and aware of the trouble the two of them might face in that era when large age differences were less accepted and could be thwarted by the existing laws not to mention her family which I believe entered into the problems this young woman brought with her to this visit to her relatives' home. I had every intention of re-reading but haven't done so -- am enjoying the discussion none-the-less and am not adverse to throwing in a comment from recall -- take it with a grain of salt and continue talking -- {G} Dottie Be ahead of all parting, as though it already were/ behind you, like the winter that has just gone by./For among these winters there is one so endlessly winter/ that only by wintering through it all will your heart survive. 'The Sonnets to Orpheus: XIII', Rilke
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (38 of 50), Read 27 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta Date: Friday, April 25, 2003 11:50 AM I love to be taken in by an unreliable narrator. Great fun. However, I didn't find this one as much to my taste as usual. I read it some time ago and didn't reread for this discussion, but one thing that made it not work for me is there was just too much confusion about who did what to whom and where and why. R
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (39 of 50), Read 29 times Conf: Reading List From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Friday, April 25, 2003 11:54 AM And aren't all narrators unreliable to some degree -- there is nothing written which is not "unreliable" in point of fact one might well argue. Dottie -- hearing sighs and seeing eyes rolling -- ggggg -- what can I do or say? Be ahead of all parting, as though it already were/ behind you, like the winter that has just gone by./For among these winters there is one so endlessly winter/ that only by wintering through it all will your heart survive. 'The Sonnets to Orpheus: XIII', Rilke
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (40 of 50), Read 32 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Friday, April 25, 2003 01:08 PM As I said before, I'm doing my re-read by listening to it on audiotape. It's interesting hearing this with the kind of foreknowledge I didn't have the first time. I can see the clues now that I just glossed over at the time. This is what I think happened to Lola. She was being coquettish with Marshall and trying out her newly minted sexual moves. He took her up on her flirting, but she got more than she bargained for. It probably started out consensual, but ended up a rape. The reason she didn't tell anyone the truth was that she started it and so took the blame. She could probably hear her mother speaking to her in her head, "You know, you can't go leading men on without expecting consequences, my dear." So she got her consequences, but was too ashamed to admit the truth. When I first read it, before I knew what was going on, I thought Lola's reaction to her brothers' rough-housing was a bit extreme (and so were the results of the rough-housing.) It just didn't make sense then, but makes perfect sense this time around. Sherry
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (41 of 50), Read 29 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta Date: Friday, April 25, 2003 07:39 PM Sounds like I really should have read it again, Sherry. It might be fun to be forewarned and therefore pick up on all that stuff. R
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (42 of 50), Read 30 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Friday, April 25, 2003 10:09 PM Sherry, That makes sense. I remember being surprised at how rough those nice little boys were at the time, but then I completely forgot about it. Ruth, I didn't mind the unreliable narrator in Gesture Life or When We Were Orphans because there were plenty of clues along the way that the narrators couldn't be trusted. Also, and I think this makes a big difference, I didn't identify that strongly with either one, so it was kind of a game for me to figure out what the heck was really going on. With Robbie, it was different. I cared a whole lot what happened to him, especially after those scenes in France. It was some comfort to think that he and Celia at least had a short time together. For the author to suddenly tell me these incidents were just figments of Briony's imagination, after he had sucked me in emotionally, made me a bit angry. In spite of this complaint, I was really impressed by McEwan's writing. Could anyone recommend another book by him, preferably one where he doesn't play games with the reader? Ann
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (43 of 50), Read 33 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta Date: Friday, April 25, 2003 10:16 PM Actually, I think the best kind of unreliable narrator is a book in which you start out believing EVERYTHING, and gradually, bit by bit you begin to wonder, then wonder some more, until finally the big revelation at the end clinches it. R
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (44 of 50), Read 37 times Conf: Reading List From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Saturday, April 26, 2003 01:19 AM Ann, the only other book by McEwan which I have read is "Enduring Love." I did find that very interesting and not quite so gimmicky. Here is the Amazon.com page for it. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385494149/constantreader All roads lead to roam. Dean
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (45 of 50), Read 35 times Conf: Reading List From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Saturday, April 26, 2003 01:36 AM Ann -- I would agree with the recommendation of Enduring Love which is a very powerful book though it is not an easy read IMHO -- especially in comparison to Atonement. Second to that I would add a recommendation of Amsterdam which I found to be a very strong read though it is usually compared less than favorably to EL or to Atonement. I've yet to read any of his others though the Bib has several offerings on the shelf. Dottie Be ahead of all parting, as though it already were/ behind you, like the winter that has just gone by./For among these winters there is one so endlessly winter/ that only by wintering through it all will your heart survive. 'The Sonnets to Orpheus: XIII', Rilke
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (46 of 50), Read 30 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Saturday, April 26, 2003 08:13 AM I read Amsterdam and didn't like it nearly as much as Atonement. There was also a kind of gimmick (or twist) in that one, but not the unreliable narrator. But don't you think, Ann, that it is a measure of McEwan's success as a writer that he made you care that much for his character? After all, the whole thing is a figment, not just the book within the book. I keep seesawing between thinking he's brilliant and thinking he's mean. Sherry
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (47 of 50), Read 30 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta Date: Saturday, April 26, 2003 11:40 AM I didn't like Amsterdam at all. It would have put me off MeEwan forever, if certain people I trust hadn't insisted that I try Atonement. R
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (48 of 50), Read 32 times Conf: Reading List From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Saturday, April 26, 2003 02:02 PM See what I mean, Ann --- {G} Enduring Love was in the trash at several points and rescued strictly by my own stubbornness and sat on the shelf two-thirds read for over a year between attempts to read it -- if ever a book was going to put me off McEwan it was EL -- and then when I had finally almost finished it but not quite I started scanning it to talk to Sandy and found myself devouring the book and actually reading it for the first time -- but I'm still recommending Amsterdam It isn't like EL and it is nothing like Atonement but I liked it just the same. EL is on my list of favorites but I'd stack these three of McEwan's up very close together. Dottie Be ahead of all parting, as though it already were/ behind you, like the winter that has just gone by./For among these winters there is one so endlessly winter/ that only by wintering through it all will your heart survive. 'The Sonnets to Orpheus: XIII', Rilke
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (49 of 50), Read 22 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Saturday, April 26, 2003 08:07 PM Thanks for the input, Ruth and Dottie. Ann
From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Sunday, April 27, 2003 09:43 PM Back to Marshall's scratch. Yes, it is mentioned early in the book. Marshall says he got the scratch rescuing Lola from her rough little brothers. This scratch made me very suspicious of Marshall, and that is why I remember it. Jane
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (1 of 32), Read 106 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Sunday, April 07, 2002 01:29 PM
I just finished 'Atonement' yesterday, and feel as though my mind and heart have been hit by a two by four..I haven't had this sort of reaction to a novel since I first read 'Corelli's Mandolin.' It's the story of a woman whose life is forever affected by a fantasy she spins as a child. The story starts slowly, almost to the point of making the reader wonder why there was so all the hoopla made in the press over this book. But, stick with it, because as you approach about a third of the way into the novel, you'll find yourself drawn in, and as the story continues, it becomes tremendously and absolutely mesmerizing. This is a book that will win every award there is to be won, I'm sure. gail wrote in another thread..'run, don't walk, to get this novel.' gail? Amen to that! 'Atonement' has merited a place on my 'favorite books of all time' list. McEwan's 'Amsterdam' was the Booker prize winner for 1998, and I look forward to reading that one, too. Beej
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (2 of 32), Read 87 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@hotmail.com Date: Sunday, April 07, 2002 03:25 PM Beej, I just got Atonement from the library, and it awaits my getting through a few hundred more pages of Moby Dick. But it sounds like I should give up sperm whaling for Atonement. Are you suffering from what Sally called book "hangover"? Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none. - W. Shakespeare MAP
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (3 of 32), Read 87 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Sunday, April 07, 2002 04:05 PM I have this on my TBR pile, but it will be a long time before I get to it. Must finish Moby. Must finish Moby. Must finish Moby. Sherry
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (4 of 32), Read 87 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Sunday, April 07, 2002 06:02 PM Oh, MAP, I surely do wish I could say more about 'Atonement,' but I can't..not without spoiling it for the rest of you! Just let me know when you've read it! Beej
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (5 of 32), Read 85 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Sally Doe sal_doe@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 08, 2002 05:05 AM I read "Amsterdam" last year and loved it. I remember hating and then LOVING the same character(s) back and forth, to and fro as the plot twisted. Who's wonderful 100% of the time in real life? No one, and that is the subtle sticker with the plot of this book. No spoilers from me though - I'd like to hear from anyone else who has read this roller coaster?? I'll need to race out now though and get "Atonement". I hear "Enduring Love" is quite good too...... sal
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (6 of 32), Read 84 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Lee Beech lee.beech@sympatico.ca Date: Monday, April 08, 2002 07:59 AM After reading Amsterdam, I made certain that I followed up on Ian McEwan, and read everything he wrote. I feel he is one of the great novelists of our time, and that his work will endure, especially Atonement. I feel that his books require multiple readings to plumb all of the depths contained in them, and that his writing itself is capable of holding the reader on subsequent reads. There are lots of authors whose works hold the attention for one reading, writers whose works make the best seller lists, writers whose works win awards, but I believe McEwan is a writer whose work will stand the test of time.
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (7 of 32), Read 91 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, April 08, 2002 08:23 AM Sally (and before anything else, let me say welcome to Constant Reader!) and Lee, once I find an author I really like, I tend to read everything he/she has written, so I'm sure before too long, I'll get to 'Amsterdam.' I'm just (not-too-patiently) waiting until others have read 'Atonement' because there is so much to discuss about this book! I recently read that McEwan's books will be included in future college literature classes, and I believe this; I've been thinking about this book, and especially the main character, Briony, ever since I finished the novel. Dale, is 'Atonement' on your tbr list? I really would like to hear your reaction to it. Beej
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (8 of 32), Read 80 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Monday, April 08, 2002 02:25 PM I was not taken with Amsterdam, but then I didn't give it the multiple readings and thought that Lee recommends. After the reviews, first from the press, now from Beej, I am, however, straining at the leash to read Atonement. There are 4 people ahead of me at the library. I may have to break my rule about waiting for the paperback edition of new books and spring for the hardback. Ruth He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad. Rafael Sabatini, Scaramouche
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (9 of 32), Read 88 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, April 08, 2002 02:33 PM Ruth, without giving anything away, you might not be overly smitten with the first third of the book. But, there's a reason for this, one that you will not realize until the ending. And it's something I'm just ACHING to discuss! Okay, with that, I promise to say no more. Honest. Beej
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (10 of 32), Read 76 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 08, 2002 09:45 PM I have to admit that I wasn't all that captivated by Amsterdam. But that's just me. Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none. - W. Shakespeare MAP
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (11 of 32), Read 76 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Lee Beech lee.beech@sympatico.ca Date: Tuesday, April 09, 2002 08:10 AM I loved all of Atonement, but I think the portion which I keep returning to is the middle part, the retreat through France. I have learned and read a great deal about the evacuation, but always from the viewpoint of the tiny craft and the miracle of the water "army". This was the first time that I had read the land side of the story. Although the whole novel affected me, I found that I read the middle portion very slowly and repeated many parts. However, even though I relished this part, I am pondering its meaning in the whole.
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (12 of 32), Read 83 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, April 09, 2002 08:30 AM Lee, that middle section on the retreat through France is precisely where the book began to pick up for me, too. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~SPOILER~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ When I got to the end of the novel, I realized that the first third is the book Briony wrote at the beginning of her career as an author, and that it might be unreliable. It is fiction within fiction. And that's why it seemed almost sophomoric to me. And then, when we return after the war scene, to when Briony goes to Cecilia's flat, we find out later, that it is, again, fiction within fiction. We are reading Briony's writing, not McEwan's! Yes, McEwan wrote it, but I think he needed to downplay his style just enough to let us reflect back on the difference between Briony's writing style and his own. I think the most touching scene in the entire novel was the one where Briony, as a nurse, is comforting the young soldier with the severe head injury, who thinks she's his lover from back home. I think the scene about the withdrawal in France was to tell us the details of Robbie's death. He didn't survive that, tho we don't find this out until much later. Briony's twisting of the facts was her atonement; this was the only way for her to atone for ruining her sister's happiness. So much of her life was lived in fantasy; it's what caused all her problems in the first place, and evidently continued to when she was nearing death, herself. Then, she finally admits the entire truth. The ending of the book is what really grabbed me, tho..in fact, it absolutely blew me away. Beej
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (13 of 32), Read 82 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Tuesday, April 09, 2002 08:44 AM Beej & All: You've sold me, on this one. My copy's awaiting me for pickup at the library today, and I'll proceed to work it into the mix with Melville. I thought his AMSTERDAM was a very gripping book, but like some other people I was of two minds as to whether its ending fit the rest of the story. Sounds like that won't be a problem with ATONEMENT. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (14 of 32), Read 83 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, April 09, 2002 09:00 AM Oh, good, Dale! I was hoping you'd read it and I'm looking forward to hearing your reaction to it. I am becoming increasingly curious about 'Amsterdam.' Beej
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (15 of 32), Read 73 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, April 09, 2002 04:12 PM Oh boy. I just read the very first post here of Beej's and skipped down to say I am really excited to pickup this book! You've got me very curious...
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (16 of 32), Read 61 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Friday, April 12, 2002 09:18 AM I have tried more than once to read Enduring Love and failed -- I have pulled it off the shelf once more. We shall see. I picked up a copy of Amsterdam at De Slegte -- maybe I'll read it first and see if I'm inspired to try the other book once more afterwards. Over the weekend I'll try to find Atonement or get it ordered at Standaard Boekhandel. It would be nice to read this in sync with you folks since I miscalculated on the McCullers' books availability at the Bib and can't coordinate on that reading -- phooey. Of course I am impatiently awaiting the Crace discussion as well. Dottie The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience. Emily Dickinson
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (17 of 32), Read 51 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Merry Merry gailsinger_gross@hotmail.com Date: Saturday, April 20, 2002 09:34 AM hihi... ATONEMENT.. two thumbs up... i concur with you Beej ....some may have problems with the beginning and others like LEE will glide thru.... don't miss.. gail.. a passionate reader... IAN was on charlie rose the other day...did anyone have the opportunity of viewing this long interview???? go in peace not in pieces...
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (18 of 32), Read 47 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Monday, April 22, 2002 02:47 PM Wow! Thanks for putting me onto this one, Beej. True, the first 1/4 or so has a leisurely pace, but once the inevitable starts happening, it takes off like a house afire. What a masterful piece of writing. I'm at the halfway point, and am finding it hard to resist returning to McEwan's world while I grudgingly meet some work deadlines. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (19 of 32), Read 41 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Monday, April 22, 2002 06:25 PM Must report back -- I DID finish Enduring Love and simply ran through Amsterdam -- what a wild ending - heh. I'm now on the search for Atonement -- probably I'll have to hit Standaard but haven't made it there yet. Dottie "Your thorns are your best part." Marianne Moore
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (20 of 32), Read 38 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, April 23, 2002 08:26 AM Dale, I knew you'd like this one! I can't wait to hear your reaction when you've finished the book. I have a feeling that as you get just a little bit further in it, you're going to temporarily forget about those deadlines! Beej
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (21 of 32), Read 32 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, April 23, 2002 09:11 PM Wow, what a book! A real life-interrupter, if there ever was one. The opening of Atonement reminded me of Mansfield Park, with the plans to put on a play for the arriving man, in this case Leon. ************SPOILERS********************* Beej, I have gone back to your spoiler post and I found your comment so insightful. Briony does seem to live in a fantasy, and when she does grasp reality, she considers only how she will write the scene up. Powerful stuff. I kept thinking during the war sequence that Robbie can't die after all this can he? But at the end of that section his living seemed impossible. I was totally shocked, as was Briony, when he later walked out of Cecilia's bedroom. Somehow, it didn't seem believable. As it turns out, it wasn't. As an adolescent, Briony seemed to be overly jealous of her siblings. She was putting on the play to convince Leon that he must stay with her rather than go off with another woman. And she was so jealous of Cecilia & Robbie's relationship, she just had to do something to interfere. But later in life, all these sibling feelings seem to be gone, perhaps because she knows that she will not be loved that way, at least by Cecilia, again. ***************************************** Can one desire too much of a good thing? - W. Shakespeare MAP
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (22 of 32), Read 32 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, April 23, 2002 10:16 PM ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~SPOILER~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ MAP, That scene in Robbie and Cecilia's flat was interesting, considering it was all fiction. Briony authored a scene of penance, one that would never be a reality. Maybe that was her atonement. It's amusing to me that, even though she desperately wanted forgiveness from her sister, the story she wrote placed Cecilia in a pitiful apartment, and one step away from poverty. It makes me think part of her was still a little bit jealous of Cecilia and Robbie. Maybe, in Briony's heart, that fictionalized account was Cecilia's atonement for having Robbie's love. And don't you wonder who really tried to rape Lola, or if it really was an attempted rape, after all? Beej
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (23 of 32), Read 28 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Wednesday, April 24, 2002 11:19 AM Beej: As I'm nearing the end of this one, I totally agree with your earlier comment that the marathon scene of Robbie's trek toward Dunkirk is the most masterful depiction of the human scale and waste of war that I've read since CORELLI'S MANDOLIN. What a virtuoso piece of writing. What an emotional wringer of a book. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (24 of 32), Read 30 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Wednesday, April 24, 2002 12:09 PM This is worth reading; Mel Gussow is a great interviewer. http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/23/books/23MCEW.html pres I couldn't have liked it more.
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (25 of 32), Read 31 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Wednesday, April 24, 2002 12:12 PM Just 37 pages into this one -- picked it up at Standaard this morning. I have to say -- that I had an easier time starting this one than I did Enduring Love -- looking forward to a good one from what I gather here. Thanks, not only for this one but for Amsterdam which I also devoured due to this thread. Dottie "Your thorns are your best part." Marianne Moore
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (26 of 32), Read 32 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Wednesday, April 24, 2002 12:44 PM Pres: What a wonderful interview by Gussow! Thanks for posting the link to it. He puts his finger on one of the aspects of ATONEMENT that most blew me away, where technique is concerned: "a prismatic sense of time." During the brief scene when Briony discovers Lola on the island at night, there's a break in chronological time that occupies about a three-page authorial riff moving to the future and back that I thought was astonishingly done, though it breaks the "rules" of conventional narrative. I had to read it over several times to get a handle on the true beauty of his accomplishment. "Prismatic." Absolutely. I also love McEwan's quote, "Fiction is a random, associative business, just the white noise of daydreaming thought." *****SPOILER************* Did anybody but me get the idea that the "figure in the dark" on the island that night might have been Marshall? And that the event might have been, as with Robbie and Cecelia, consensual? Remember, just a few hours earlier, Marshall and Lola flirting over the candy bar? Seemed innocent enough at the time, but... >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (27 of 32), Read 33 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, April 24, 2002 01:37 PM Dale, in regard to your spoiler..Yes! I'm certain it was Marshall, and I think it might have been consensual. My only hesitation comes from the scene, prior to the one on the island, where Lola has bruises on her arms and Marshall has, if I remember correctly, scratches on his face. They blame it on a scrap with the twins, but I don't buy that. Maybe Marshall was simply continuing something, during the search for the twins, that he had started earlier. Pres, thanks for the link to the interview. I reacted to the ending of the book exactly the same way McEwan's wife reacted. It made me cry. Dottie, it'll be interesting to hear your take on this novel compared to your thoughts on 'Amsterdam,' since you just finished reading that one. I gather, from Gussow's interview with McEwan (see Pres' post) that 'Atonement' is unlike anything McEwan has previously written. Beej
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (28 of 32), Read 25 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Wednesday, April 24, 2002 02:22 PM Beej: Hmmm. I had forgotten about the bruises and scratches. They sure make a clear conclusion more problematic, don't they? Speaking of McEwan's other novels, his Booker Prize for AMSTERDAM reminds me of how fickle and political most any award can be. Though I haven't read ENDURING LOVE, when AMSTERDAM won the Booker I came across a very convincing argument by some columnist in the UK that the prize committee were idiots for not awarding ENDURING LOVE the previous prize, and thus were making amends for their slight in picking AMSTERDAM. I haven't read McEwan's competitors for the latest Booker, but on the strength of ATONEMENT I'm guessing the only reason it didn't get the prize was that he'd won one so recently. Which, if true, would mean that he'd won his sole Booker for the weakest of three strong books. Very ironic, and it has to be somewhat disheartening for him. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (29 of 32), Read 27 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, April 24, 2002 02:39 PM Dale, interesting thoughts on the politics of awards. The Booker is probably the award I trust the least. Too often I've read a book only because it's won the Booker, and I've come away shaking my head and very disappointed. Beej
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (30 of 32), Read 23 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Wednesday, April 24, 2002 06:04 PM I've zoomed past the spoily stuff on this thread just now, because I just came home with a copy of Attonement. Whatta deal - 30% off special at B&N, 10% Reader's Adv. card discount, 10% special discount mailer. I'm chortling with glee. I'm set to trot on this one. Ruth
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (31 of 32), Read 24 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Wednesday, April 24, 2002 08:16 PM Yay, Ruth! You got a great deal on ATONEMENT. I predict it will knock your socks off. When I think back on recent "life interrupters" and sock-knockers in the fiction realm, for me, there are five that immediately come to mind: --THE LEOPARD, Guiseppe Tomasi deLampedusa --BEING DEAD, Jim Crace --BLINDNESS, Jose Saramago --A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE, Nelson Algren --ATONEMENT, Ian McEwan I'm sure I'm forgetting one or more but, suffice it to say, I hold ATONEMENT in very high regard. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (32 of 32), Read 24 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, April 24, 2002 09:08 PM Boy, Ruth, you sure did get a deal! Dale, 'sock-knockers???' Hahaha!!! I think that would be a great new thread title! (Ruth and Dottie...you might want to shut your eyes. Here comes another spoiler!) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~SPOILER~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Now I wonder if Briony really went on to become a nurse. I wonder if she actually edited her manuscript according to the agent's suggestions, and what we thought were her nursing experiences were actually more figments of her imagination; her 'fantasy atonement,' so to speak. In other words, I wonder if what we read, up to the present time at the end of 'Atonement,' was her edited book. Beej
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (33 of 49), Read 42 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Thursday, April 25, 2002 05:51 PM While the idea of the play may remind one of Mansfield Park -- I found myself making comparisons between this opening section and Woolf's To the Lighthouse -- the brooding thinking and shifting viewpoints and the mother and the father and these children (who are not so much children for the most part). I absolutely know this is different thus far from both Enduring Love and from Amsterdam. I can barely put this down to tend to real life -- fortunately I had most of the day to stay buried in it. Racing right along here. Dottie "Your thorns are your best part." Marianne Moore
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (34 of 49), Read 39 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, April 25, 2002 08:42 PM **********More Spoilers******************* Heck, Beej. You've got me wondering now. I mean we know she made up the whole war sequence from her research in the library and Mr. Nettles' letters. I just assumed that she had actually been a nurse since her account of that profession was so realistic. Going into nursing was part of her atonement. But you really make me wonder... We've already mentioned the war scenes, but the nursing training and hospital scenes were also impeccably done. With all respect to Mr. Crace, McEwan is not an author who makes things up while he writes. With all the advances in medicine, it seems amazing that there's a nursing shortage now, compared to the 1940s. Of course, nursing was one of the only career options for women then, but coping with crabby patients is about the only similarity today. Can one desire too much of a good thing? - W. Shakespeare MAP
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (35 of 49), Read 42 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, April 25, 2002 09:38 PM Okay, here's what I think happened; Briony had written a letter to Cecilia in May of 1940. We learn several months had gone by and she hadn't received any answer to that letter. At the end of the book, we learn Robbie died in June of 1940. We learn Briony had gone to visit her sister but in actuality, could not bring herself to face the grieving Cecilia, so turned around and went back to the nursing school. (We also learn her first novel is written in 1940.) The rejection letter (page 294) from Horizon came right after Briony had nursed the young soldier with the horrendous head injury. I think it was later that night she had time to read this letter, which was full of advice on how to make her story more saleable. My best guess is that Briony knew Robbie was dead, knew her sister was grieving, knew it was her fault the lovers never had a chance to be together. She then becomes emotionally wrought over the young soldier she nurses. When he dies, and she reads that letter from Horizon, she follows their advice. In essence, I think Briony did go to nursing school, did nurse the soldiers who were brought in, but after the death of young Luc from Millau, went on to write her story, which McEwan titles 'Atonement.' Beej
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (36 of 49), Read 37 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, April 26, 2002 01:44 AM I am dutifully skipping the spoilers. Much seems to be made of that Tallis family fountain that's a copy of a Bernini Triton. Here's the original in Rome. Triton fountain Ruth
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (37 of 49), Read 27 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, April 26, 2002 08:26 PM That's beautiful, Ruth, but I really like the fountain on the cover even better. I think Atonement's cover is just beautiful..almost haunting. It suits the story perfectly. Dale, have you finished, yet? If so, how well did you think the ending fit in with the story? I loved how it sort of takes you full circle. Beej
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (38 of 49), Read 27 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Friday, April 26, 2002 08:36 PM No fountain on my copy -- heh -- the U.K. Vintage paperback has a young girl sitting on the steps of what appears to be the lower part of an estate lawn. Intended to be Briony perhaps? I am about halfway through the center section on Robbie's trek toward Dunkirk. Dottie "Your thorns are your best part." Marianne Moore
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (39 of 49), Read 29 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, April 26, 2002 08:57 PM I've just reached the fateful night the twins ran away. And hated to stop last night. I agree Beej, the cover is perfect. Except I couldn't figure out how Cecelia could have gone diving in that fountain. Ruth
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (40 of 49), Read 32 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, April 26, 2002 09:05 PM I wondered about that fountain, myself, Ruth. This is one of the best books I've read in a long, long time. I went back and read bits and pieces of it the other day, and saw even more in it than I had with the first reading. You're just about to hit the part where the book really takes off...hold on to your hat! Dottie, here is the cover to the American copy. bookcover Oh, and check out the statue of the little girl in the background..Perhaps Briony, frozen in the past? Beej
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (41 of 49), Read 30 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, April 26, 2002 09:10 PM Ruth, as you go on, tell me if you see a slight change in writing style, please....I did. And, I have a theory about that. Beej
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (42 of 49), Read 27 times, 1 File Attachment Conf: Constant Reader From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Saturday, April 27, 2002 12:33 PM Beej: Nope, I haven't finished yet. Just left Dunkirk and am with Briony at the hospital. I'm looking forward to finishing up this weekend. My library copy (large-print; only copy that wasn't checked out) was printed in the UK, and thus has the same cover as Dottie's. Eerie to me, how much this girl and this setting resembles my vision of Briony in the book. I'd like to know if it was a pre-existing stock photo, or was done specifically as illustration. UKbookcover >>Dale in Ala. BRIONY.JPG (24KB) Atonement
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (43 of 49), Read 26 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Saturday, April 27, 2002 12:51 PM Fits my idea of Briony, too. A kid with way too much imagination and time on her hands, methinks. But perhaps I shall be proved wrong. Ruth
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (44 of 49), Read 24 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Saturday, April 27, 2002 07:33 PM Oh, my gosh, it's exactly how I pictured her at that age! And, can't you just see those wheels turning in her brain, by the expression on her face? Beej
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (45 of 49), Read 24 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Sunday, April 28, 2002 03:04 AM Dale, Ruth, Beej -- thanks, Dale, I couldn't run my paperback thru my scanner and was wishing someone could somehow get this cover up here. I also feel it is a great fit with my mental image of the girl -- and I'll add, apropos of Beej's last comment -- I found myself thinking about my own childhood and younger days and the amount of time spent in my own mind and I have a further thought which I will hold until I finish the book sometime later today -- it's Sunday morning here already -- good morning! Dottie "Your thorns are your best part." Marianne Moore
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (46 of 49), Read 22 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Sunday, April 28, 2002 05:22 AM Well -- so much for self restraint -- I went for the immediate gratification instead and just polished off this marvelous book. I fully understand Beej's initial thought up there -- what a two by four! Further comment will have to wait however as I must put myself together for the day's outing here -- chilly, gray, rain but we are off to see how the blossemfest holds up. Dottie "Your thorns are your best part." Marianne Moore
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (47 of 49), Read 22 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Sherri Kendrick sheval@hotmail.com Date: Sunday, April 28, 2002 05:57 AM I gave up waiting for the library copy and bought it yesterday at Barnes & Noble. I rarely buy new hardcover books, but with the raves here I gave in. I think I like this cover better, with just the fountain. Sherri Not all who wander are lost - Tolkien
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (48 of 49), Read 15 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, April 28, 2002 11:51 AM Bleary-eyed and knowing I had a long day today, I stopped reading in bed just short of finishing this book last night. The Dunkirk scenes were horrifying and fascinating at the same time. Ruth
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (49 of 49), Read 13 times, 1 File Attachment Conf: Constant Reader From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Sunday, April 28, 2002 12:00 PM Sherri: Glad you're joining us on ATONEMENT! I don't think you'll regret buying this book. Beej writes of the cover photo, Can't you just see those wheels turning in her brain, by the expression on her face? Absolutely. Here's an enlarged detail that shows the expression better. There's a frightening intensity in that face, isn't there? detail >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (50 of 51), Read 14 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@hotmail.com Date: Sunday, April 28, 2002 02:52 PM About the fountain, I too couldn't figure out how Cecilia could have immersed herself so fully in the one depicted on the cover. But then with looking at Ruth's photo of the one in Rome, it would be rather hard to dip a vase in that one, much less climb into it. One has to assume that the copy would be a smaller version. Can one desire too much of a good thing? - W. Shakespeare MAP
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (51 of 51), Read 13 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, April 28, 2002 03:01 PM I think the book even mentioned it was a smaller version. Ruth
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (42 of 51), Read 29 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, April 28, 2002 04:23 PM And notice, there's not only the high bowl of water, but it's surrounded by a ground level large bowl. Not too hard to dip a vase there, or even to go skinny-dipping. Ruth
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (43 of 51), Read 17 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 01:22 PM I finished up the last few pages yesterday. This book has left me reeling. I think you're on the right track, Beej, when you say the first part is Briony's first attempt. I sensed an attempt to whitewash herself. I never bought that business about her thinking that our hero (drat, what was his name) was a sex-crazed maniac. It just didn't ring true. I found myself thinking that McEwan was too good a writer to be using this weak excuse for motivation. The book took on a different feel when we got to the Dunkirk section, but when reading it I took it to be because we were now in Stephen's (?) point of view rather than Briony's. But when we get to the last little bit of the book, I find myself wondering if even that is true. Briony could be fictionalizing even here. And perhaps that's the point of the book. Fiction is fiction is fiction - all spun out of the world as run through the writer. Ruth
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (44 of 51), Read 19 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 01:28 PM As for Lola and Marshall. I suspected him, right from the first scene in the nursery. But on finishing the book I don't know what to believe. Briony didn't like either Lola or Paul right from the gitgo. And by the end of the book she obviously liked them even less. (That business of sneaking into the wedding was really weird.) I wouldn't put it past her to still not tell the truth about them. It certainly would explain why Lola would marry her "rapist" if he wasn't a rapist at all. Ruth
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (45 of 51), Read 19 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 01:45 PM Ruth: When I got to the part about Briony's crush on Robbie a year or so (?) before that fateful night, it made a lot of puzzle pieces snap together in my head. Jealousy is an enormously powerful substance; mix it with Briony's over-active imagination and I can better understand how she might convince herself, at the moment, she was "doing the right thing" even though the facts may not have been 100 percent in line. One thing that fiction this good shows me is that we tend to underestimate our own amazing capacity for self-deception, particularly at crucial junctures in our lives. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (46 of 51), Read 19 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 02:17 PM Absolutely, Dale. The crush popped right into place for me, too. Ruth
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (47 of 51), Read 14 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 03:38 PM I do think that jealousy and possessiveness played a big part in Briony's actions. But these strong emotions seemed to be secondary to the realities she was weaving in her writing. Seeing things from a truthful perspective was never part of Briony's bag of tricks. Briony always seemed to be consumed with how she would write up her experiences. When she saw the fountain incident, she didn't understand it, but she knew she was going to write about it from 3 points of view. When she told the lie that got Robbie into trouble, she really didn't seem to care about the lie's impact. Even then, she was creating fiction. Is McEwan saying something about writers here? Experience is by industry achieved, and perfected by the swift course of time. - W. Shakespeare MAP
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (48 of 51), Read 12 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 04:14 PM I think he is. Everything is grist for the mill. But I don't think all writers are as heartless as Briony, as oblivious to the consequences. Ruth
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (49 of 51), Read 17 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 05:23 PM Somehow her lie about Robbie is tied in with that little "Save me! I'm drowning!" episode that happened earlier. She wanted Robbie to prove he would die to save her, and I think she was trying to make him prove he would die emotionally for her, too. Basically, when she read that note, she was pissed enough to do anything. I'm having a real hard time believing that she thought Robbie was forcing himself on her sister in that library. Beej
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (50 of 51), Read 16 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 05:42 PM I was sure that "sex-crazed maniac" bit was a crock right from the gitgo. Ruth
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (51 of 51), Read 11 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Lee Beech lee.beech@sympatico.ca Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 08:59 PM I have loved all of Ian McEwan's novels, and I love his quirky and unusual characters. I think the ones I most loved (maybe I am warped?) were those in Amsterdam. I do think that this is an author who takes the dark side, the malevolent characteristics, and exploits them to the ultimate degree in his writings, and brilliantly. This is an author who means character development to me, and the plots, as in Shakespeare's, arise from the foibles of the participants. I am one of those readers who hopes there will not be pictures, such as the one on the cover of my copy, because then my mental image is taken over. I like the picture of the child, but I just wish it weren't on my copy! I think I saw her in a different way -- perhaps a mirror?
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (52 of 52), Read 0 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Tonya Presley t-pr@attbi.com Date: Tuesday, April 30, 2002 10:29 AM It's enough to make me nuts, that I'm 100 or so pages from finishing this novel (and resisting the urge to read the notes), when the discussion is obviously going very well. Ah me. Tonya
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (48 of 52), Read 32 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Tuesday, April 30, 2002 01:52 PM And it's making ME nuts that the book is sitting over there in a pile, and I want to read it, but somehow I've got myself into two in-person book groups, plus CR and CC and I still have a couple hundred pages of Moby to go. Tonya, I'm hoping you're keeping all these notes archived nice and neat. Sherry
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (49 of 52), Read 30 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Tonya Presley t-pr@attbi.com Date: Wednesday, May 01, 2002 09:41 AM Not to worry, the archive is already there. I knew I'd be behind, just didn't know how blasted far behind! Tonya
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (50 of 52), Read 35 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Wednesday, May 01, 2002 11:05 AM Did anyone else have trouble relating to the references to these "children" in the earlier part of the book? Though Briony at thirteen would in that era be considered a child more so than a girl that age now would be -- the others were older were they not? And Lola was nearly 16 at the time of the events on the day of Leon's homecoming -- I question whether or not she might have been considered more than a child even in the mid to late 30's. Yet still with a girl of thirteen being considered a child at that time, adolescence plays such a high role in what this particular "child" did and didn't do. and a confession of love to Robbie at ten leads one to think it was not so much a child worship as a puppy love and that it's rebuff held greater significance than apparent to those looking on from outside might they have even known -- which I doubt anyone did other than Briony and Robbie. More later -- short attention span here! dottie "Your thorns are your best part." Marianne Moore
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (51 of 52), Read 27 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Wednesday, May 01, 2002 11:52 AM Dottie: The "children" references didn't bother me at all, but then I'm probably not a fair judge. In my family, anyone's offspring remain "the kids" until the day they die. I long ago gave up chastising my mom for referring to my brother and me as "the boys"--boys who are now in their 50s. Ah, well. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (52 of 52), Read 25 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Wednesday, May 01, 2002 12:10 PM Yes, Dale, I understand that aspect of the concept of children and my sister and I are also still "girls" to our mother but in the terminology of sociological study and thinking there are shifts and I know that at times it "tells" on literature. Mc Ewan's use of it seemed appropriate -- in terms of the sociological labeling and the cultural setting -- differences arise from culture to culture I am certain as to what ages are "children" and for how long. Dottie "Your thorns are your best part." Marianne Moore
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (43 of 48), Read 34 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, May 09, 2002 10:01 PM There's something niggling in the back of my mind about that play Briony wrote when she was thirteen, the story of Arabella. It says, on the first page, 'At some moments chilling, at others desperately sad, the play told a tale of the heart whose message..was that love which did not build a foundation on good sense was doomed.' She wrote this play as a means to guide her brother away from his succession of erstwhile young women and toward the proper sort of wife; a wife who would, in turn, guide the brother to permanently live near Briony. The story was written in order to manipulate. Doesn't Arabella's story seem quite similar to Cecilia's? Could Briony have created her fantasies as a way of actually performing Arabella's story, but with different characters? Did Briony cast Cecilia in the role of Arabella, again, in order to manipulate? Was this child so emotionally challenged that she could no longer differentiate between fantasy and reality? Beej
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (44 of 48), Read 31 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Lee Beech lee.beech@sympatico.ca Date: Friday, May 10, 2002 08:07 AM I felt that McEwan put this portion into the novel in order to foreshadow later events.
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (45 of 48), Read 32 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, May 10, 2002 08:22 AM I think you're right. Lee. The play 'Arabella' was almost an outline for what happened to Cecilia, but with a happy ending. But, isn't it interesting, that when Briony wrote that fantasy ending of Cecilia's life, she included Robbie, instead of creating a new love for her sister? Arabella, after her illness, had met a man who turned out to be a prince. This was such an awesome book, that I now wonder how long it will take Hollywood to turn out the movie version...and totally ruin it, as they did 'Corelli's Mandolin.' Beej
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (46 of 48), Read 34 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, May 10, 2002 08:26 AM We haven't even touched on Briony's parents. Minor characters, they still packed a strong punch, and I can see how each contributed to Briony's overwhelming tendencies to fantasize and manipulate, especially the mother, with her constant migraines. Beej
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (47 of 48), Read 23 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Tuesday, May 14, 2002 07:06 AM I finished this compelling book (it kept compelling me to read it) day before yesterday, but I had to re-read the 1999 chapter yesterday. I had read it so fast, I missed half of the clues. First off, I didn't know who the narrator was. When I read there were letters from Mr. Nettle, I thought Robbie was the "I". But that changed when there was a reference to "old biddy". Then as soon as there was talk of writing I knew it was Briony. I wanted so much for Cecilia and Robbie to be at the party that I almost made myself believe that the "book" wasn't the one Briony wrote, and that the reference to Robbie and Cecilia's deaths was only a supposition. I suppose I was in a heightened state of denial, but since the whole book was really by McEwan, I figured I could believe anything I wanted. But then, I re-read "1999" and finally realized what McEwan wanted us to believe about the book. Whew. Why do you think McEwan has Briony have that brain malfunction? To have her give up control? To have something to write about to keep us in suspense? All this talk about "what really happened" reminds me somewhat of a totally different kind of book -- In the Lake of the Woods, and how O'Brien made us stop to think about how an author controls things and how important "what really happens" seems, when all that really happens is that the author told a story, and the readers got really really sucked in. Sherry
Topic: Atonement - Ian McEwan (48 of 48), Read 25 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Lee Beech lee.beech@sympatico.ca Date: Tuesday, May 14, 2002 07:38 AM I loved it when an author "sucks me in", as did McEwan in Atonement. "What really happened" is what the author made happen, and if I can accept it as reality, instead of constantly questioning whether this is really feasible, then the author has captured me. I wonder what McEwan meant by the events which he created, but for me, they are real because he made them so.
From: Mary Ellen Burns smeburns@yahoo.com Date: Monday, April 28, 2003 12:40 PM There are so many possible permutations of "what happened to Lola?"! I suspected that she'd exchanged the before-dinner scrapes with Marshall, not her brothers, all along, and figured Marshall as the rapist. Now I'm thinking, thanks to Dean, that it might not have been rape, except in the statutory sense. After all, when Briony interrupted Celia & Robbie in the library, she interpreted what she saw as Robbie attacking Celia. (Why nobody else figured out what it was when shge later re-enacted what she saw for the cops is another puzzle.) As to why the parents took Briony's word over everyone else: we hear later on that it was the mother (forgot her name: Emily?) who was most enthusiastic about Robbie's prosecution. I thought perhaps she reacted this way because she'd objected to her husband's sponsoring Robbie's education (encouraging the boy to get "above himself") and these would be magnified by Robbie & Celia's relationship. And I figure her bitterness over her advice being ignored in that area, was compounded by her husband's affair (or affairs?). The peculiar form of her revenge against her husband reminded me of Enid at the end of "The Corrections," visiting her husband in the nursing home and letting him know, over and over, how wrong he was about so many things in their marriage. "Hell hath no fury..." and all that. Mary Ellen
From: Steve Warbasse s.warbasse@worldnet.att.net Date: Monday, April 28, 2003 02:14 PM Yes, Mary Ellen, young Briony's story fit very well into mother Emily's purposes. Dean, I love hanging out with people who use words like "topology." Although my attitude toward Briony did evolve past that which I described in my earlier note, I still believe that a major theme of this book is the downside of creativity when it is malicious. Young Briony is totally enamored of the power she derives from her writing. That combined with her uncertainty as to whether other people are as alive as she is made for a nasty mix. This novel has a strange sexual charge to it. This business between Lola and Paul Marshall is bizarre. However, I do not think it need be regarded as either totally consensual or totally non-consensual. It makes the most sense to me as half and half--starting off as non-consensual and ending as consensual. That conclusion makes the whole thing even more unsettling for me though, probably because with a girl of thirteen, the issue of consent is beside the point. Robbie and Cecilia are a bit of a trip, too. I thought Robbie's note that he mistakenly sent was a bit forward in comparison to the usual initial declaration of affection. In certainly was successful though--so successful that it was a bit startling to me. I was prepared for every reaction from her except the one he got. It must have been a bit startling to Robbie, too, although we're not given any insight into that. Steve
From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Monday, April 28, 2003 02:58 PM Steve, I think Lola was 15 or 16 at the time of the rape. Briony was 12 or 13. Or maybe I'm wrong. I know that Lola was older than Briony, for sure, though how much older I can't say. For some reason, those couple of years do make a difference in my thinking. I really wonder if McEwan was constantly aware that the "book" was in Briony's voice and wrote accordingly. I suspect he did. Do any of you think a book such as this is any "atonement" at all for such a false accusation? Sherry
From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Monday, April 28, 2003 03:02 PM Steve -- Briony was the 13 year old -- Lola was 15 -- nearly 16, I believe and I also think she had misled Paul Marshall as to her age -- leading him to believe she was older -- or at least leading him to think she was more sexually experienced than she was. But you are right about the charged atmosphere within this story. There were a lot of sexual stories floating under the surface within this family if memory serves. Dottie Be ahead of all parting, as though it already were/ behind you, like the winter that has just gone by./For among these winters there is one so endlessly winter/ that only by wintering through it all will your heart survive. 'The Sonnets to Orpheus: XIII', Rilke
From: Steve Warbasse s.warbasse@worldnet.att.net Date: Monday, April 28, 2003 06:40 PM I stand corrected, ladies. Of course you are right. Also, the breaking of that vase was most certainly a harbinger of bad things to come. Even those of us who are least sensitive to symbolism had to see that. Anytime a vase is broken in literature--or the arts generally for that matter--nothing good will come of it. Steve
From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Monday, April 28, 2003 10:41 PM Thanks for the bon mot, Steve. The more I think about this story the more I see how deeply I was brought into the mind of Briony the girl, the woman, the writer. I felt very close to her thoughts, hopes, desires and regrets perhaps more so than if I had read a more standard narrative form. McEwan does not tell of Briony's experiences; we experience them first hand. As one reads this story, one is Briony as she remembers the details of her childhood and the story she wrote about a certain incident. The reader is in a writer's mind experiencing the interplay between reality and fiction. We just don't know it until the end but to have been warned ahead of time would have destroyed the intimacy. Steve, you asked if Briony after all found atonement. I was very moved by her equanimity in the face of oblivion and feel sure that she had found it and maybe she is the only one who can answer. All roads lead to roam. Dean
From: Mary Ellen Burns smeburns@yahoo.com Date: Tuesday, April 29, 2003 01:12 PM Steve, I agree that McEwan wants us to think about the dark side of the power of storytelling. Robbie was undone, not just by Briony's storytelling, but by his own, in a way--the delivery of the "wrong" note being the catalyst that set Briony's imagination spinning. I recall that in the first part of the book, the section that discussed Briony's move from fairy tale to melodrama & beyond informed us that Briony the adult was known for the amoral quality of her novels. Did you find McEwan to be conveying judgments about the actions of his characters? I thought so; my sympathy was wholly with Celia and Robbie; I found Paul Marshall & Emily despicable, and put Lola and Briony somewhere in-between. But are those McEwan's judgments, or just my own? Mary Ellen
From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Tuesday, April 29, 2003 08:24 PM Mary Ellen, My sympathy was totally with Celia and Robbie too, but not until after Robbie was charged and the narrative switched to wartime France. Before the "crime," I didn't find either of them particularly likable. Significantly, the parts I liked best were the sections Briony "made up." I did really enjoy a lot of the author's insights into the mind of a young girl, in particular Briony's realization that "other people are as real as you." I remember the shock of that conclusion myself, although I was considerably younger than Briony when it hit me that everyone was the center of his or her own little world and, consequently, I was not in the least at the center of things. It was certainly a very humbling and frightening discovery. Does anyone else remember suddenly understanding that? Ann
From: Mary Ellen Burns smeburns@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, April 30, 2003 12:51 PM Ann, I also did not find Celia particularly agreeable until she was defending Robbie. I found the section Briony "made up" (how amazing that McEwan brings us to accept this convention, given that he made it all up!), particularly when all 3 were together, a bit stilted and stiff. This makes perfect sense since they never were all 3 together in that way. Mary Ellen
From: Steve Warbasse s.warbasse@worldnet.att.net Date: Monday, May 05, 2003 01:16 PM Sorry to be a bit slow in responding, folks. Been out of town. Anybody wish to discuss a bit further this late in the game? The following is not written to carp about the book. I found this writing to be very skillful to say the least. Very enjoyable to read. With that disclaimer. . . . Paul and Lola do not have any real dimension as characters from my point of view. They are cut out, set piece villains. I must say that I found Robbie and Celia to be fairly one-dimensional, too. Even during the Dunkirk phase, Robbie did not gain much depth as a character. He was a sort of view master through which we saw that debacle. Robbie is of course a handsome chap. Why must this be? Why couldn't Robbie be a short, prematurely balding guy with a tummy? A real person in other words. Similarly, if when Celia disrobed to take a dip in the fountain, had we learned that . . . .oh, you get the idea. The one character with true depth is Briony, of course. I don't know what all this says about story telling, but it must say something. Steve
From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, May 05, 2003 10:23 PM Maybe it's saying that McEwan is a better writer than Briony. (don't we only know about Paul and Lola and Robbie and Celia from what Briony wrote?) I always felt the fairly sophomoric aspects of this book were intentionally written that way in order to contrast the fictional author's writing against the real author's. Beej
From: Steve Warbasse s.warbasse@worldnet.att.net Date: Tuesday, May 06, 2003 02:54 PM Well now, Beej, that did not occur to me, but you're probably right now that I think about it. Wheels within wheels, as the Good Book would have it. (Ezekiel.) Steve
From: R Bavetta Date: Tuesday, May 06, 2003 02:58 PM Why Steve, I'd no idea you could cite chapter and verse. R
From: Sara Sauers stsauers@att.net Date: Sunday, May 11, 2003 09:17 PM Beej and Steve, with regard to your discussion of depth of character: what about all the fine glimpses we get from McEwan about how these characters think. Don't they count for depth? Think of the lovely description of Celia trying to choose a dress to change into for dinner, of Robbie trying to write a love letter and of his shrewdness at finding places to sleep and ways to eat for himself and his fellow soldiers, and of Emily's insight into the dynamics of her entire household as she pulls out of her migraine haze. I guess I found some fair depth here, though I could agree as far as Paul and Lola are concerned. It occurred to me as I wrote the above that we could be talking about two different things: depth of true character and depth of description about a shallow character. Sara
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (65 of 70), Read 16 times Conf: Reading List From: Sara Sauers stsauers@att.net Date: Sunday, May 11, 2003 09:31 PM I meant to comment on the possibility of Robbie as "a short, prematurely balding guy with a tummy." There is simply NO WAY Briony would go for that. What girl ever writes herself into something where the guy isn't handsome? Sara
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (66 of 70), Read 15 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Sunday, May 11, 2003 09:45 PM Sara, to be honest, I read this book when it was first released in the USA, more than a year ago, and didn't do a re-read. I can't really remember whether or not there's a serious lack of character development, but what I do remember is realizing that certain sections were not as well written as other sections. We later learn those sections were, in fact, Briony's book. I just think McEwan purposely made Briony's writing inferior to his own. (this is really confusing, I know, since McEwan wrote it all..oh well..) As for your question, 'What girl ever writes herself into something where the guy isn't handsome?' Yep, I agree; Do we know, really, if Robbie is handsome? We don't know what's true and what isn't. Do we even know which ending is real? Beej
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (67 of 70), Read 15 times Conf: Reading List From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Sunday, May 11, 2003 09:51 PM Or when a girl is in love with a guy or with the idea of love -- what guy isn't handsome, Sara? Briony was -- "that" age, after-all, when all of the main issue on which this book is based unfolded. And whatever it was to be a girl of that age -- and the others at whatever stages as well -- had been and would be colored by the war and times preceding the event. I felt it was beautifully delineated -- the effect of the simply human stages and behaviors as affected by the time and the accidents of place and observation -- all of which led to what it led. The regret and the writing based upon it -- early and late -- are all the product of Mc Ewan and in this book he caught me and held me and I bought the story as he wrote it and then saw where he had taken me. Which is why Atonement was my first favorite of his and probably the reason I kept reading him. Dottie Be ahead of all parting, as though it already were/ behind you, like the winter that has just gone by./For among these winters there is one so endlessly winter/ that only by wintering through it all will your heart survive. 'The Sonnets to Orpheus: XIII', Rilke
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (68 of 70), Read 14 times Conf: Reading List From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Sunday, May 11, 2003 09:54 PM I'm with you Beej on the last post there -- and to expand on the question do we even know which ending is true? I would say no and I would ask -- at the end of this book did we (I) care truly care to know which ending was true? I don't think I do -- that was the beauty of Mc Ewan's writing here. Dottie -- who also would remind all of you she didn't re read this one but is flying from memory here Be ahead of all parting, as though it already were/ behind you, like the winter that has just gone by./For among these winters there is one so endlessly winter/ that only by wintering through it all will your heart survive. 'The Sonnets to Orpheus: XIII', Rilke
Topic: Atonement by Ian McEwan (69 of 70), Read 13 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Monday, May 12, 2003 07:37 AM I just finished listening to this on audiotape, this being the second "read." Beej, Briony actually wrote all the book (and McEwan, too, of course) because the last section, "BT-1999" was told in first person. So all the words there are attributed to her as well. It sounds like a sort of diary entry or letter to the editor to the book that will be published after her death. I found no real differences in the styles of writing between the bulk of the book and the epilogue. I like Sara's comment about the character development of shallow characters. He didn't dwell on Paul Marshall or Lola much, but we sure got an idea of who they were. Dottie, I'm sure the last chapter is the real ending, because, as I said earlier, that sounded like a letter Briony was writing about her writing of the book. But the book itself stands alone, as far as I can tell, since all books have an author, and all authors who write fiction change things. McEwan just made his book more interesting by having one of his characters write it. Sherry
From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, May 12, 2003 08:34 AM Thanks Sherry. I had forgotten the ending was written by Briony, too, tho I'm not sure that validates it as totally true. It seems to me Briony lied to herself regularly, and then believed her own lies. I really do think there are two distinct writing styles in this book, tho. But not having read the book recently, I can't quote examples. Beej
From: Sara Sauers stsauers@att.net Date: Monday, May 12, 2003 10:56 PM Well, I don't know Sherry, the first section of ATONEMENT develops so richly, with so much detail, and the London, 1999 section is basically an executive summary -- 50-odd years in just a few pages. I'd have to argue that there's a style change. Perhaps it's intentional -- another way to show the development/aging of Briony and her mind and writing?? Is she cutting to the chase with her remaining time?? Perhaps there's less time for the imagination. Sara
From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Tuesday, May 13, 2003 07:42 AM I'm sure you're right, Sara and Beej. It is more perfunctory and less descriptive. But it still sounds like Briony in a different mode. Maybe that's what I mean, it doesn't sound like McEwan is writing from a different whole perspective, except maybe time. To me, there sounds like a bit of a switch in styles between the house-party section and the war section. But that could be that the subject matter is so very different. I listened to the part about Briony and the young French soldier who was dying while I was driving. It's hard to drive and cry at the same time. Sherry
From: Mary Ellen Burns smeburns@yahoo.com Date: Tuesday, May 13, 2003 04:42 PM Gosh, I cared a lot which ending was "real"! I was really crushed to read that Robbie died in France (though all those references to his oozing wound should have kept septicemia from shocking me) and that Celia died in London, and that they never had even a brief reunion. My caring about the characters was, for me, a measure of McEwan's success. I concluded that Briony-the-novelist gave her novel a happier ending than real life (and herself the chance to "atone"). And that the final section was something of a memo or a diary and not meant, by Briony, to be published, and for that reason, not as well written. (The thing that moved me the most in that final section was how moved the surviving twin--forgot his name--was by the production of Briony's play. A nice touch to let us know that whatever the "truth" of what Briony saw and knew, the events of those few days had a very different "truth" for the little boy-now-old man.) Mary Ellen

 

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