“And she did not miss his presence so much as his voice on the phone. Even being lied to constantly, though hardly like love, was sustained attention; he must care about her to fabricate so elaborately and over such a long stretch of time. His deceit was a form of tribute to the importance of their marriage.”
If you have experience with this story at all, it’s likely through the movie, which is excellent. I usually hate McEwan as a writer, but in this novel he gets the tone and the emotions very right. It’s perhaps not a new story, but it’s one that’s not told as often. We so often are told the lie that love conquers all, but despite a great deal of devotion to one another, Robbie and Cecilia struggle constantly – with each other, with the taint on Robbie’s past (a true past? a false one?), with the shame their situation brings. Throw all that in with the events of World War II, and you have a tragic and volatile pot of emotions. If you can stand the unrelenting beating these two take at the hands of life, it’s a beautiful novel, and a very well-written one.