The Book(s) of Love No. 12: Atonement by Ian McEwan


“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.


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