*****SPOILERS FOR ATONEMENT BY IAN MCEWAN*****
One of my favourite things about reading is how different everyone’s tastes are, and how passionately people will defend those tastes. This is one of the reasons I personally find IRL book clubs frustrating, though great fun, in that I cannot rip apart someone’s favourite book to their face without feeling massively embarrassed, stressed out and guilt-laden afterward. On the Internet I’ve got a safety wall of glass and a delete button, but I know from experience that telling someone you hate the book that made them weep for ten days straight and change their life for the better, especially if you seem to have reading tastes in common, sucks.
Which is why I’ve been so nervous about reviewing Atonement, the book that for the last two weeks has been my Everest. My horrible, confusing, endless Everest, with happy smiling Sherpas skipping along beside me telling me how much they love the trudging through the thick slush and debris, that the snow-blindless just shows I’m not trying hard enough, before we all jump off the top together in a massive Red Bull sponsored exhale of emotion and fatigue, for some reason ending up in war-torn France.
It’s very hard to review a book that has received so much praise when you yourself see little merit in it. One one hand, it’s my brain, and my blog, and I have freedom of speech and can write what I damn well choose, on the other, it was nominated for a Booker and made AT LEAST twenty people cry (judging from the responses I got on Twitter…).
But then, I got a whole other loads of responses from the other side. People who also couldn’t get on with the book. Who also found the first part, which is less than 250 pages long and took me, who read Moon Tiger in four hours whilst tweeting along, ten days to finish, endless, over written and seriously off-putting. And I get that that’s the point (I think, that might be wrong, am I wrong?), that it’s a draft of a book she’s writing and that the over-writteness is part of it but HE DIDN’T MAKE THAT POINT UNTIL THE END. YOU SPEND TWO HUNDRED PAGES WRITING IN A STYLE TO MAKE A POINT ABOUT WRITING IN A STYLE BUT DON’T MAKE THAT POINT UNTIL ANOTHER TWO HUNDRED PAGES HAVE GONE BY WHAT ARE YOU JESUS?
Also, people who are crying, why are you crying? Because of the love story and how they didn’t actually get to be together? Or because a fifteen year old girl is raped by a man who never pays for his crime and instead is rewarded by marriage to his victim and a lordship, I’m sorry that bit stuck in my throat. You’ve got an elderly woman feeling massive guilt about sending an innocent man to prison and eventually to his death, ruining her sister’s life in the process, but she never actually confronts the actual rapist. And yet seems to feel less guilt, more shame, about that and doesn’t come out with it because she doesn’t want to get sued???????
The bit in the war I actually enjoyed reading, and I ploughed through Briony-as-nurse, but Pat Barker does all this so much better (if you haven’t read the Regeneration trilogy you MUST do so). I thought the book very very clever, I have no idea how they’ve done the film version with Cecilia as the main character with the focus on the love story, though the bit in the library was definitely the best bit for me, though mostly as they were in a library….
In fact that’s what annoyed me so much about the first half, I couldn’t skim it because there were so many little tiny points of loveliness and the way the language was used I felt that to skim or speed would be in some way illustrating my Massive Thickieness, as I’d have missed something massive that everyone would mention when discussing this book IRL (even worse than discussing on Twitter, you can’t tab to Google in your head).
I suppose I have to give this book some credit in that it did make me think and it did make me want to write about it, the only thing I can compare this feeling to is my massive Ayn Rand fixation from a few years back when I blogged along to reading The Fountainhead, which was probably the most painful blog challenge I’ve ever done. But unlike The Fountainhead, I wouldn’t recommend this book, I’m not keeping it on my shelves and I straight away want to read something lovely/watch seven series of Waking The Dead on YouTube whilst cross-stitching rude book marks.
I’m sorry if you properly loved Atonement and am really angry with me for not. If it helps, I’ve done this with so many books in the past and it has been concluded that I Have No Soul. Plus I really like some shockers, so what do I know, right? 🙂