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A book review by Steven Wu
November 05, 2005
|Rating: 9 (of 10)|
What McEwan does here, in the twilight pages of the novel, is frankly something of a literary parlor trick. But it is a tremendously effective one, seeming at once both shocking and inevitable. Others have attested to McEwan's psychological insight. What makes Atonement so good, however, is not so much his insight into his characters as his insight into the reader: in particular, our devotion to hope, and our peculiar dedication to the perfect justice of fictional worlds.
Atonement is not flawless: despite some excruciatingly vivid passages in a hospital, and a splendidly described reunion that becomes dramatically necessary after Part One, too much of the book seems aimless, almost padded. Also, past the throes of my initial infatuation, the ending may lack something in substance, glossing over the really difficult task of atonement (though perhaps that's the point). Still, Atonement reaches moments of emotional intensity too rare in modern fiction. For those gifts I can easily forgive it its occasional weaknesses.
Steven Wu's Book Reviews