Sunday, September 1, 2013


I finished Ian McEwan's novel Atonement yesterday morning over coffee, and thanks to friends, was able to watch the movie last night for a fun comparison!
Let me start by saying that I've enjoyed McEwan's writing in the past- I'm thinking of Saturday in particular- and he has a particular style that one must be in the mood to enjoy.  His prose is very dense, wordy, and ultimately descriptive.  For example, over half of the book in this case- 174 pages- covered the events of a single day from various perspectives, with very little dialogue.  Saturday was the same way, though the entire book covered a one-day period in that novel.  I remember really enjoying the intricacies of McEwan's descriptions in Saturday, but for Atonement, it felt like it was getting long-winded.  I hate to say it, but I found myself losing interest, putting the book down, and having to convince myself to pick it up again to finish the darn thing.
Don't get me wrong- McEwan is a fantastic writer, and if his style sounds like your bread and butter, then definitely put Atonement on your to-read list.  Perhaps it was the hot summer days that affected me so much, turning my brain to gush that could only thoroughly enjoy "fluff" fiction like Game of Thrones or young adult novels.  Perhaps I had tried to read Atonement too many times in the past, and just had a mental block against reading it.  Personally, I think Atonement is better suited to reading in the depths of winter, where the heavy subject matter can be properly digested with the weight of cold, dark evenings.  
Great book- just not the right time or place for me to read it.
The movie did a fantastic job of taking all of McEwan's descriptions and inner monologues and turning them into a great visual while upholding McEwan's aversion to dialogue.  To be fair, the performances by the actors was rather fantastic, especially the young lady playing a naive Briony Tallis.  A novel-to-screen adaptation such as this would have failed miserably if the acting talent was anything but amazing.  This was one of the first times I've watched Kiera Knightley and truly appreciated her acting chops.  She was perfectly cast as Cecelia.  James McAvoy was also great as Robbie, seeming both strong and exceedingly vulnerable at the same time. 
One thing for me that really was incredible for the movie was the score.  I'm a sucker for scores that feature piano solos, so this score was right away up my alley.  What pushed it above and beyond was the inclusion of typewriter sounds as the percussion.  Given the nature of the story, it was a perfect addition without sounding gimmicky.  The movie was nominated for 7 Academy Awards, but only won the statue for the score (to be fair, that's the year of No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, and La Vie En Rose, to name a few).  
I did enjoy going straight from finishing the book to checking out the movie.  I may have to do that again as I keep blasting through my pile of books for the year. :)


SteveQ said...

I'm never really sure how I feel about McEwan's novels, though Atonement was one of the best. I've been telling people to read John Banville's "The Sea" - if you're going to be a writer, you should be able to write like that... but don't.

Katie said...

Hahaha... I'll put it on my to-read list! I'm trying to transition from summer fluff to books with a little more "meat" during the school year, but McEwan was not the right choice.

Mark said...

"Fluff" fiction also becomes movies, & I can't wait to see 'Game of Thrones' hit the cinema, & hear your thoughts on that comparison. Will you re-read the Hobbit before we get to see part 2 of 3? Or is that also "fluff" fiction? I'd call it legendary. Thrones could have that potential (you got me hooked badly).