Yesterday, having talked about the creativity of memory, and also the question of guilt, I said I’d review Ian McEwen’s “Atonement.” Then I remembered I had already done so on So today’s entry is easy. All I have to do is copy what I wrote there.

Since mine is one of 1115 reviews, I doubt it’s been of much influence. But here it is for you as I promised, with special emphasis on the trouble created by the creative imagination of a bright teenage girl. I hope you won’t read this entry to suggest that we outgrow our ability to construct inaccurate memories as we grow older. Just think of a recent conversation you’ve had with someone who was at the same event as you and insists you’re not remembering accurately. So who’s right?

Now here’s what I wrote.

“Many reviews have preceded mine, together providing a good outline of the story. So I’ll choose to focus on my reaction to the major theme,

But first, I find I disagree with at least one other reviewer who found the beginning to be gripping. For me, it felt like the beginning of a Russian novel where I was provided with too many names without sufficient context to really grasp their roles. No doubt that reflects more about me than the work itself. I kept reading, though, because my daughter had recommended it, and I found myself richly rewarded.

As the title suggests, the theme is a life of atonement for a catastrophic offense for which 13-year old Briony is responsible. Naïve, appropriately ego-centric for her age, she allows her unusually creative imagination to construe witnessed events she doesn’t have the sophistication to understand into a dramatic and coherent story that ultimately sends once beloved, almost-family-member, Robbie to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. In fact, I suspect no crime occurred. Given the character of her cousin Lola, I believe her capable of manipulating Briony into covering up for the inappropriate consensual encounter in which she was really involved.

The author does an amazing job of entering and revealing the complex character of a bright young teenage girl. In fact – true confession – I assumed the author was a woman until I reached the end of the book. The other characters are not so richly developed, with the exception, perhaps, of Robbie who manages ultimately to create a productive and satisfying life, aided by the love of Briony’s sister Cecilia and the atoning act of Briony herself.

I can’t resist expressing some anger with the offense committed by the police, and the rest of the family, who were quick to allow their social class bias to convict Robbie with insufficient evidence. I leave it to you to decide whether there was sufficient atonement on their part.

Yes, I do recommend this novel as a powerful read. And now that I’m smarter about the author, I’ll commit myself to follow through on his other works.”

Posted September 26, 2015 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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12 responses to “MEMORY AND ATONEMENT

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  1. Good to hear from you again, friend, and to know you’re on the mend.

    xx Mary

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Our neighbor has a pomegranate tree in her front yard. This year it gave a huge harvest. She gave us all of the split ones. I have picked all the seeds out. I want to make something by cooking them, condensing liquid and using the juices to baste meats. That’s good?

    • Sounds delicious. By the way, the source of the pomegranate thing in the title is a quote from page 50 of the book, “Love changes over time. I guess you could say at first it is like feasting on figs and pomegranates and special cheeses, and later it is like enjoying the evening potage. The thrill may not be so great later on, but each day it fills the empty hole that would be hunger if you did not have each other.” Dara’s mother says that as they are preparing for her marriage to Job.

  3. love your last line, Mona. very Monaish:)

  4. You’ve peaked my curiosity.
  5. Hi Mona, Good to read you review on important themes of justice, injustice, healing/not healing, indefinite culpability, guilt and innocence, and a professional psychologist’s take on the story. Thanks for sharing. Hope you’ moving forward on the mend!

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