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Thursday, February 03, 2005


I’ll thank the portly middle-aged gent who graciously acceded to my spotting this book first ( Ed—Most genteel shoulder-push seen for some time ). I am yet to pick up a dud this season and that must be some sort of record.

A languorous, compelling and enchanting story, and far better than “Amsterdam” ever was. Inexplicable freakish events snowball to momentous phases of life, with the characters drawing breath gradually.

The first section begins with a surly thirteen year old, Briony in Surrey who is struggling with growing up, sibling noncahalance, delusions of maturity in mixed proportions. Her inability to use the sparse histrionic abilities of her reluctant visiting cousins, two brothers and a sister, themselves spotted with Fate in her own play, a monument to banal mediocrity leads to scour for other avenues. Her own sister, Cecilia has completed her education and is vacillating on the next course of action and is involved with their charlady’s brilliant son, Robbie, whose College education has been philanthropically financed by their father. A visiting chocolate magnate and another elder brother complete the cast. Briony’s own sullen obduracy wrongly singles out Robbie as a rapist who is then incarcerated.

The second part is on the travails of Robbie as he serves time and protects himself and his two Army friends as they are part of a retreating Allied force in WW2 in France . Loads of material on the vagaries of a war and his own tribulations on keeping an epistolary relationship with Cecilia going. His own desperation and wretched fatigue creep over.

The third pans to Briony who is training to be a nurse like Cecilia against the odds and striving her utmost to make a fist of it. B & C meet up by the time R is back from the war but B is not forgiven for her past.

Cut to many years down the line with Briony as a septuagenarian watches the enactment of her old play with misty eyes and dwells on the past. Her cousin and the chocolate magnate, who was the culprit, have since married. Their grandchildren make merry and Briony revels in their companionship.

Characterization was near perfect and was shaped intricately. McEwan spends a lot of time getting into the head of the individual but is somehow meant to read as Briony’s tale, as she wrestles with herself and circumstances having to live down the lie she uttered many years ago. Robbie’s lower-middle class upbringing and ambition sear and it’s a dampener when it is learn that both R & C have dies just after WW2—so Briony has been alone with her atonement ll the while.

The language was wistful, symphonic, poignant and memorable. The layers unravel easily and masterfully. A thoughtful and expansive plot.

An 8.5 on 10 !


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