Atonement by Ian McEwan

The setting of Atonement is Talli’s family house in 1935. A 13 years old girl with strong imagination, Briony, had witnessed a series of events between her sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the family’s childhood friend. At the end of the day, Briony made a mistake that affects the lives of all three, a crime for which she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone.

Gosh it took me a LONG time to finish the book. One of the hardest book I’ve read so far. It’s very very wordy. The sentences are so long with so many commas that I often lost what it was about and had to go back re-read. A lot of words are not in my vocabulary, like one said, the words are very flowery. The first few chapters are so slow that I wondered if I could go on or should go on. After a question in the BC forum, I decided that I just gotta finish the book (most urged me to continue, it gets better at the latter part).

It did get better, albeit slowly. I wanted to read the book first before I watched the movie, which came out not long after I started the book, since generally book is always better than the movie. However since things moved very very slowly for me, the movie would definitely finish in the cinema before I finished reading the book. So after the first chapter, I just went to watch it.

So the first half of the movie felt like a totally different experience than the second half, because I knew the story. I was very aware of all the details in the movie, since the book goes into crazy details into every little thing, like Cecilia’s gown, Lola’s outfit, the scar on Marshall’s face, the twin’s hair, the triangular shadow on Cecilia’s wet undergarment, the vase, the fountain, the house, even the grass. Really. Not to mention all the dialogue. The movie helped me to visualize what I have read.

The second half of the movie helped me to continue reading the book. Since I knew then how the story went, in the most boring and slowest part of the book, I knew it WOULD go somewhere, that I wouldn’t be on that spot forever. Really, sometimes it just got too slow. On the second chapter, I started to learn to fast-read some parts that I just didn’t care much about. The war bit especially, felt like forever to go through. Interestingly some people said that the movie is very slow. Believe me, it’s lightning fast compared to the book!

I feel more for Briony after I watched the second part. Briony was unbearable to me when I read the first chapter of the book. I almost didn’t feel like continuing just because I hated her so much. I don’t think I have hated a fictional character this much, because of the their personality and actions, ever.

I’m glad I finished it, though I don’t think I have the energy for another McEwan’s book for the longest time.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Great plot, although I wish the author could spend more words on the things that matter. At times it can be far too slow.

Atonement is one of the 1001 books you must read before you die.
It was shortlisted for the 2001 Booker Prize and winner of 2003 National Book Critics Circle award (plus a bunch of other awards).

Discussion on bookcrossing website

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

I’ve finished this book a while ago, but just have time to write about it now. It’s very light reading. Like someone said, reading it feels like having a holiday in Africa, with people’s and places’ funny names and all. The setting is in Botswana, about a lady detective called Mma Ramotswe. She’s on for a few cases, which I think a bit ordinary, no twist and surprises. The whole book is pretty flat either, no particular climax. It’s still quite refreshing though. Like I said, it’s like a not very happening holiday. At the very least, it’s relaxing.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Light reading, enjoyable, simplistic. I will continue reading the series.

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