Atonement by Ian McEwan

atonementThis book gets many 5 star  ratings and I certainly see why with the complexity and detail of the writing.  There is so much internal dialogue, some a stream of consciousness as we see the perspective from different points of view. It took concentration to read this novel and after a while, it wasn’t pleasure reading.  Yet, that being said, I was never tempted to bail on this book as the writing is lyrical and the perspectives interesting.

The descriptions were great enough that it could be 5 large wordy paragraphs to capture a few moments, this paired with what the character was thinking.

An example – Thirteen year old Briony Tallis considers herself a playwright and penned The Trials of Arabella with her playing the lead character.  As her cousins will be visiting for an extended stay (due to unfortunate family circumstances) Briony intends to cast her cousins in supporting roles.  Lola, the older cousin, asks to play the plum role of Arabella.  Briony graciously acquiesces as she feels sorry for Lola, but it doesn’t make her happy.  Additionally, the younger boy cousins state that playwriting is just showing off and they didn’t want to participate but, as visitors they will.  Arrogant Briony is upset by these turn of events as it ruined her play and plans.

She goes to a meadow and viciously hacks down the nettles, pretending they are people she is upset with, starting with Lola.  She then “kills” the male cousins and others she’s unhappy with, the moments captured in 4 very long paragraphs as her thought process, documented while she beheads nettles. The massacre allows her rage to dissipate as she considers a change of career from playwright to newspaper reporter.  She has a high opinion of herself, by the way.

One of the hinges of the plot is Briony observing her sister Cecilia and the lower class friend Robbie Turner. There is a scene at the fountain where a vase is broken.  I read the scene and the verbal exchange between Cecelia and Robbie.  Cecelia strips to her underwear and wades into the fountain to get the broken vase pieces.  It’s a scene full of both anger and sexual tension.  Now, Briony obviously sees things with the only reference and experience a 13-year old mind can articulate.  Her confusion with flirtation and sexual encounters, real or imagined, were complex.  She observes silently from a window inside the house.  She can’t hear what was said, nor can she understand the attraction between the two adults.

When a rape occurs later in the first part of the book, unjust accusations lead to devastating consequences.  If you’ve read this you know what happens and if you haven’t, I’ll not add spoilers if you are taking this journey.

The end surprised me. If this were a true story I would feel very sad for so many lives shattered.

So, that’s number #15 on the BBC Culture Books Project.

Linking up with:
Joy’s British Isles Friday
Tanyaxoxo 2018 Monthly Motif

 

 

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White Teeth by Zadie Smith

whiteTeeth

Description:   White Teeth is the story of two North London families—one headed by Archie, the other by Archie’s best friend, a Muslim Bengali named Samad Iqbal. Pals since they served together in World War II, Archie and Samad are a decidedly unlikely pair. Plodding Archie is typical in every way until he marries Clara, a beautiful, toothless Jamaican woman half his age, and the couple have a daughter named Irie (the Jamaican word for “no problem”). Samad —devoutly Muslim, hopelessly “foreign”— weds the feisty and always suspicious Alsana in a prearranged union. They have twin sons named Millat and Magid, one a pot-smoking punk-cum-militant Muslim and the other an insufferable science nerd. The riotous and tortured histories of the Joneses and the Iqbals are fundamentally intertwined, capturing an empire’s worth of cultural identity, history, and hope.

Why I selected this book: Last week I found a list of the Best BBC books from a poll outside the U.K. and decided to make it my challenge for the next few years. Additionally,  Girlxoxo’s Monthly Motif theme this month is diversity.  So I decided to read a selection from my BBC List that would fit the theme as I wanted to participate with Tanya and Kim.   I was torn between this one and Monica Ali’s Brick Lane.

The book addresses racial issues that seem to create a divide between the English-born residents and immigrants from the Caribbean and India.

These days, it feels to me like you make a devil’s pact when you walk into this country. You hand over your passport at the check-in, you get stamped, you want to make a little money, get yourself started… but you mean to go back! Who would want to stay? Cold, wet, miserable; terrible food, dreadful newspapers – who would want to stay? In a place where you are never welcomed, only tolerated. Just tolerated. Like you are an animal finally house-trained.

The narratives between characters tends to ramble here and there and with that, I would start drifting.  Lots of good passages and quotes from this book though:

You are never stronger…than when you land on the other side of despair.”

It’s a multicultural community examining who is a true English person, how the immigrants fit in, the many different holidays and religious celebrations which do not overlap cultures and how the children of the immigrants identify with their lives.  Kids usually adapt.

Greeting cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time.”

This is #25 on the list HERE.

Linking up with:
Joy’s British Isles Friday
Tanyaxoxo 2018 Monthly Motif