This book got to me. No, really. There were a few times I thought I was going to have to put the book down. Luckily my wife has read it before (and the movie was our first date), so she coached me through it. I’ve never experience the awesome power of a writer’s artistry before. The conclusion of The Book Thief was the first time I had experienced the gut punch of a author’s power. But Ian McEwan’s powerful writing, and ability to make the characters and events feel real in Atonement were less like a UFC fighting championship and more like experiencing a long, slow tortured conversation with an Inquisitor.
McEwan’s artistry of taking life and drawing me into it left me no room to distance myself from the tragic events and characters of this novel. Like no book I’ve read before, McEwan reveals our innermost fears about life and happiness and doesn’t let us escape into fantasy or entertainment. It’s like he knows what my deepest fears/nightmares are and he subtly draws them out. As he does so, you’re horrified and yet awed by the beautiful way he brings them to life. But then he doesn’t let you shy away from what you know is coming. It’s like he’s holding your hand while forcing you to watch something you know you don’t want to. But you let him anyway. What was worse is that I knew what was coming. Seeing the movie DID NOT help prepare for the book. Instead, I wanted the catharsis of having the worst events in the book over, but McEwan slowly and adroitly builds up to them. A first time reader, who’s not scene the movie, would probably not struggle with the plot this way. (McEwan’s relationship with his readers…still a better story than Fifty Shades of Grey).
Oddly, I don’t feel that he’s beating me over the head with it. Once I got past the most intense part of the novel and I was forced to realize the worst had happened. There comes a point where you accept it and move on. For me, this is an author using art to discuss life. And for that, I am grateful to have experienced this tome.