by Ian McEwan
First sentence: “The play — for which Briony had designed posters, programs and tickets, constructed the sales booth out of a folding screen tipped on its side, and lined the collection box in red crepe paper — was written by her in a two-day tempest of composition, causing her to miss breakfast and lunch.”
Ah, modern classics. Pages and pages of well-written, often beautiful, always complex exposition. Character development through psychological intricacies, with much telling, little showing. Pretentious in their understanding of human nature, but little or no plot to hang any of their characters on.
They bore me to tears.
Actually, I’m sounding harsher than I mean to; I did like aspects of Atonement — the idea that one person (though I’m having a hard time picturing her as 13; more like 9 or 10) can misinterpret situations, let their imagination run away with them and as a result affect many lives because of that is intriguing — but I had a hard time connecting with anyone. I also admit that I’m impatient (perhaps this is a negative side-effect of reading too much YA?) with books that take so long (more than 100 pages in set up) to get going, and then spent the other 2/3 of the story spinning around unraveling anything. I would have appreciated it if McEwan was more forthright in his writing, rather than leaving me to dig out plot points amidst all the extraneous thinking, musing, and suffering.
It was wonderfully written, though. I just wish it would have been more plot or character driven. Then again: it’s the same problem I have with Dickens. I’m just not a good judge of literary talent.