A beautifully written book dealing with a life transformed by a childish mistake. Briony Trellis falsely accuses a family friend of the rape of her cousin, resulting in his imprisonment and separation from her older sister, Cecelia.
We follow their lives, through war, tragedy and redemption to the very end. And then it all changes, only at the very end; following Brionys partial reconciliation with Robbie and her sister Cecelia in 1940, does it become clear that Brony, a successful writer since the war's end, has been creating it all.
Her tale of Robbie's salvation at Dunkirk, the reuniting of the lovers and Briony's reconciliation with them, her attempts to make atonement, all of it just words from her final novel in 1999, before she dies.
McEwan's ability to create beauty from language, the ability to make his characters so real merely adds weight to the final hammer blow that damns Robbie to a tortured death at Dunkirk and Cecelia to a lonely death months later in the blitz.
Briony's life is laid bare in the final pages, completely destroyed through guilt and a final regret that the atonement she sought, the atonement that you as a reader believed she had found, is only available to her after her death.
McEwans writing, descriptive, stunning, kept me going through the slower early stages.
But once into Dunkirk and the horrors of the military hospital there wasn't a thing that could make me put this one down. And then when realisation of what was really going on hit me, I was absolutely spellbound.
The first part took a month, the second and third, two evenings. Absolutely fantastic.