Atonement by Ian McEwan

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1935, Summer. Briony Tallis, thirteen years old, wants to become a writer; at the present she has devised a theatre piece she wants to put on the scene with the help of her evacuees cousins, but she feels she is able to understand the full spectrum of human emotions and behaviours.

This arrogance will bring her in misinterpreting the events she observes: her big sister Cecilia and Robbie Turner – the son of their housekeeper – understand they are attracted and maybe in love, but of this relation Briony sees only Robbie’s desire, and labels him as a maniac.

From Briony’s conviction a true drama will derive, and Briony’s certainty will cause an irreparable injustice and the breakage of family relations. Growing up Briony will understand the error and the truth of what really happened, but it’ll be impossible to go back in time, and Briony is left with her desire to atone her faults.

The first part of the novel is set during the summer of 1935, and it’s climax is the accusation that Briony moves against Robbie. The chapter follow various point of views: Briony, her sister Cecilia, their mother, Robbie, Briony’s cousin. The second part of the novel is set during WWII, and the main protagonist is Robbie in France, retreating towards the English lines, in the meanwhile Briony is learning to be a nurse.

The last part is set in the modern times, and the main character is an old Briony, now a successful writer. In this part we understand we are dealing with a meta-novel, and that McEwan is talking about the Tallis family, but he wants also to talk about the role of the writer and writing, that can change what exists and leave a different memory on the paper.

This consideration is certainly valid, but I’m still uncertain about how much I liked this novel. The plot twist at the end is clever, but I detested Briony for her arrogance, her conviction to understand as a child, and her arrogance in the adulthood in believing she did what she could in atoning her sins as writer-goddess.


* Atonement by Ian McEwan ★★★☆☆

*I read this book in english

Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

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I have to be honest. Mr. Fox is not an easy novel, also for it being an example of meta-novel (or story in the story) but mainly for the way it is built.

Mr. Fox writes novels where female characters always face a tragic death, but he is also an imaginative man, so much that Mary Foxe – his ideal woman imagined during the war in the trenches – actually takes form in his life.

He will have to share his affection between Mary, his ideal love, and Daphne, his real wife, who in fact he does not know as well as Mary. To this situation it adds the game between him and Mary, a sparring of tales and stories where the character have remarkable resemblance with the true Foxes and their relational dynamics: the stories, that contain at first more clear connections (characters with same name as the Foxes) and then more vague, cover different topics and narrative styles (a model who wants to forget his father, a school for wannabe husbands and so on) and leave space for the reader to find the connections to the main plot of the novel.

Foxes, is well-known, are tricky and illusionist creatures, and so the Foxes change the appearance in each story; in addition to this element that comes from the folklore (in Japan there are the kitsune, but foxes are deceitful also in the West), the novel takes also from the classical fairy tales and their characters, more or less noticeably.

It’s a novel I found it hard to explain, but I’m convinced it deserves to be read; for the ones who seek for a more detailed comment I suggest to read this review by Aimee Bender.

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* Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi ★★★★☆

*I read this book in English