By Ian McEwan

I like Ian McEwan and Atonement is one of my all-time favourite books. Which is why I surprised myself when I disliked this one, a Booker winner to boot.

It started off promising. A dead character, Molly Lane with 3 ex-lovers and a husband at her funeral. Two of those ex-lovers are deep friends – Vernon Halliday, the editor of Judge, a newspaper with a falling circulation and a need for an infusion of newness and dynamism; and Clive Linley, a music composer with aspirations of becoming the British Beethovan. Both of them hate the other ex-lover Julian Garmony, a right-wing politician with ambitions of becoming the next Prime Minister. And dislike Molly’s husband George intensely.

Molly’s death makes Vernon and Clive make a pact with each other about their own lives and how they would wish to end them. In the weeks following Molly’s death, both Vernon and Clive are faced with moral choices that they make a hash of. And when these choices make them turn against each other, they proceed to Amsterdam to fulfil their pact - ensuring a denouement that reads straight out of Sydney Sheldon’s The Other Side of Midnight.

What surprises is McEwan’s absolute lack of sympathy for any of his characters. There is not a single one you could instinctively like. The plot is racy, almost thriller-like. And his language still is exquisite. But a Booker for this? Stay away unless you are a die-hard McEwan fan.


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