Tag Archives: Fiction

Review: Atonement

Atonement Book Cover

Atonement
By Ian McEwan
Knopf Doubleday
February 2003
368pp

The Short of It:

Atonement is a multifaceted little gem of a book.

The Rest of It:

During the summer of 1935, Briony witnesses an encounter between her older sister Cecilia and a boy named Robbie Turner. Briony’s interpretation of the event and those thereafter, lead her to tell a devastating lie. As time passes, the realization of what she’s done leaves her desperate for redemption and forgiveness which only the absolute truth can bring.

I love this book. I first read it years ago for book group but recently re-read it for the class I am taking. In class, we took several weeks to discuss it and let me tell you, it was quite a treat to have that much time to discuss the book. This is one of those books that is a bit of everything. There’s a love story, betrayal, the loss of innocence, war and the whole theme of atonement itself…it’s just so rich. So full.

As you read, your thoughts go one way and then another. McEwan’s attention to detail was tiresome for some, but for me?  I lapped it up. The setting and the characters were easy to picture in my mind and I found that I could relate to several of the characters at once.  A young girl, living in a huge house out in the English countryside tells a lie that can’t be taken back. How can you resist that?

Atonement is considered by many to be McEwan’s best work. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2001 and this is one case where I can totally understand why.

In class, we watched bits of the movie which came out in 2007  and starred Keira Knightly and James McAvoy.

Atonement the Movie

The parts that I saw were wonderful and really did the book justice. Makes me want to see the entire film now.

If you have a copy of Atonement lying around, I encourage you to pick it up and read it and if you don’t have a copy, you might want to get one. It’s one of those books that will make you love reading all over again.

Source: Purchased

Review: The Reapers are the Angels

The Reapers are the Angels Book Cover

The Reapers are the Angels
Alden Bell (aka Joshua Gaylord)
Henry Holt & Company
August 2010
240pp

The Short of It:

A dark, grisly little tale of a world taken over by zombies. But, the bright spot lies within its heroine, one of my faves, right up there with Lisbeth Salander.

The Rest of It:

Temple, a fifteen-year-old girl, wanders the broken landscape of a destroyed world. Although it’s never clear what transpired, it’s assumed that some sort of nuclear event wiped out most of civilization. What’s left are ruins. There are small pockets of people here and there trying to put the world back together, but in addition to these colonies, there are others. Mainly, those that return from the dead.

Zombies, slugs, meatskins. They lurch through the streets and crawl upon the ground. Although they are a nuisance, their lack of speed allows for easy disposal and Temple can’t remember a time when they didn’t exist.  Along the way, Temple meets some interesting characters. Self-sufficient to a fault, she realizes along the way that people matter, that SHE matters and it becomes a journey of self-discovery.

I was completely surprised by The Reapers are the Angels. Just a few pages in, I was thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” The opening was gritty and sort of sickening and another blogger even mentioned to me that she couldn’t get past the story’s opening. But there was something there that kept me going. I do believe it was story’s heroine, Temple. She’s endearing in a backward, kiss-ass way.  A diamond in-the-rough, so to speak. She reminded me a lot of Lisbeth Salander from the Millennium Trilogy. Temple is tough, but inherently good and she doesn’t even know it. This innocence is what reminded me of Lisbeth.

As Temple makes her trek across the country, she runs into all sorts of interesting and sometimes, vile characters. At times her interactions with them are uncomfortable. I say uncomfortable because their intentions are not always admirable and she knows it and sort of talks out loud about what is going on. There is one scene with these giant, mutated people. This particular scene is  incredibly disturbing. Not disturbing in a graphic way (well, maybe a little), but twisted, backwoods, disturbing. It reminded me of this scene in Texas Chainsaw Massacre where they are all at the dinner table “eating.” Remember that scene? Dysfunctional with a capital D.

There were times where I felt this book was just wild!! Other times, there was this quiet, beautiful thing going on and I would actually linger on the page a bit longer to enjoy it. This is one of those books that you cannot peg at first glance. It has zombies in it, but it’s not a book about zombies. It’s about good vs. evil, trust, responsibility, regret, appreciating what you have and there are larger themes here dealing with death and religion and life after death.

Here are some passages from the book. My copy is an advanced reader’s edition so the words may vary a bit in the published version:

The World is pretty much what she remembers, all burnt up and pallid—like someone came along with a sponge and soaked up all the color and moisture too and left everything gray and bone-dry.

~~~~

Sometimes when there’s no light to see by, that’s when everything comes sharp and clear.

~~~~

Infinities are warm places that never end. And they aren’t about good and evil, they’re just peaceful-like and calm, and they’re where all travelers go eventually, and they are round everywhere you look because you can’t have any edges in infinities.

The Reapers are the Angels does contain some violence and will turn your stomach in some places, but if you can get past those moments, I think you’ll be just as surprised by this book as I was. In this sense, it’s very similar to The Road. It’s tough to read in places but what you take away from it makes it worth the effort.

Some have asked me if this book falls into the category of dystopian fiction. It has a dystopian feel to it and you certainly get the feeling that a collapsed government is what caused the devastation, but there is no repressive and controlled state that is typical with dystopian fiction. It’s not straight thriller either. It’s definitely a hybrid of a few different genres.

Source: This ARC was sent to me by the publisher.