Mr. Fforde has created another excellent entry in his Thursday Next series, answering questions that had been left dangling in previous books and pretty much tying up loose ends as if he'd decided to stop writing books for the series. The switch to Emily Gray as the reader is a bit unnerving to say the least, and I dearly miss the delightful talents of Elizabeth Sestre who brought the first three books to life. Although I got used to Ms. Gray about halfway through, her pronunciation of certain names drove me crazy right up to the very end because she didn't pronounce them like Ms. Sestre.
While this is a stunningly creative and totally enjoyable book like every other book in the series, it's really more like a collection of short stories than a typical novel. Elizabeth Sastre, nevertheless, delivers a stunning rendition of the text, and I, for one, look forward to hearing more from her in the future.
At first I thought this was going to be "The Spy Who Fell Into the Cold War." The setting was right; the characters were available, but then, like life, it veered into an unexpected alley. So I thought it was going to be about romance and trust and danger. But the danger wasn't from the embattled governments or other outside influences in the divided city or the divided society; the danger was from inside the relationship, from inside the individuals. Then, like life, the story veered again, coping with danger, and danger was like a voracious beast intent on devouring the trust and the romance. Only the ending of the novel doesn't ring true for me, the looking back, the untying, the rekindling; these are the postscripts to a Hollywood movie, the way we'd like things to be, under control and logical, but not very lifelike.
In each section of Atonement, McEwan stretches the listener's nerves like rubber bands, farther and farther, thinner and thinner, until everything's about to snap. Then he stops, and he relaxes into the next section. only to begin the stretching all over again. The workout is mental of course. But it's also physical; the listener's muscles tighten and relax as the action ebbs and flows. The overall effect is stunning. This is the first great novel of the new millennium!
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