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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin


Atonement - Ian McEwan Well, that was depressing. Is Ian McEwan the natural successor to [a: Thomas Hardy|15905|Thomas Hardy|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1429946281p2/15905.jpg]? I have to confess I knew nothing about Atonement except that the film adaptation came out a few years ago (if eight qualifies as a few). It did receive glowing reviews but did not pique my interest much, I filed it away in my head as “may be if it comes on telly”. However, I literally* stumbled on the audiobook on Youtube and decided to give it a listen (in numerous sessions as it is almost 6 hours long). The audiobook is beautifully narrated by Isla Blair but it almost ruined the original book due to lack of chapters and parts indications that you get in most audiobooks. What this means is that it is read in one massive narrative lump without any clear divisions to indicate changes of scene, time periods, or switches in narrative points of view. These things can be figured out but it makes for a messy narrative, I will have to buy the printed book for a reread later. (The print version is clearly organized into chapters and major parts. I checked).

Any way, enough of the story filtered through to me to become intrigued. Here is a story about Briony, a thirteen year old girl who wrongly accused a man of raping her cousin, leading to his arrest and several years of imprisonment. As she grows into adulthood it begins to dawn on her that she may have been mistaken, by the age of eighteen she wants to actively set things right. Thanks to the confusing audiobook (dis)organization the story did not have much as an impact on me as it should have done. I was not able to empathize with the characters as I would need to do in order for the story to resonate. This is not Ian McEwan’s fault, the book is superbly written and the characters well drawn, it is more like a technical problem caused by the audiobook. Six hours seem like a long running time compared to movies but the book is 351 pages long and it would take me at least a week to read (allowing time for getting on with my life). Consequently I felt the book whizzed by me and I was just getting into end when it ends!

Still, I did find the storyline to be intriguing and book emotionally charged, especially in a poignant confrontation scene between the adult Briony and the wrongfully imprisoned Robbie Turner. Though I do find it a bit odd that a thirteen year old girl’s accusation carries so much weight given that the evidence against the man seems to be very circumstantial. The epilogue is quite the twist, very well played by McEwan. Had me reeling a little bit. So a great story somewhat spoiled (for me) by the confusing audiobook structure (not Ms. Isla Blair’s fault I suspect).

In all fairness I would rate it as follows:

4 stars for the book (could be 5 after a proper reread).
2 stars for the audiobook (they removed book's structure of chapters and parts).
5 stars for Isla Blair’s reading.

* I was seated at the time.