24 January 2008

Why I'm Glad I'm Too Broke for Movies

Who was that girl crying on the subway this morning?

Oh, that was me, finishing Atonement just as we pulled into 42nd Street. I don't think I'm giving away anything, happy or sad, by saying this. Just that it was really amazing. I first got the notion to finally read the book, to bump it up from the someday list, in assumed preparation for seeing the movie. But a combination of not loving the Keira Knightley and the whole no money thing derailed those plans. But damn, am I glad I read it. Of course, the first 150 pages I couldn't get the ubiquitous movie trailer out of my head, fighting against seeing Keira and that little blonde girl who got an Oscar nomination enacting every scene. (As much as I would love James McAvoy running around my head, he's physically different enough from Robbie-in-the-novel that it wasn't the case. Keira Knightley, on the other hand, is an almost perfect incarnation. But she just really annoys me.) We got to events absent from the trailer before I thought we would - the preview seems to paint a pretty thorough picture of the set-up, which is Part 1, but it's not complete. Once we started Part 2, I was finally reading a novel rather than watching the cast of the movie enact a novel, and it was wonderful.

I've heard mixed things about the movie, but money and Keira Knightley's affected pout aside, I don't want to interfere with the almost perfect way the book's living in my head. I also - and I got shit for this at our staff meeting this morning (had to explain why I was a weepy mess) - don't anticipate good structural things - this book is built so literarily, and is in some ways about being a book. I don't want to say more because, if you haven't read the book, though it seems everyone has, I want you do, and I want you to be able to experience it as freshly as possible. The movie trailer may ruin that clean experience for the first 150 pages, so I'll leave the rest alone.

That's it for folks who haven't read the book. One incredibly spoilery observation on finishing the book, below. But read this book, if you haven't. (Though, like I said, I realize I'm several years late to this party.)



I love that my reaction to the end was: I can't believe she killed him. It's such a weird conflation of realities - if we take Briony as author, which at first felt weird to me, in that last bit, but really paid off, then she didn't kill Robbie, just report his death, and if there's an author who killed Robbie, by plot decision, it can't be Briony. But that's how I feel. Which is awesome.



Adam said...

Did you feel self-conscious going into a bookstore to buy this with the movie coming out? This may just be a product of my own neurosis, but I can just see myself walking up to the counter, and the bookseller giving me this heavy you're-just-buying-this-because-of-the-movie sigh.

Not that I'm not going to do it...but I'm seeing a sheepish aversion of eye-contact in my immediate future. Maybe I'll finally break down and buy Everything is Illuminated at the same time and get all of my "oh honey...welcome to five years ago" anxiety out at once.

Sally Parrott Ashbrook said...

I loved Atonement the book. I also loved Atonement the movie, but of course it can't capture all the book's nuances.

I read his book Saturday after Atonement, and though it was a harder read in terms of having a slow pace at parts, that was intentional. The pacing sets up the book in certain ways. And the underlying themes are just so brilliant.

brookLyn gaL said...

Oooh, I will definitely read this! I really hadn't heard anything about the book...