Tag Archives: family saga

“Atonement” by Ian McEwan


In my quest to read at least 50 out of the 100 books on the BBC Book List Challenge, I chose Atonement because it is a short book and I saw the movie a few years ago.  I remember somewhat enjoying the movie, but found it a little depressing.  However, the book is always better than the movie so I went into this book hoping that good writing would make up for the melancholy theme.

Aptly titled, Atonement is a family saga of sorts that traces the aftermath of a young girl, Brionny, who witnesses her cousin being raped and mistakenly blames her sister’s lover (Robbie) for the crime.  I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but the title does make it clear she spends the rest of her life trying to atone for her error.

The success of the book comes from showing the maturity of Brionny, who transforms from a naive girl living in her head, to a nurse who rues her mistake and tries to find absolution with her sister (Cecilia) and Robbie.  Mixed in with Brionny’s character development is what happens to Robbie and his relationship  with Cecilia following the false accusation.

Does Brionny ever find forgiveness?  Do the Romeo and Juliet-esque lovers ever find their happy ending after being torn apart?  For those answers, you will have to read the book.

My only criticism of Atonement is the very last part, which seemed to drag on.  The only purpose seemed to answer the question of what happened to Robbie and Cecilia, but I think the reveal could have been done in fewer pages and still leave the reader satisfied.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars for its en pointe writing and character development.



Filed under Classics, Fiction


Though the whole book is, essentially, about sex in one form or another, the title (Middlesex) ironically is not.  Incest, gender identity, sexual orientation, and a hermaphrodite are all included.  Middlesex intrigued me with its subject: a hermaphrodite who starts out life as a female, and then becomes a male in her teen years. I expected a deep insight into the emotions of being born as neither male nor female, but a fuzzy mix.  What I got was a richly told family saga: from a small village in Greece to a suburb of Detroit.  Essentially, the book chronicles just how the main character, Calliope, becomes what he/she is. Throughout most of the book, Calliope narrates and informs the reader with a mix of story telling and scientific facts.

Jeffrey Eugenides, the author, did an excellent job on this book.  Though I would have liked to have read more about Calliope’s life after becoming a male, I was completely drawn into the fascinating story of her family and how they developed.  To warn the reader: the incest section at the beginning is a little disturbing to read, especially if you have siblings.  It gets easier to read after that though, I promise.  Another thing Eugenides did well was explain the science behind Calliope’s being.  As an aspiring geneticist, I appreciated the way Eugenides chronicled the recessive gene’s journey throughout the generations until, by chance, it reached Calliope.

This is an important book to read.  Especially if you are against gay marriage.  I say that because Middlesex challenges what it means to be either male or female.    Calliope finds out that, genetically, she is male.  She has an X and Y chromosome, which is how we determine sex today. However, Calliope looked like a female on the outside, and was thus raised as one.  She never doubted her identity until she started to develop a crush on a girl at her school. Genetically, a male but nurtured as a girl.  So what is she exactly?  In the end, it was Calliopes choice.  Imagine that, having to chose what gender you are.  In our society, we put so much emphasis on gender roles and gender identity.  We see it as being a black and white matter.  This book proves otherwise.  If gender is really so gray, then why are marriage rights so strict?  That was my overall impression after finishing this book.

Overall verdict: read this book if you are interested in family sagas, genetic anomalies, or just want to read something thought provoking.  Great for discussing with others.

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Filed under Fiction