Briony Tallis. A bright, 13 year old girl whose actions and misinterpretations lead to a horrible world of misfortune and separation for Cecilia and Robbie.
I first read this book at A-Level and on first reading this book seems confusing, misleading and very hard to link the plot lines. However, on follow readings this book becomes cleverly twisted and excellently crafted. It is weird that one naive girls interpretation of a small scene can lead to the events that unfold in the novel. As Briony gazes out of the window looking for creativity, she witnesses Cecilia stripping in front of their childhood friend, Robbie, and engulfing herself into the fountain. Little does Briony know that Cecilia is rescuing a family heirloom but it is this misinterpretation and Briony’s desire for a creative spark that forces Robbie and Cecilia’s love to become non-existent.
Robbie is the outsider in this novel that is affected by other characters decisions. Robbie is totally condemned by fate as he is invited to dinner by Leon, he and Cecilia break the vase that acts as an extended metaphor for their relationship and he sends the wrong letter to Cecilia. From then on the reader assumes that Robbie is doomed and it is when he is wrongly accused for the rape of Lola that Briony’s desire for attention reaches its climax. The authors use of perspective and detailing of the uncomfortable and stuffy environment that generates passions and tensions and ultimately foreshadows this event. This is also the moment that Briony spends the rest of the novel trying to atone for. It is this moment that leaves the reader asking how can this small event change the outcome of so many lives, change how people feel, change how you love and alter the course of people’s lives.
McEwan then goes to detail the consequences of Briony’s actions and how Robbie is sent to war, again unable to be with Cecilia. It is in the final part of the book that Briony tries to gain repentance and goes to seek forgiveness. It is within the final pages of the book that McEwan reveals the true meaning of the events that have happened. This post script that is added in the form of a letter tells the reader of both Robbie and Cecilia’s death and that the ‘story’ that Briony tells in the third part of the book lets their love last forever in the pages of her book and this is her final atonement to her crime.
Overall this book is a wonder of creativity, an exploration of fate and a great definition of the affects that misinterpretations can have. This book has become a great classic and I would give it a deserved 8/10. With multiple readings this book opens up a whole new way of thinking. If you have read, choose to read or re-read, enjoy!