A Book That Makes You Cry: Atonement by Ian McEwan

You know those people that are so sentimental, it’s almost comical? They sniffle over the ending of a series, they shed a tear over Titanic and absolutely bawl their eyes out after seeing The Notebook?

I’m one of them.

We cluster together, unified by our heightened emotion: knowing that the sad part is coming, the lump in our throat is getting harder and harder to ignore, our eyes sting as we try to avoid the tears…receiving the odd pat by a bewildered, wary and usually guy friend, who can’t understand this outpouring of grief…

Sad films always get me. They make me cry more than literature, probably because of the huge emphasis on the visual and aural elements, with 3D dramatic death scenes – complete with close up shots of the characters – unfolding before my eyes, accompanied by a soaring music score. Books have a slight disadvantage in this regard, because they do not have so many elements to appeal to the reader’s senses; they can only trigger those tears through the power of the words on the page. It must be one outstanding book that has the ability to move a human being by just an arrangement of black marks on paper.

‘Atonement’ by Ian McEwan

This masterpiece of a book by Ian McEwan, entitled Atonement (2001), is written so beautifully that it can’t fail to move you. The tender subject matter is treated delicately and thoughtfully by the author, captured through the eyes of a young playwright named Briony, who makes a terrible mistake about a serious crime. It really struck a chord with me. The innocence of the child at the start of the novel has been shattered by the end. Her lack of life experience makes her unaware of the gravity of the situation at first, but when she realises the horrific error she has made, she spends the rest of her life trying to make amends. The sad fact is: she can never atone for what she’s done.

It is a wonderfully composed novel, well worth the read, and it might even bring a few tears to your eyes too.

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