Thanks to Ian McEwan, I Have The Worst Book Hangover Ever
It’s all because of Atonement. I have drank from the well of Ian McEwan and I fear I’ll never be quite the same again. In fact, I know I won’t be the same. I have not thought about a book as much as I have thought about this book. Ever. I haven’t so much as touched another book since I finished it and it has been over two weeks. I am grieving the loss of the characters and not getting to hang out with them. It’s worse than a blaring headache, because a headache can be handled with a few Advil. It’s the writing that won’t let me go. How can we stay in the heads of these characters the whole time without it feeling like the Whinerton’s Family Reunion?
How. Does. He. Do. That?
The illusion of movement, that’s how
There is only ONE thing that really happens in this book, the characters are so far into their own heads the reader can see the gray matter on the page, and the whole time is spent on the feelings spectrum sliding back and forth between Sorta Rotten and Holy-Christ-I-Ruined-Someone’s-Life Rotten. So why couldn’t I put it down and why am I contemplating reading it again starting immediately?
Maybe because I’m a nerd for studying writing, but more likely is that I want to apply these tricks to my own work. Let’s be honest, if you want a lot of external conflict and tension, sword fights and beer brawls, or grisly murder scenes, I’m your girl. But place me in Internal Conflict zone and I haven’t got nearly the game. I would love to change that and I’m thoroughly convinced the solution lies with Ian McEwan, and only Ian McEwan. He’s like the Highlander. There can be only one.
Here’s what I’ve surmised (so far)
Flashback is part of the illusion-making material, along with multiple perspectives that overlap in time and all explain the same series of events from different characters’ unique points of view. There is also tremendous scene work. With the exception of Briony’s bit at the very end, there is no info dumping allowed, and frankly, by the time we get to the end I’m ok with it. I almost welcome it because everything up to that point is so rich that I need a mental breather.
And Briony! I want to wring her neck and hug her at the same time!
How. Does. He. Do. That?
The only way I’ll find out is with a little hair of the dog. I’ve promised friends that I would read books they’ve recommended eons ago. Yes, it will be the next one, I stamp it with a guarantee… but I can’t see how I’m going to get out of this funk unless I dive right back into Atonement. It’s just one more time. They never have to know, right? After this read I’ll put it down and move on. Honest.