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Past mistakes: my thoughts on Ian McEwan's Atonement

While I was paying for a musty copy of Ian McEwan's Atonement, the pretty girl behind the counter looked at my purchase and remarked wryly, 'It's for school, isn't it?'. I shook my head, beeped my Apple Watch against the payment machine and left, not trivially pleased at having been regarded as young enough for school 😉

Atonement is not an obscure novel. The book generated Booker buzz when it first came out and the 2007 film adaptation staring Kiera Knightley was nominated for several Oscars. And lastly, as my tattooed shopkeeper's remark would suggest – the book is part of humanities curriculums across the world. My own copy had clearly been through the hands of a very diligent student who'd scribbled copious notes on the margins, underlining (often with double strokes!) several passages dealing with the inner turmoils of female characters – fodder for a feminist essay perhaps? I love a book that has been inked by a pen or two; it takes a special book to…

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