“THE PLAY—for which Briony had designed the posters, programs, and tickets, constructed the sales booth out of a folding screen tipped on its side, and lined the collection box in red crêpe paper—was written by her in a two-day tempest of composition, causing her to miss breakfast and lunch. When the preparations were complete, she had nothing to do but contemplate her finished draft…” – in ATONEMENT, by Ian McEwan
I’m reading ATONEMENT by Ian McEwan this week. Glued to the screen, I must say.
Although it’s too soon to tell, and I might be wrong about it, I believe these first words of the book give the main idea of the whole story. Briony seems to have a talent for designing and writing, creating stories. And when we write and tell stories, we choose a point of view, right? One that seems right for us at the moment, and we tell what we see, what we believe, or want to depict. Not always what actually happened.
A tempest, you know, can batter a vessel to run aground to an island where an exiled sorcerer lives. What if missing breakfast and lunch means missing more than just meals? What if it means to miss important details of life or misjudge them? What if it means to cause a shipwreck?
After she tells another story, after another first draft of hers is written in a few pages from now, unedited, raw, with a point of view she believes to be right, with characters that will suffer, well, I wonder if she will do nothing but contemplate it too. Or if we will see an atonement…
The book is more than that, I know. But I like how the beginning is so revealing of the plot without giving away the end. And I’m not sure if I love McEwan’s long details, but I can’t put this book down, either. I want to know what happens next and what happens in the end.
What are you reading this week? What can you say about it from its beginning?
On a deeper level, have you ever noticed how the beginning of a book can tell a lot about the whole story? I suggest you do this exercise. Pick your favorite books and read the beginning again. Try to find hints and clues, a word, an idiom, an idea. Then share it with your readers.
Amazon affiliate link: Atonement: A Novel, by Ian McEwan