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Atonement by Ian McEwan    (Continued)

Page 2 of 3

I won't bore you with the details, but this is how the novel hooked me so strongly. Every bit of Briony's thoughts came alive on the page. But that's not the only reason the story stayed with me. The tale, though presented in a simple and sometimes passive tone, is haunting. And I think this effect was achieved through the primary device of the novel: ambiguity.

Even the event that spurred the entire novel was caused by ambiguity: Briony had no idea what Cecilia and Robbie were actually doing by the fountain, but she made some hazy hypotheses. Why did Briony target Robbie? Why didn't she ever ask an adult what was going on? Because she loved the mystery? There are answers to these questions, but there are so many possibilities that in most cases, readers must simply decide what happened for themselves.

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