I think I saw 'Atonement' before I read the book, because I saw the movie in theaters when I was in college just before the winter break, and I was still reading the novel after the break when I left for my semester abroad. That's not usually the order I like to do things in, but I had been looking forward to the movie, and one of my friends had actually read several of Ian McEwan's novels as part of her coursework, so I had dessert first, so to speak.
That metaphor is a little problematic in that I also usually like the books more than the movies they are turned into. And this was no exception, though more because the book is fantastic than because I don't like the movie, because I do. The film is beautifully made, with gorgeous costuming and a wonderful score. But there are inner motivations and conflicts that McEwan is able to illustrate with words that Keira Knightley just can't convey with a longing look into a mirror. But I can appreciate what she was trying to evoke once the book told me. And I love James McAvoy.
The bright side of that is that you can watch the movie and know that in reading the book you will get to see inside the characters so much more, and then you can watch the movie again. And even after all that, you'll still be conflicted about the central theme of the story: atonement. Can it be had? I'm not so sure. Without giving too much away, I just don't think that Briony relinquished anything substantial to in order to truly atone. She retained authorship of the story, and used it to play God in too many ways for me to believe that she would accept anyone else's judgement against her.
Hopefully my stories won't ruin any lives.
There's more madness at Amaryllis Musings.