Aug 27, 2010

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Atonement is a story told in three parts: one set in a country house in the 1930’s, another during WW2, and the final one in contemporary times. It’s the story of how an introverted, imaginative girl’s mistake wrecked the lives of people she cared about, and of how those involved dealt with the incident over the course of their lives. This is a highly simplified synopsis, of course, but I’m afraid it’s all I can tell you, because Atonement is a highly spoilable book. Don’t get me wrong; the story’s brilliance doesn’t rely on a surprise or a twist, and I don’t think knowing what happened from the very beginning will ultimately make that much of a difference. But I know many readers prefer to go into a novel knowing as little as possible, and so for the sake of those who, like me, are latecomers to this particular party, I’ll stop here.

I loved Atonement from the very first page: I loved McEwan’s precise writing, his attention to detail, and his expert handling of multiple points of view (all of which reminded me a little of A.S. Byatt); I loved the world he was evoking, the slightly decayed country house, the family dynamics, the silences; I loved that the book immediately promised to be highly satisfying at a pure storytelling level, in addition to everything else. The three sections are different enough that they could almost be different novels, but in the end I loved them all equally, even if for different reasons.

One of my favourite things about the first part was how momentous it felt from the very beginning. This isn’t a result of the two instances of foreshadowing, but of the fact that the writing immediately makes what’s being described sound like the recollection of a turning point in the lives of all the characters. And so you wonder what could have happened that so deeply affected all those people; what made a seemingly ordinary day so worthy of being remembered. The intensity McEwan achieves here put me in mind of The Secret History, another book that had me on the edge of my seat wondering when it, whatever “it” was, was going to come. Both books achieve this sort of intense suspense without ever being heavy-handed, which I imagine is no easy task.

Once the nature of this particular “it” becomes clearly, which to me happened fairly early into the novel, it was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. But before I go any further, I have to confess that at one point the whole premise gave me pause. I’m going to try to explain why in a way that is clear to those who have read the book but won’t spoil things for those who haven’t – apologies in advance in case I wind up sounding too vague and awkward. The story might have made me uncomfortable if it had been a matter of smoke without fire, so to speak, as I think there’s far too much assuming that these situations are usually smoke without fire in our culture, and this is something that bothers me immensely. As it turned out, though – a story about someone being wrongly blamed for something that did take place, and that misplacement of blame being deeply rooted in class assumptions – I could love it without the slightest reservation.

One of the things that makes Atonement work so well is the depth of McEwan’s characterisation – that intense suspense I was talking about earlier is achieved not only because you want to know what happens next, but because you grow to care about the characters, and hope against hope that things won’t turn out too horribly for them. I think McEwan was particularly successful when creating Briony, the aforementioned introverted, imaginative girl. She does a dreadful thing, and yet it’s hard to hate her because you see her from the inside. You know perfectly well that other people’s versions of what happened, and especially of what motivated her, are not quite right. It’s surely no coincidence that early in the novel we are treated to musings on fiction’s ability to achieve exactly this (on which more later). This kind of self-conscious, calculated storytelling is hard to pull off well, but McEwan (again like Byatt, or perhaps even Atwood) does it very well. Even when he delves deep into metafiction, the narrative is perfectly sustained.

What really made the book for me was exactly this metafictional aspect. This was something that surprised me: in part three McEwan very nearly pulls a John Fowles, which again is not easy to do well. But oh, he makes it work. Probably not for everyone (somehow I have the impression that this is a book that is very well-known but not necessarily universally loved, though I might be wrong here), but I, being the metafiction junkie* that I am, was absolutely delighted. At its core, Atonement is a novel about novels. Yes, it’s also about guilt and penance and complex family dynamics and class and sexuality and growing up, and the hidden, ugly side of heroism, and the horrors of war. But most of all, I loved that it dealt so intelligently with the power of storytelling and with the deep ties between literature and empathy. We tell stories because they help us realise that everyone else is as real as we are – that there are countless other lives, other mindsets, other selves out there in the world.

Briony’s incomplete grasp of this at age thirteen is the real source of the tragedy. She sees herself as the star of a drama – her play being performed at last – and everyone else as her satellite. The consequences of this are of course disastrous – and what better way to atone for it than to bring yet more stories, with their endless potential to humanise even the most off-putting actions, into the world?

I couldn’t be happier with my first experience with McEwan – On Chesil Beach next?

Favourite passages:
A second thought always followed the first, one mystery always bred another: was everyone else really as alive as she was? For example, did her sister really matter to herself, was she as valuable to herself as Briony was? Was being Cecilia just as vivid as affair as being Briony? Did her sister also have a real self concealed being a breaking wave, and did she spend time thinking about it, with a finger held up to her face? Did everybody, including her father, Betty, Hardman? If the answer was yes, then the world, the social world, was unbearably complicated, with two billion voices, and everyone’s thoughts striving with equal importance and everyone’s claim on life as intense, and everyone thinking they were unique, when no one was. One could drown in irrelevance.

It wasn’t only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding; above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you. And only in a story could you enter these different minds and show how they had an equal value. That was the only moral a story need have.
Reviewed at:
The Literary Omnivore, Book Nut, Book Addiction, What Kate’s Reading, Care’s Online Bookclub, Bookie Mee, The Zen Leaf, Trish’s Reading Nook, Melody’s Reading Corner, Musings of a Bookish Kitty, Caribousmom, An Adventure in Reading

(As always, let me know if I missed yours.)

*Credit where credit is due: I’m pretty sure I stole this phrase from either Jenny or Fyrefly.


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed reading this, Ana. I absolutely adored this book, LOL. I loved the film adaptation too! :)

  2. Great review! I shall read The Secret History (I've never heard of it). Atonement is one of my favourite books. It's a book about storytelling that's so amazingly compelling and gorgeously written. It's also rare in literature to find a character like Briony who's so amazingly complex and very hard to understand, it takes guts, I think, to make her your main character, because you can't embrace her completely. Robbie is one of my favourite male characters in literature.
    Unfortunately, it's the only book by McEwan I love. Anything else I tried after that was a huge disappointment.

  3. Melody: I'm have to confess I'm wary of the movie now that I've read the book, because I can't imagine how my favourite aspect of the novel (everything it says about literature and storytelling) could be translated into film! Do you think I should try it anyway?

    SIbylle: That's too bad you haven't bad much luck with his other books :\ Some of them (like Solar) don't interest me much at all, but I'm quite curious about On Chesil Beach and Amsterdam in particular. And yes, it can't be easy to write a character like Briony so successfully! Also, if you're curious about The Secret History, I wrote about it here.

  4. As many readers always say, the movie could never capture the essence of the book, but for me I like to see it from another perspective. I hope you'll give the movie a go. I quite like Kiera Knightly so maybe that's one reason why I loved the movie, hehe.

  5. I really liked the film and I quite liked how the film did the scenes on the beach and the end. I read Atonement when I was about 17 and although I liked the story I didnt get on that well with McEwens writing. This might be because I was 17 when I read it though but Ive been put off his books ever since.

  6. Loved this review and I loved this book. I was surprised by all the McEwan hate that popped up on my post about On Chesil Beach! I really like almost everything I've read by him and all of it has been very different.

  7. Great review Nymeth and I'm glad you liked Atonement it is one of my favourite books. I also think it is the best of McEwan's books that I have read so far.

    The movie is really beautiful - really as well done as a movie can ever be. The look and the feel was practically identical to how I imagined it in the book. I thought all the actors cast were absolutely the right ones - especially the Briony at the beginning.

    But then I guess... because of how it was written then it made a good conversion to a film, if you can see what I mean by that.

    The book I thought was so detailed and visual... and the film translated that very well. It was practically exactly how I imagined it.

  8. Yay this is my favourite McEwan book(perhaps a better description is so far the only McEwan I like). And I think the setting has a lot ot do with it as you say - the slight disrepair of the house, which is a lovely kind of foreshadowing of the age in itself and the family and the class situation. Also the momentousness that is somehow echoing all throughout the novel without being too foreshadowy is amazing. Although I wonder if people who don't like Atonement find this kind of shadowy, but very deep, dark emotional tone manipulative? (personally I lap that kind of thing up)

    How did you like the bit where Briony imagines her sisters story? I found that devestating - why can't everyone just be happy? (Oh right because the book wouldn't be as gorgeous)

    As for On Chesil Beach, I was not a fan - it had all the ingredients (class conflict, sexual inexperience, the claustrophobic inability to just talk things out and a wonderful period) but at the end I felt like it followed too familiar pattern for me and was McEwan straying very close to the 'oh women the failure and ridiculousness of my male characters is in some small way your fault too' territory that he flits into in 'Enduring Love'. It was a hair between love and dislike for me though.

  9. Wonderful review Nymeth. I loved this book and read it for a book group so was some great discussion to be had afterwards. I loved On Chesil Beach and thought it was really evocative and charged. Some people hated it so will be interested to see what your thoughts are!

  10. I read this book several years ago and didn't remember much of it although I do remember liking it. Then I saw the film and fell in love with it,especially the ending. So maybe that means I need to read it again (because, you know, books are always better than the film.) I've got a copy at my parents' house so will do a re-read when I visit them in January. I don't think I've tried anything else by McEwan. Maybe I should.

  11. I adored this book for much the same reasons you did- McEwan's prose is wonderful and I absolutely adored how he overlapped everything so carefully (for instance, Briony tripping over a dress Cecilia left on the floor). It's just so heartbreaking.

    As for the film, it's good, but you're quite right in that it doesn't address literature and the power of stories as much as the novel, and the girl who plays nurse Briony doesn't quite hold up to the wonderful women who play her younger and older.

  12. Wow. You just totally opened my eyes here. I hate to admit this, but McEwan is one of those authors I'd totally dismissed without really knowing much about. I assumed his books were not for me at all. And I had no earthly reason for even making such an assumption. But This sounds like such a wonderful book...and you've left me more than slightly intrigued. Oh, and those two passages...yeah, third wow. I loved them!

  13. I did not love this unreservedly (and I fully expected to). I enjoyed parts more than others - the second half dragged a little although picked up in the last 50 pages or so. I liked its commentary on writing, its ties with literature and sorytelling and thought the first half was impeccable. I was not a huge fan of the characters but they redeemed themselves in the last section but am not fully convinced that Briony completely atoned for what she did (it's that age-old issue of being defined by one foolish mistake). I enjoyed McEwan's style and would definitely read more of his work but have still do so (I read Atonement in '07).

  14. In a bit of weird synchronicity, my daughter and I watched this movie last night (her for the first time). I love it--as much as you can love a movie that sad--and have been a little resistant to reading the book because of that. But the bits you quote and what you say about the narrative has convinced me that I really should.

  15. I am going to read this one. I've tried it twice & had to put it down, but those were both in times of life when I wasn't reading as much. I loved Possession and The Secret History - so those comparisons are helping my case. Also, I happened to have loved On Chesil Beach - so I strongly encourage that one. His ability to articulate the nuances of the human psyche leave me in awe.

  16. Sigh. This is another one of those books where I wish I wasn't so alone on. :/

  17. I also didn't quite love this one unreservedly, although as always Ana you make me wonder why not! :) It's my favorite of his regardless, though. On Chesil Beach was also good; I thought Amsterdam was a little too self-aware personally. I haven't actually read any more than those, but I do have a few more McEwans kicking around.

  18. This is one of those books that it seems EVERYONE loves... except me. Ugh, I did not like it. At all. The first part took me weeeeeeks to get through, I found the writing just dry and boring. The other two sections were more interesting to me, the way they were written, but I felt the whole thing was emotionally manipulative.

    Crazy right? Everyone else loves it! (Except maybe Amanda - you're not alone Amanda!)

  19. I tried reading the book but I just couldn't stand Briony! I did like the movie, but I felt the movie was more a reflection of the camera's love for Kiera Knightly (but who can blame that?) than a study in characterization.

  20. Yes, yes, YES! Brilliant review, you hit the nail on the head with it - a story about stories, and I love the idea of Briony as the star in her own drama - completely true. I haven't read Atonement since my first pass at it a couple of years ago, but I loved it then and I think it's been elevated to possible-favorite-book status (with a few others.)

    I enjoyed On Chesil Beach but didn't love it like Atonement - I thought it had a few faults of agency and intent. However reading both in rapid succession gave me a pretty deep respect for McEwan's abilities. I also really enjoyed Amsterdam, short though it was, which seemed like an almost shockingly perfect novella.

  21. I'm probably one of the few who didn't enjoy this one; actually I didn't make it too many pages beyond the incident. As you said, it was like watching a train-wreck, and I just couldn't keep reading when I was so unbelievably frustrated. Perhaps I'll have to give it a try at a later date; or maybe this is one where I should watch the movie first.

  22. I wanted to like this book so much. I love the premise, and the way it's such an interesting meditation on storytelling, but I absolutely hated McEwan's writing. I am a fan of slightly more minimalist writing.

  23. Oh Anna! Thank you so much for this beautiful review! This is my favorite book of all time, so I am biased, but you managed to capture all the feelings I had about it and then some. When I turned the final page I was just bawling. You should see the movie, it is excellent. Mc Ewan is one of my favorite authors, just steer clear of Amsterdam!

  24. I haven't read this book but I did watch the movie...and loved it beyond all measure. I know some people hated the film who loved the book, though. I'd like to try reading the book, but the plot is burned deeply in my mind so I suspect it might take some time.

  25. Yeah, the END! So heartbreaking, but so true to life. I think the reason I was particularly impressed with this novel is that it combined metafiction with deep human empathy, and while I love both those things I don't see them successfully combined that often. But the end of Atonement isn't just a narrative trick for the sake of blowing peoples' minds; it's all about Briony's tremendous desire to be able to make right what she did, and in the end she just can't. Lovely post about a great novel!

  26. This book was brilliant! Like you, I don't see how the movie could be as powerful as the book. The plot in itself is not that remarkable--it the writing and the story about the story, which I don't think they could capture on screen.

  27. I really like Ian McEwan. I thought Amsterdam was great, A child in time - haunting and I'm not sure one could read it if a parent and Saturday - great though that was partly as it was set in London and on a day that I remember. Chesil Beach is a good yet quick read.
    I hadn't read Atonement and so ended up seeing the film first and then read the novel for book club. I do remember our conversations and thoughts on it did vary depending on which way round we read/viewed. Do read other Ian McEwan.

  28. I'm late to the party on Ian McEwan too. I haven't read anything by him. Honestly, I didn't even know what this book was about until this review! Hmm...

  29. Unfortunately I made the mistake of seeing the movie before I read the book. I've held off on reading the book since I feel like the movie spoiled it for me. But the way you have described the writing makes me realize that the movie didn't spoil anything. The book is beautifully written and I look forward to reading it now, thanks to you!

  30. I learn so much from your posts! Thank you. I loved this book and thought the movie was visually wonderful. I agree with Simon that On Chesil Beach is CHARGED. I have a mad crush on McEwan and need to read more.

  31. I read Atonement in 2006 and was quite blown away by it - especially how McEwan captures the psychological detail. Possible side note of interest: I read Kite Runner soon after reading Atonement, and due to similar themes, Kite Runner suffered in comparison to the better written Atonement.

    I love the film adaptation though I had been skeptical about how such a book could be adapted. There are differences of course between book and film. I think that the film is harsher with Briony. In the book, she is allowed to be loved and have a life in her older years. In the film, she is a much starker, lonelier figure. Still, the film is gorgeous in its own right, and really nails some aspects and themes of the book.

  32. Oh, I forgot to ask, what is 'pulling a John Fowles'?

  33. Glad you liked it. I didn't really think much of the film or another book of his I read. Might give it a try at some point but not in any rush to do so.

  34. I watched the movie and liked it for the most part. I would be willing to give this book a try sometime.

  35. I've had this book in the back of my mind for a while now. I never quite knew what it was about, so I'm glad to hear that you liked it! It must be good, then. Fabulous review!

  36. Great review as always nymeth. Glad to hear you enjoyed it, I want to read this one.

  37. I saw (and loved) the movie version of this, but it was so so so so so sad that I can't bring myself to read the book. I can't even watch the movie again!

  38. I've had this book on the TBR shelf for several years. Your review has inspired me to move it up the queue a bit. I love Ian McEwan.

  39. I'm glad you loved your first foray into McEwan's twisted, heart-wrenching world :) Four books down and yet I can't let go of the fact that he's out there to screw my brains :)

    The film is a beautiful adaptation. Up to now I can hear the tap-tap-tap-tapping of the typewriter keys when I picture Briony. But yes, that sense of writing, of enjoying the novel for what it is is hard to capture. Though I must say that the film is a good adaptation of a great book.

  40. I'm also one of those that didn't enjoy the book much. It was too slow going for me, and I just didn't like the subject of the book. It didn't keep my interest.

    On the other hand, On Chesil Beach is a perfect little story about two newly weds. Definitely a book to read next, Nymeth!

  41. I have been trying to read this book for years!! I'm sure I will get there one day!!

  42. Your reviews always make me want to read books I might not have otherwise picked up!

    In other news, I LOVE this: "We tell stories because they help us realise that everyone else is as real as we are – that there are countless other lives, other mindsets, other selves out there in the world."

  43. Glad you loved this book, Ana! I was so happy to find a novel that could deal with narrativity and at the same time not forget the characters and feelings. Heart and mind basically, I often find that in postmodern lit these seem to be exclusive.

    I think the movie can stand well on its own, it's a beautiful piece of cinematography and does justice to the story as well.

    I actually didn't enjoy On Chesil Beach that much, but I think most people did. I just couldn't conncect with the characters. Have to read his Saturday for a class next semester though, so I hope I'll become a fan yet :)

  44. I've read about 5 McEwan books and "On Chesil Beach" was my favorite of all of them ... even more so than Atonement. I would recommend it for your next McEwan. (And I'd stay away from "Black Dogs" ...but that might just be me.)

    I loved how McEwan slips the "twist" in there at the end ... I had to literally stop and reread it to make sure I got it. I was like "Whhhaaaaa????" Made me go back and rethink the whole thing. Loved that aspect of it.

  45. I loved this book! Especially because of that third part and the “John Fowles” maneuver which is, like you said, not an easy thing to do. But McEvan does it very well. Excellent characterization and the multiple point of views don’t confuse you like it does in many books who try to pull this off… Thank you for the great review :)

  46. I love the edition you've pictured here!
    I adored Atonement, totally agree about the wonderful metafictional aspect. I think Briony's view of "herself as the star of a drama - her play being performed at last - and everyone else as her satellite" and how relatable and ordinary this is for a thirteen year old girl heightens the tragedy of the novel. And how she's too young to understand the consequences of her actions and a good person at heart, yet causes so much suffering really gives the novel an extra emotional layer.

  47. It's about 7 years since I read this, Ana, but I did love it. Have you seen the film yet? I really enjoyed it - I thought it was done really well and captured how I felt about the book.

  48. I haven't read this, though I was very impressed with the movie adaptation. I liked the metafictional aspect, too.

  49. Oh Ana, I absolutely loved this book. In fact, if I had ever thought I would change my mind and have children I would name my girl Briony. I think that Atonement truly captures the innocent, immaturity, and self-centeredness of a young tween. The characters had incredible depth.

    Unfortunately I havent read anything else by him. Even though I have a couple on my shelf.

  50. This is such a luscious story. I read it back in 2003, before the movie and I just loved it. I've read most of McEwan's books since then and he has such a fascinating style.

  51. I honestly don't remember much about this book but I know I didn't enjoy it when I first read it. I'm sure my opinion would be different now as it's been nearly 8 or 9 years since I read it.

  52. Melody, thank you for clearing that up! I promise I will give the movie a try at some point :)

    Jessica: Judging by the comments, his writing seems to be of the love it or hate it kind. I personally loved it, but I can see how others wouldn't.

    Lu: I can't wait to read On Chesil Beach!

    Fiona: Another vote for the movie! I'm very very curious to see it after all the endorsements from fans of the book.

    Jodie: "the slight disrepair of the house, which is a lovely kind of foreshadowing of the age in itself and the family and the class situation" --> Yes! I absolutely loved this. I didn't feel manipulated by the tone, but I can see how others might. Whatever McEwan was doing, it completely worked on me. And yes, I found that devastating too :( And hmm... I wonder how I'll feel about that aspect of On Chesil Beach.

    Simon: On Chesil Beach really does seem to divide opinions! I can't wait to find out on which camp I'll fall.

    Sakura: I hope you enjoy your re-read! And I can't wait to watch the movie.

    Clare: Yes, the details were absolutely wonderful! And the writing. And everything. I kind of want to read it again already.

    Debi, I honestly didn't expect to like it nearly as much as I did!

    Claire: I understand how forgiving Briony might be hard considering how much damage she caused, but my heart really broke for her. She was so young! And she wasn't at all aware that class privilege put her in a position of power. None of this excuses what happened, of course, but it makes me feel horrible for everyone involved :\

    Jeanne: I'm glad to hear you love the movie - judging by everyone's comments, it sounds like a successful adaptation of a book that isn't all that easy to adapt. Anyway, I think you'll really enjoy the metafictional aspect of the book.

    Elisabeth: I will read On Chesil Beach next for sure. And I hope you have more luck with this when you try again!

    Amanda: At least you have Amy and Trisha :P

    Meghan: There are many books of his I'm curious about, but as On Chesil Beach is so short I might as well try it next :P

    Amy: You, Amanda and Trisha :P

    Jill: Aww, poor Briony! As I was telling Claire, I felt horrible for her.

    Kate: Amsterdam is on my list as well, though like On Chesil Beach it seems to divine opinions! I'm happy to hear McEwan is so versatile. I really admire that in an author.

    Trisha: You, Amy and Amanda need to start a support group ;) But seriously now, I do understand the frustration!

    Jenny: Normally I am too, but I open an exception on his case and Byatt's (he really did remind me of her for some reason). Their highly elaborate style just works for me for whatever reason.

    Zibille: If I'd known this was your favourite I'd have read it sooner! And I really need to give the movie a try.

    Amy: Yes, normally I also like to leave a good interval between the movie and the book, or the other way around.

    Emily: I can think of very few books that combine those two things as successfully as Atonement! A narrative this meta runs the risk of losing its emotional power and becoming a bit too clever for its own good, but this doesn't at all. Like you said, it's so much more than just a trick.

    Shelley: I wondered the same, but it seems that many fans of the book love the movie too!

    Joan Hunter Dunn: I will, and hopefully before too long! It's interesting how the order in which you read the book or watch the movie can affect your reaction. I've certainly seen that happen too.

    Emily Jane: I'm happy not to be the only latecomer, at least :P

  53. Kathleen: You're most welcome! I hope you'll enjoy it - there's certainly plenty here even if you already know the story.

    Care: Clearly I need to read On Chesil Beach soon!

    Christy: It seems that many who were sceptical at first were convinced by the movie - I'll really have to watch it! And the Fowles thing is a reference to The French Leiutenent's Woman, a highly metafictional (and AWESOME) neo-Victorian novel. I can't go into detail without spoilers, so I just hope you'll read it :P

    Rhinoa: It seems that liking this one but not his other books is pretty common. I wonder if it'll happen to me!

    Staci: Do! It's a beautiful book.

    Emidy: lol, I appreciate the trust :P

    Naida: I hope you do!

    Heidenkind: It did me too, but it's actually a lot more accessible than I thought! It grabbed me right away and I had a hard time putting it down.

    She: Yeah, the book is pretty heartbreaking too :\

    Jessica; I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did!

    Lightheaded: I really ought to have listened to you sooner ;) And I promise I'll watch the movie soon!

    Leeswammes: I'll try to get my hands on On Chesil Beach soon! I'm really looking forward to it.

    Elise: I hope you enjoy it when you do :)

    Emily: I think that if you love that, there's a fair change you'll love the book as a whole! It's one of the main themes.

    Bina: Yes, exactly! Heart and mind. I thought it was so funny that the letter Briony gets about her writing commented on exactly the need to balance them both. Talk about meta :P

    Jenners: I promise On Chesil Beach will be my next one!

    Lua: He really does it remarkably well!

    Dominique: Isn't the cover gorgeous? I love all those Vintage editions. And you put it perfectly here: "how she's too young to understand the consequences of her actions and a good person at heart, yet causes so much suffering really gives the novel an extra emotional layer." It's just heartbreaking.

    Boof: I haven't seen the film, but after all the comments I'll be sure to!

    Stephanie: I'm glad to hear that wasn't completely left out of the movie like I feared!

    Christina: He really, really does. She's a great character - she does something terrible, but she's just so human that you can't NOT feel for her.

    Avid Reader: I really look forward to reading more of his books. I think I'll like his style a lot.

    Jen: I tend to distrust my younger self too :P

  54. Here's another book that I have but failed to read. I guess the day will come when my mood says OK, pick this up, Alice...


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