30 Day Book Challenge: Day Nineteen

Book that turned you on: Atonement – Ian McEwan

Who thought a novel so British could be so nasty. Well, to be fair, there’s only a few sexy scenes, one of which involves raping a minor…However, the one between Cecilia Tallis and Robbie Turner is some hot shit indeed. It’s pretty risque considering it’s told from the perspective of a young, teenage girl (I forget Briony’s age) and she treats it as borderline rape. Nonetheless, the reader is aware of the sexual tension growing between Cecilia and Robbie, so what you get is a pretty raunchy concoction:

This illusion, or hope of one, was dispelled as her eyes adjusted to the gloom. No one moved. Briony stared past Robbie’s shoulder into the terrified eyes of her sister. He had turned to look back at the intruder, but he did not let Cecilia go. He had pushed his body against hers, pushing her dress right up above her knee and had trapped her where the shelves met at right angles. His left hand was behind her neck, gripping her hair, and with his right he held her forearm which was raised in protest, or self-defense.

Fast forward to the next chapter and we get the lovers’ perspective:

At last they were strangers, their pasts were forgotten. They were also strangers to themselves who had forgotten who or where they were. The library door was thick and none of the ordinary sounds that might have reminded them, might have held them back, could reach them. They were beyond the present, outside time, with no memories and no future. There was nothing but obliterating sensation, thrilling and swelling, and the sound of fabric on fabric and skin on fabric as their limbs slid across each other in this restless, sensuous wrestling. His experience was limited and he knew only at second hand that they need not lie down. As for her, beyond all the films she had seen, and all the novels and lyrical poems she had read, she had no experience at all. Despite these limitations, it did not surprise them how clearly they knew their own needs. They were kissing again, her arms were clasped behind his head. She was licking his ear, then biting his earlobe. Cumulatively, these bites aroused him and enraged him, goaded him. Under her dress he felt for her buttocks and squeezed hard, and half turned her to give her a retaliatory slap, but there wasn’t quite the space. Keeping her eyes fixed on his, she reached down to remove her shoes. There was more fumbling now, with buttons and positioning of legs and arms. She had no experience at all. Without speaking, he guided her foot onto the lowest shelf. They were clumsy, but too selfless now to be embarrassed. When he lifted the clinging, silky dress again he thought her look of uncertainty mirrored his own. But there was only one inevitable end, and there was nothing they could do but go toward it.

While it is provocatively written with some pretty explicit imagery, it isn’t raunchy like the former passage; it is a beautiful and tender depiction of two inexperienced – though enthusiastic – horny twentysomethings. It’s always fun to read about people discovering their sexuality, and it is even more exciting to read two people finally resolving their long-standing, unacknowledged mutual attraction. All things considered, it’s one of my favorite passages in all literature and it’s sure to inspire all kinds of burning in the loins for years to come.

I should also point out that I read Atonement before I saw the movie, so it’s not like I was imaging Keira Knightley throughout this  (or James McAvoy for that matter – what a dream boat!).



~ by braddunne on August 10, 2011.

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