Okay, since Atonement is broken into parts, I guess I'll comment on each part.
I just finished Part 2. I know Moonrat said the first section was her favorite, and Cyn said she snoozed through part 2. But I actually liked it MUCH better than I liked Part 1. I couldn't STAND Part 1. The self-indulgent thoughts of all the characters really annoyed me and I barely had the patience to read through everything because I didn't want to have to stay with them. Ugh. I mean, honestly, if I weren't the kind of person to stick with a book til the end, I would have dropped this book somewhere in Part 1.
But Part 2 felt like a completely different book altogether. Maybe it's something to do with me - maybe I like books detailing war. Or maybe McEwan's descriptions and observations on the war seemed a lot more purposeful and important. But I found that I could actually enjoy myself with this section. I actually took the time to slow down and read everything and soak in what Robbie Turner was experiencing. I mean war images are so common, and yet there was something sad and mesmerizing about reading through all that tragedy. The Flemish woman and her son. The gypsy woman and her pig. The saving of the RAF. The food eaten secretly under a coat. It resonated with me much stronger than that first section did. And I think it's because here, the self-indulgence was okay. It was merited! He's in war! Whereas the first section, if I had to read anymore about how depressed Briony was about her stupid play, or how bad Emily's migraines were, I was going to shoot someone. They were so unsympathetic. Annoying, trivial thoughts written in a way that it was impossible to care about them enough to want to read through the rest. But in Part 2, I really become attached to Robbie.
So there you have it. If the book can continue on this track - not necessarily the war, but this kind of tone and style, and stay away from the incredibly annoying self-indulgence, then it might redeem itself in my eyes. Because Part 2 actually affected me. I thought it was well-done.