McEwan writes with such sensitivity and patience, such exquisite detail--he captures the nuances of emotion, of place, of character, of thought so beautifully. What really knocked me out about this novel, though, was that it was ultimately a meditation about writing--about how joyful and dangerous and healing and misleading writing can be. What a pleasure to follow the unfolding of a writer from the time she is 13, to see how truth and lies and intention and regret form both her life and her work.
Here's a little taste:
She had dreams in which she ran like this, then tilted forward, spread her arms, and, yielding to faith--the only difficult part, but easy enough in sleep--left the ground by simply stepping off it, and swooped low over hedges and gates and roofs, then hurtled upward and hovered exultantly below the cloud base, above the fields, before diving down again. She sensed now how this might be achieved, though desire alone; the world she ran through loved her and would give her what she wanted and would let it happen. And then, when it did, she would describe it. Wasn't writing a kind of soaring, an achievable form of flight, of fancy, of the imagination?