Issue 167, Fall 2003
This was going to be the tale of the attempted entrapment and blackmail, if not murder, of a senior political figure, probably a cabinet minister. What really interested me, however, was the country house, as well the sexual langour that afflicts Mary, and the fate of the solitary child who was going to witness the crime, or at least its planning. The boy acquires power over Mary, and she falls in love with him.. I wrote a love scene between the grown woman and the ten-year-old boy. Then I began to suspect that what I had was too stark, insufficiently rich in social terms, and potentially melodramatic.
Some years later, I started again, with a different house, another crime, and a vaguely similar young woman. The boy became a thirteen-year-old girl, and the novel became Atonement. —I.M.
The car Mary drove was a borrowed 1954 three-and-a-half-liter Alma Mercury. Spidery cracks in the leather upholstery snagged against her silk blouse as she shifted her weight to heave the wheel—there …