Fascinating, strongly written piece of metafiction.
A majority of the first part of the book takes place in one day in early 1930s England. McEwan's prose is a perfect evocation of Virginia Woolf's style, flowing from the thoughts of one character to another seamlessly. The second part of the book takes place during WWII, and the events of that one day still affect all of the characters deeply. I enjoyed this book throughout, but by the end I felt that this book went beyond just a great book to a masterpiece. It is an incredible look at the power of words and writing, and a deep look at guilt and how to get out from under its weight--even when it is next to impossible. Guilt is hard to get rid of, especially when there is no apparent way of attaining forgiveness.
Sometimes it looks like McEwan is showing off. At times he even appears to get in the way, pointing things out to show the reader just how clever he is. This is a potential turn off, but I didn't feel it when reading this book. On the contrary, it fit with the voice of the narrative. Highly recommended.
5 stars out of 5.