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On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching her too is Robbie Turner who, like Cecilia, has recently come down from Cambridge. By the end of that day, the lives of all three will have been changed for ever, as Briony commits a crime for which she will spend the rest of her life trying to more

Product details

  • Paperback | 384 pages
  • 130 x 196 x 30mm | 359.99g
  • Vintage Publishing
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0099429799
  • 9780099429791
  • 4,214

Review quote

"A magnificent novel" Independent "A superb achievement" New York Times "The best thing he has ever written" Observer "He is this country's unrivalled literary giant...a fascinatingly strange, unique and gripping novel" Independent on Sunday "McEwan's best novel so far, his masterpiece" Evening Standard "A beautiful and majestic fictional panorama" -- John Updike "Subtle as well as powerful, adeptly encompassing comedy as well as atrocity, Atonement is a richly intricate book... A superb achievement" Sunday Times "Atonement is a is also an elegy to a time which, however volatile, still had certainties" The Times "An evocative depiction of the dangers of innocence and ignorance in the face of uncomfortable reality." Herald "Brilliantly explores the currents of guilt, shame and anger... Utterly satisfying, complete" Scotsman "A complex, thought-provoking novel." -- Fanny Blake Woman and Home "Smoulders with slow-burning menace" The Timesshow more

About Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan is the author of two collections of stories and twelve previous novels, including Enduring Love, Amsterdam, for which he won the Booker Prize in 1998, Atonement and, most recently, more

Review Text

On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, thirteen year-old Briony Tallis, a girl with a strange mind and a facility with words is preparing to cast, direct and star in her first melodrama. By the end of the day The Trials of Arabella remains unperformed, but Briony's talent for fantasy starts a chain of events that will dramatically change the lives of many and haunt her for more than sixty years. Atonement has three distinct parts. The first, making up more than half the novel, describes the events of that summer's day in 1935. The Tallises are an affluent family living in middle class comfort in Surrey. Father is a hazy figure, a senior ministry figure working on plans for the impending war and carrying on a secret affair in London. Neither he nor his frail and anxious wife are significant influences in their three children's lives. Cecilia, newly graduated from Cambridge, is restless and uncertain about the path of her future life. Leon, less well defined as a character, is the older brother. Briony is the youngest child, immersed in a fantasy world of her own making, who through a false and careless accusation destroys the life of Cecilia's lover, Robbie Turner, and her prospects of happiness. In part two, the narrative moves to 1940. Robbie has been released from prison and is one of the thousands of British soldiers serving in France and fleeing to Dunkirk from the German army. Briony and Cecilia, estranged from one another, are suffering in their own purgatory as nurses in London. In the third, shorter (and least successful) section set in 1999 we discover that Briony, now in her seventies and a celebrated novelist, is the author of Atonement reminiscing on the terrible consequences of her youthful mistake. Atonement, McEwan's first novel since the Booker-winning Amsterdam, is an extraordinary achievement and possibly the finest work he has yet published. It is a engrossing book, full of narrative suspense and wonderfully defined characters. It is also a consciously literary novel, with allusions to Jane Austen, Elizabeth Bowen and Henry James, but with none of the ponderous self-importance that label often suggests. Atonement confirms McEwan's great talents and well deserves its place on the Booker shortlist. (Kirkus UK)show more

Our customer reviews

McEwan's "Atonement" poses a compelling argument as to whether sins can be rightfully atoned. Briony's actions were unforgivable not only because she had no idea as to the consequences of her actions but that she was convinced that what she had done was correct. McEwan's narration helps us to understand weight of sins that can forever change one's life, with drastic complications. The answer, then to the question of whether Briony has redeemed herself from her younger, imaginative and conceited self, is no. A definite no. Her actions claimed the happiness of her sister and her lover, Robbie and robbed them of a life that they would have had together. Whilst, not the only culprit in the damning of an innocent man, Briony is most to blame. Her attempts to atone herself fall short as she is still the same person albeit, one who has lost her enthusiasm and courage as she realised what she had done. Though her childhood misunderstanding was justifiable, this does not excuse her from her perceived notion of superiority and rightfulness. In short, she is a "prima donna" (said by Cecilia), who cares for no one but herself, a conceited girl who understands no more about what she had done. Even if she had promised to [ withdraw her previous evidence and give an honest account of what had happened, she does not do this and cowardly runs back to the hospital she was training in. Although as it turns out she never met Robbie or Cecilia and that her confession was a part of her draft. Briony's attempts of atonement was not enough to save her from her own prison, from her own deity, a God who commands words on paper and bows to no one. Though Cecilia and Robbie meet in her writing, this is nothing but a poor excuse and a late attempt to rewrite her wrongs and to truly atone for what she had done. Though she apologised, a mere "sorry" is not enough as Cecilia and Robbie were separated by a poor and unreliable witness who thought she knew everything. To reiterate, Briony remains a coward protected by her ability to feign her accountability for her sins. To truly atone for one's sins is to place oneself in suffering proportionate to the victim's. Briony's life surrounded by little guilt and life is nothing but an excuse and a justification for something she could never change, something she could never atone for, something SHE has spent her life trying to avoid whilst convincing herself that she has actually tried to change or to correct her sins. "Atonement" is simply one of the best books I have ever read, and McEwan's prose is something worth of countless praise as he satisfies readers with wonderful dialogue and heart wrenching details that will tug your heartstrings. Definitely more
by Kim
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