Atonement

Atonement

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Overview

Atonement by Ian McEwan, Josephine Bailey

Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose.
On a hot summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives–together with her precocious literary gifts–brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece.

Author Biography: Ian McEwan is the bestselling author of more than ten books, including the novels The Comfort of Strangers and Black Dogs, both shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Amsterdam, winner of the Booker Prize, and The Child in Time, winner of the Whitbread Award, as well as the story collections First Love, Last Rites, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award, and In Between the Sheets. He has also written screenplays, plays, television scripts, a children’s book, and the libretto for an oratorio. He lives in London.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781575111148
Publisher: Publishing Mills, Inc., The
Publication date: 04/01/2002
Edition description: Abridged
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 5.02(h) x 0.99(d)

About the Author

“It caused me a lot of anxiety,” McEwan has said of this, his ninth novel, which he had been waiting years to write. He is a careful writer, with a tendency to worry about how his books will turn out. This one emerged slowly; only after 14 months of ‘doodling’ did he have a paragraph and a half with which to begin the book, now the start of the second chapter: Cecilia standing in the doorway with a bunch of flowers, and Robbie outside.

McEwan likes to take a particularly potent, decisive event bringing the protagonists together — the snatching of a three-year-old girl in The Child In Time, a tragic ballooning incident at the start of Enduring Love — and let the emotions develop from there. Atonement is his most deeply emotional book to date, and he is pleased that it turned out a moving love story; he has more often been seen as a master of the gruesome, the disturbing and the morbid after his early novels in the 1970’s. His first collection of stories, First Love, Last Rites, was published in 1975 and immediately won him the nickname Ian Macabre. The sense of menace is present from the beginning of his latest novel, and darkness continues through the 1940 sections, but there is a warmth not usually associated with McEwan’s work. “At my age,” he says, “there is an obligation to celebrate the good things in life.”

He found his own way towards a love of fiction; there weren’t many books at home when he was growing up. His father was an Army NCO, and the family moved from London at times to North Germany, North Africa, and Singapore, where as a teenager he would find himself engrossed in novels by Iris Murdoch and Graham Greene. Attending a state-run boarding school, he was the first in his family to get a university education; he was also the first applicant to the creative writing course run by Malcolm Bradbury and Angus Wilson at the University of East Anglia. Now in his mid-fifties, he has published nine novels and two books of short stories. He lives in Oxford with his two sons.

His father, who died in 1996, was a dispatch rider with the Highland Light Infantry and was wounded by shrapnel in both legs during the retreat from Dunkirk; McEwan always knew he would write about it, and he is sorry he wasn’t able to show this novel to his father, who became obsessed with his experiences at Dunkirk in his last years. “He found another man wounded in both arms and together they managed to ride a Harley-Davidson to safety.” The author’s mother, who worked as a cleaning lady, is also present in places in the book; she suffers from vascular dementia, a disease that erases the memory, which afflicts Briony late in life.

McEwan feels Briony is the best fictional character he has created yet. Her mistake in telling a lie is the turning point that pulls her from the childhood world of innocence, a theme he has often touched upon. Her shaky claim provides a focus for the class prejudices of her elders, and becomes destructive. “I was haunted by the witch-hunts of the recovered memory syndrome in the Eighties and Nineties. Children were prompted by leading questions from earnest social workers and court officials.” The situation he created allowed him to address this in an oblique way.

Atonement is about storytelling, and the dangers of applying fictional form to real life, of imposing order and drama on life’s confusions; as the Financial Times put it, “the power of narrative to create and manipulate truth”. If McEwan likes to play with perspective and describe the same experience from several points of view, this is partly because he feels novels are “about showing the possibility of what it is like to be someone else.” Unlike any other form of art, novels give us the opportunity to get inside someone else’s head and try to understand them. “Other people are as alive as you are. Cruelty is a failure of imagination.”

Hometown:

Oxford, England

Date of Birth:

June 21, 1948

Place of Birth:

Aldershot, England

Education:

B.A., University of Sussex, 1970; M.A., University of East Anglia, 1971

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Atonement 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 450 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
At first I didn't know what to think because the first part of the book is very detailed and not fast paced. I almost gave up, but I wanted to read the book before seeing the movie. I'm glad I stayed with it, because as I read further I couldn't put the book down. As you read, you will think you understand why the author titled the book 'Atonement,' but not until the final chapter will you comprehend its true significance. The story haunted me for days afterward. One of the best books I've ever read.
Taylor-Marie More than 1 year ago
Sadly I have not read any other books to compare this book to, but Atonement surely is a great book to read for someone starting Ian McEwan's novels. His writing style is exquisite. McEwan's writing manages to describe the story while moving the story along. So far I found it to be the best book that intertwines the troubles of war and the troubles at home with the main characters. His choice of switching point of views is very well done, although a bit confusing in the beginning the book. Nevertheless, this is definetely a good buy for your personal library.
fitz12383 More than 1 year ago
I usually make a point of not seeing a movie before I get a chance to read the book, but the opposite is true for my experience with McEwan's Atonement. I rented the movie last summer from Netflix and as soon as the movie ended, I stared at the blank screen for a moment, blinked a couple of times in wonderment, and then hit play and watched it in its entirety a second time. Needless to say, I was completely entranced with the storyline and the cinematography. All of this is to say that after having such a wonderful experience with the movie adaptation, I began to worry that I'd ruined the possibility of having a good reading experience with the novel. I find it difficult to read a book after I've seen the movie since I have so many preconceived notions of the characters' appearance and eccentricities locked into my head visually. Never fear. I loved the book just as much as the movie. I actually listened to this book, mostly while driving, and I'm quite lucky I didn't wind up in a ditch somewhere due to my complete inattention to my surroundings. I became so wrapped up in the characters, the story, and the heart wrenching consequences of one thirteen-year-old's misinterpretation of a number of events and a rash decision. This was my first foray into Ian McEwan's writing and it definitely won't be the last. I was mesmerized with his writing style. The characters, especially that of the young Briony, were so well-drawn. She is so frustratingly self-absorbed and narcissistic in the beginning of the novel, and her imaginative whims that so many young girls possess lead to such a catastrophic turn of events. I'll say no more. You must read it for yourself. I don't often reread books anymore due to the sheer quantity of amazing novels out there that I must get my hands on, but I can definitely say this is a book I will revisit, perhaps a few times, in the future.
Oneira More than 1 year ago
Definitely not what I thought it was. I have respect for what McEwan was doing, but this book just wasn't for me. It was basically a psychological study of the characters, not having much to do with the plot or central story much of the time. I would have liked it better if he did this study while furthering the central story. I felt like he was leaving out a lot in the characters, too. Something was missing for me, they didn't feel whole. But, I do applaud his general writing style and the basic story which was quite touching.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was extremely disappointed while reading this novel. I can't even count the number of pages I skipped because they were filled with useless details. There was too much fluff and not enough actual story. After I was finished with the book, I couldn't believe the story had ended. There was really NO ending to this story. Briony was an unlikable character and it was almost painful reading all of her ignorant thoughts. The story read as though McEwan was desperately trying to reach a deadline. All in all, this book was terrible. Stick with Nicholas Sparks if you absolutely must have a love story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The reviews below are confusing to me because McEwan's measured writing communicates an eerie stillness that drew me in right from the start. This is an absolutely masterful and emotionally intense novel that will stay with you long after you finish reading it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not my favorite, some passages were just too long and irrevelant, like the second section. The only charcter I liked with Birony becuase she managed to be more of a dramatic and developing character, unlike CC and Robbie. Things were confusing too. Also...it took abou 100 pages to explain a night's tale. It wasn't because there was a lot of action, but McGown really went into depth behind the motives. Although I did not enjoy the book, I really appreciated it after I watched the movie...which I do not recemmend until you have finished this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really looked forward to reading this book but decided I was in for a long read when nothing seemed to be happening the first 200 pages. This book, while well written as far as imagery, was too long in getting to the point. And it was confusing. There was so little dialogue and toooooo much description, I became easily bored with it. And I felt like the atonement never came except in the ramblings of an old woman. Disappointing book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There were many well written parts. Unfortunately the story dragged on in many areas. Briony's character was annoying. The ending was very sad and disappointing. I was sorry I read it. The foul language was offensive and unnecessary to the story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Masterful and lyrical. An epic novel of love and responsibility, it traces the coming of age of a people. The characters are rivetting, and real. The storytelling is subtle and poignant. The kind that echoes in your head, long after.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first Ian McEwan book I've read. I found the aforementioned Briony incredibly detestable, yet McEwan presents the inner workings of her childish mind so elegantly that you find yourself understanding her despite your feelings. Other characters are equally well revealed. But the true brilliance of Atonement is the ending, when all the pieces come together and the framework of the story becomes clear. Well worth a read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sad but extremely moving. I know it stayed with me for quite some time after reading it. Give it a chance... especially if you like historical fiction.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book sometime ago, but it remains a favorite. It is extremely vivid without being slow and overly wordy. You will be frustrated and sad, but you can't put it down. Amazing story with characters you will develop strong feelings for one way or another. I thought the movie adaptation was quite good for a change, but you should still read the book.
Wilhelmina_Hyena More than 1 year ago
I read this novel several years ago, and to this day I think of it! I feel that it has a pulse, and actual life of it's own. The beginning is rather lackadaisical, not unlike a lazy summer day. And then it picks up pace and by the time you're half way through you can not put it down. The story is absolutely haunting! However, This is a novel for the more cerebral reader. People who prefer those first page attention grabbing action stories will likely not take the sweet time to savour this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. wonderful story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
McEwan's prose is not everyone's cup of tea. He lulls the reader into a sense of serenity through lyrical prose, then slams the reader against a brick wall of devastating reality. This is a heartbreaking story. Kleenex required. Stick with it and you will be rewarded.
Kaylan Doyle More than 1 year ago
Please read this incredibly poignant story. It is beautifully written...haunting and memorable long after you finish the last page. I loved the tone and easy flow of a very heavy subject matter...I dont know anyone who didnt love it.
Shannon Thole More than 1 year ago
This story captured my emotions with the enlightening end. The story is like a happily ever after in reverse. This is by far my favorite book to date. Surely read the book before seeing the movie, I think the movie was god but I think it ruins the effect you would get reading first.
PatriciaJL More than 1 year ago
Where to start with this book... This was an amazing book! Atonement is told from many different points of views: Briony Tallis, Cecilia Tallis, and Robbie Turner. Briony Tallis is introduced to as a 13-year old who has a passion for writing, and for creating imagined worlds. Cecilia Tallis, Briony's older sister, is more concerned with relaxing and smoking while her mother has one of her "headaches". Robbie Turner, a son of one of the household maids, dreams about going to college for medicine. The main events behind the whole pot of this book all occur in a single day. Briony misinterprets an interaction taken place between Cecilia and Robbie while looking out her window. To add to Briony's imagination of what she "thinks" took place she intercepts a note written by Robbie addressed to Cecilia. Robbie gave this note by accident, with the intended note still at his house. Inside this note sexual and personal thoughts of Robbie's send Briony's thoughts array. Later on Briony see's an intimate event take place between Robbie and Cecilia, not understanding at all what it means - she believes that Robbie has "assaulted" Cecilia and is thus a bad man. If this wasn't bad enough, one of Briony's cousins is found violated later that night in the woods. Briony automatically believes and accuses Robbie as the assailant. Briony's accusation sets in motion the events for the rest of the book - Robbie is given the choice to either go to Jail or to serve in the Army; he chooses the Army, which changes him completely. Cecilia becomes a nurse, as she too is changed by Briony's accusation. As Briony grows up she starts to question her actions and realizes her mistake. Can she ever make up for the pain and heartache she has caused, for tearing apart two people who loved each other?
queen125 More than 1 year ago
This book completely absorbs your attention, and you keep reading to see what happens. Well- written and really riles up every emotion: humor, anger, happiness, and sadness. I acutally saw the movie first and told myself I had to read the book. I was not disappointed.
Whitty More than 1 year ago
Although, McEwan writes beautifully, with many details, I found this book difficult to pick up. It was a good story, but I felt bored in some sections throughout the book.
Aglaia More than 1 year ago
I usually prefer reading the book first, and then seeing the movie, as that`s the way it should go. With Atonement, I saw the movie first, and of course, the movie is great, the actors amazing, yet I still wish I had read the novel first, so that I could have imagined the characters for myself.This way, everything was a bit set already. This is good writing, disturbing, sensual, compelling. The characters are unforgettable, you can almost touch the heat of the summer on the pages, and the passions that set course for the events. I could not put it down. What a sad, destroying night taht not even a lifetime of atonement could set right. I recommend it to everyone who loves good literature. Enjoy.
XavierAlmand More than 1 year ago
This is an engaging story and so finely written that the reading is both effortless and seductive. After I had finished (that is, after drying my eyes and regaining my breath), I was amazed to realize how complex a plot it is considering how smoothly it is told. By far, it is the best book I have read in years. The story starts on a summer day at a large country estate in pre-WWII England. For anyone who delights in the heady mix of intelligence, innocence and youthful imagination, the beginning is like eating rich chocolate: 13 year old Briony has written a play -- the references to Austen, Burney, and family performances within 18th century lore are abundant and perfect -- to be rehearsed and performed by her unwilling and displaced visiting cousins in order to celebrate her brother's return to home with his sophisticated friend. However, reheasals in the playroom for THE TRIALS OF ARABELLA (of course) do not run smoothly: the twins boys do not understand what is expected of them; there's tension between Briony and 15 year old Lola. During the hot summer afternoon, Briony looks out the window to see her older sister Cecilia and Robbie, the cleaning lady's son, having what looks like some kind of menacing (and intimate) interaction in the fountain. The rest of the day's events and mishaps play out without implication until nightfall when a real crime of a sexual nature occurs and Briony's overactive imagination and lack of sophistication lead her to make a accusation which results in genuine tragedy for everyone. Without revealing the entire plot and overwhelming descriptions of war and survival, Briny spends her life paying for this mistake. Near the end of her long life, and having enjoyed without enjoyment a successful writing career, Briony's birthday is celebrated by her relations. This party is held at the old country house, now a renovated hotel, where her grand nieces and nephews perform THE TRIALS OF ARABELLA, a deeply emotional and incomprehensible experience for all (the surviving twin boy, now an old man, breaks down completely, as will nearly every reader). This book goes into my unofficial rank as one of the best reading experiences I've ever had. It tooks me days to shake the feeling that Briony was a part of my life. I was completely transported and I don't think there can be better praise than that.
karl_koala More than 1 year ago
Author Ian McEwan has once again managed to transform simple words into a sophisticated work of art. He manages to create the perfect narration of war, romance, and of course atonement. The book tells the story of Briony Tallis, a young girl coming from a wealthy family and how she notices the flirtation between her older sister Cecilia and Robbie Turner, who is the son of a servant. Briony's childish innocence and wild imagination bring about consequences that no one could have thought of and make Atonement one of the most beautifully written love novels ever. McEwan, genially manages to avoid clichés throughout the story and while the story is beautiful, I could not help but feel a certain angst while Briony sees everything she does and finds everything so awkward and adult-like. What I found truly unique was that most of the relationship that Cecilia and Robbie maintained throughout the novel is by letter and never by physical contact. I found this extremely interesting because it just emphasizes the point that the love between Robbie and Cecilia is so strong that they would go to any lengths just to keep in contact with each other. As the story progresses so do the lives of the characters and Briony, who at the beginning was a young eager writer, learns how to live with the mistake she made and continues writing. I would not like to go so deep into the plot of the story because I do not want to give anything away and most certainly would like to leave everything to the readers interpretation of the story, the characters, and everything the story revolves around. Going on a more general note, I think Ian McEwan has yet again composed a marvelous novel that will not easily be put down. His descriptions of the events are strong and could not be described any other way. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who likes to read. Of course it would not be fully understood by a younger audience, but any teenager or adult would be more than satisfied with this novel. McEwan is without a doubt one of the great writers of this modern time more specifically focusing on the English aspect of Europe and literature, however this does not limit his words from reaching us all the way in North America and into our minds and hearts.
patterson30 More than 1 year ago
I already had an idea of what the novel would be about having seen previews for the movie. However, I was still shocked when the big crime was committed. The characters are well written and so is the narrative. However, the novel's greatest strengths is it's ending, which is so gut-wrenching and honest that I wanted to scream, cry and curse. Worth the read.