"Ian McEwan's delightful novel has won accolades on both sides of the Atlantic for good reason. This is a marvelous story. The writing is sophisticated yet accessible. You will find yourself drawn to this cast of characters early on and be carried through to a beautifully wrought ending all too soon.Read more...
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"Ian McEwan's delightful novel has won accolades on both sides of the Atlantic for good reason. This is a marvelous story. The writing is sophisticated yet accessible. You will find yourself drawn to this cast of characters early on and be carried through to a beautifully wrought ending all too soon. This is a gem of a novel by one of our most talented contemporary writers. Atonement is thought provoking, entertaining and moving. It is this season's best new fiction and I strongly recommend it to you."
"A book about love and death, innocence and experience that stands as this writer's finest to date." --Alan Cheuse, Chicago Tribune
"In the seriousness of its intentions and the dazzle of its language, Atonement made me starry-eyed all over again on behalf of literature's humanizing possibilities." Daphne Merkin, Los Angeles Times
"Atonement is like nothing he's ever written before." Newsweek
"A masterpiece of moral inquiry...beautiful and wrenching." New York magazine
"A beautiful and majestic fictional panorama." John Updike, The New Yorker
"A tour de force...Atonement attests to Mr. McEwan's mastery of craft and control of narrative suspense." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Flat-out brilliant...McEwan's writing is lush, detailed, vibrantly colored, and intense." San Francisco Chronicle
"No one writing fiction in the English language surpasses Ian McEwan." Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World
On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her older sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching Cecilia is their housekeepers son Robbie Turner, a childhood friend who, along with Brionys sister, has recently graduated from Cambridge.
By the end of that day the lives of all three will have been changed forever. Robbie and Cecilia will have crossed a boundary they had never before dared to approach and will have become victims of the younger girls scheming imagination. And Briony will have committed a dreadful crime, the guilt for which will color her entire life.
In each of his novels Ian McEwan has brilliantly drawn his reader into the intimate lives and situations of his characters. But never before has he worked with so large a canvas: In Atonement he takes the reader from a manor house in England in 1935 to the retreat from Dunkirk in 1941; from the Londons World War II military hospitals to a reunion of the Tallis clan in 1999.
Making amends for a childhood sin
Ian McEwan, author of the 1998 Booker Prize-winning novel Amsterdam, has written an ambitious story spanning more than 60 years, a tale revolving around a childhood sin and the attempts to expiate it. The first half of the novel is set in 1935 on the Tallis family's country estate outside London. Thirteen-year-old Briony's lively imagination is amply demonstrated by her proclivity to pen and direct plays viewed by her family. Her older sister Cecilia has just graduated from Cambridge, and Leon, the eldest child, gallivants around with budding entrepreneurs.
Life at the Tallis manse is savagely interrupted when a female cousin is assaulted one evening. For reasons that form the basis of the novel's exploration of guilt and blame, Briony claims to have witnessed the act and accuses Robbie Turner, son of the family housekeeper, of the crime. Further complicating the situation is the fact that Mr. Tallis served as Robbie's academic patron, paying for his grammar school tuition and subsidizing his subsequent education at Oxford.
The battlefields of France during the early phases of World War II abruptly introduce the novel's second half. An emancipated Robbie Turner, now a wounded soldier in the British Army, stumbles towards Dunkirk, experiencing the German onslaught and devastation. McEwan writes starkly of the disheveled, frenzied retreat to the coast, filtering events through Turner's perceptive eyes. Even as chaos reigns amid the mutilated bodies, Turner remains focused on Cecilia, the woman he loves; he lets her passionate letters sustain him during this terrifying ordeal. As he waits at Dunkirk to be evacuated, the narrative shifts to 18-year-old Briony, now in London. The novel chronicles her bleak, austere training as a nurse, her childhood sin looming over her the entire time. With a grim determination, she works in preparation for a flood of casualties from the Continent, always hoping for a rapprochement with her sister, who spurned Briony after her false testimony.
McEwan skillfully weaves these multiple voices together, creating a seamless story. Though the novel's plot is sparked by a terrible transgression, this narrative ultimately emerges as a hopeful tale about families and our ability to atone for our errors.