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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 housekeeper’s son Robbie Turner, a childhood friend who, along with Briony’s 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 girl’s 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 London’s World War II military hospitals to a reunion of the Tallis clan in 1999.Atonement is Ian McEwan’s finest achievement. Brilliant and utterly enthralling in its depiction of childhood, love and war, England and class, the novel is at its center a profound–and profoundly moving–exploration of shame and forgiveness and the difficulty of absolution.
Published: Doubleday an imprint of Random House Publishing Group on
ISBN: 9780385503952
List price: $30.00
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Top 10. Read it slowly, because once you know the device of the book it will never be the same again. The highest of craft there is one part in it when they are retreating to Dunkirk where I was actually dodging the bullets, how brilliant is that?more
This book has been highly overrated. I felt the story was trite and the characters were not very likable. I slogged through this.
more
Memorable. Good writing. The best description of a migraine in print...more
I'm afraid me and Ian McEwan just don't get on. Something about his prose just falls completely flat for me, even when his story is compelling -- and I didn't find the opening of Atonement particularly compelling, unlike Enduring Love, so there wasn't that to propel me onwards with it. It just took too long to get anywhere that interested me, and while characterisation and setting felt right, felt real, it was just... boring, for me.

I did, in the end, enjoy the ending: I thought that was clever, and it rang true. But it was too much of a struggle to get there. For this stage in my life, at least, this is my last attempt at reading Ian McEwan's work.more
I expected this book to be very dark and dismal, but I found it to be poetic, romantic, real, and enthralling. It is a mesmerizing story that makes you wish it won't ever end. (I did like the first half better than the second half, though.)more
I thought this book was beautifully written, but some might find the language too much. It's good to get a dramatically romantic story in every once in a while.more
Beautifully written, and quite moving, but I felt the whole thing was a bit of a trick, deceitful on the author's part. I'm hard put to explain what upset me so, but let's just say I could see the conclusion long before reaching the final pages of the novel and I was resentful of McEwan's decision to do it the way he wrote it.more
I really wish I would've known about the book before seeing the movie, because of course I would've read the novel first. Because I saw the movie first, the book seemed a bit drawn out, overly descriptive and tedious. I felt like I could skip a few paragraphs, or even pages, and still not have missed out on the overall plot. This is a great reason I don't like watching the movies before reading the book. That said, I did absolutely love the original story line and overall plot. The exploitation of a child's innocence was taken in a grim view of over-fantasized dramatic life sequences that played off of that child's objection to reality, and later, guilt. This novel is quite the page turner.more
Review pending.

I still can't decide what I think of this. I liked it, but I don't know if it was a 4 or 5.more
Having watched a bit of the beginning of the film, I expected to find Briony thoroughly unlikeable. She seemed a horrid little judgemental prig without the benefit of the interior monologue revealed in the novel. In the book we are able to understand the conflicts within that lead her to her terrible action - an action for which she would spend her life attempting to atone.

A charming, although dreadful (in the sense of full of dread/foreboding) book, with brilliant imagery and characters brought to life so effectively that I felt I knew them all very well, and cared about them immensely. The ending provoked tears at bedtime, I'll tell you, and for many conflicting reasons.

Life in all its glorious imperfection.more
i loved it, but it's been years since i've read it (though i did run through a bunch of other mcewan stuff this summer, inspired by 'on chesil beach') so i'm re-reading it now in order, admittedly, to prepare for the movie...more
The sister is a bitch. End of story. Screw her and her sorry life.

However, I really hated that girl, so the writing was great and the story held my attention!

Still, that chick is/was/will always be a giant bitch. I think she's on my top 10 literary villain list.

Bitch. Seriously. A big one.more
Beautifully written and insightful. I refused to see the movie until I had read the book and I finally got around to both. I loved the book. McEwan has a flair for capturing both historical time and the points of view of the different characters. There are some deliciously constructed phrases that I absolutely relished. The story is also captivating and the characters are compelling.more
I really liked the first roughly half of this book a lot. The story is told from several different viewpoints showing how the characters appear to themselves and then to others through a number of different situations. That was done very well. The second part was good but the writing style kind of fell apart for me. Still liked the book and I'm glad I finally read it.more
I would like to call this the "Titanic" of books. Everyone read it and loved it, but I didn't really. I mean, I understand why because the writing does a great job of creating this world and describing it down to the very last detail and there are even some really interesting parts. But I felt like NOTHING HAPPENED for about 80% of the book. I mean, the entire second part was absolutely useless to me except to tell us that someone went to jail and was now fighting in the war. Except they said it in about 100 pages.more
I was given this book to read as the summer reading book prior to entering Smith College. I finished it, but I hated it. I felt like it didn't really go anywhere. It bored me. This is the type of literature that I feel a lot of people hold up as classic, good, "quality" literature that just doesn't cut it for me. People look down on graphic novels and juvenile fiction, but the only book I've ever hated more than this is Richard Wright's Native Son, which I actually threw in a trashcan.more
There are many layers to this book. Very interesting. Stays with you.more
For the first time ever, I wished I had read the book first instead of the movie. Knowing the ending, and having it present itself literally on the last two pages, was both anticlimactic yet also eagerly anticipated. I was horrifyingly dramatized when the truth presented itself during the movie. I suspect if I had read the book first, I would have felt equally maddeningly disturbed, reading and re-reading the last paragraphs, validating what I had read. Hmmm. Perhaps, I’m getting ahead of myself here, all bent out-of-shape over the ending. Then again, perhaps that’s the point of a good book – stirring emotions and reliving those moments that captivate you.The book is divided into 4 portions. The first introduced all characters, with a focus on the 13 year old Briony who has an excess of imagination and righteousness that ultimately led to the ‘crime’. The second focused on Robbie as a solider, retreating in France, surviving on his wit and hanging on the words that made his life worth living – “I love you. I’ll wait for you. Come back. Cee” The third showed us the 18 year old Briony, fully understanding the extent and damage of her mistake, trying to find the courage and have a backbone. The fourth, the 77 year old Briony is ready to tell all, in her own revised ways, and the final long-overdue atonement publication will mean litigation. I find a certain tingle and tickle to the manipulation and usage of Ian McEwan words. The hallway mirror that would not let Cecilia pass wearing her outdated pink dress. The tentacular awareness of the sickly Emily made her all-knowing throughout the house using this sixth sense. The self-pity that needed her (Briony) full attention, and only in solitude could she breathe life into the lacerating details. The story within a story theme further solidified his literary trickeries. It’s hard to not walk away from this book without some pain. Unfinished love. A life of atonement. Family relationships severed or simply conveniently ignored. Briony lived a full life, even a celebrated one, but at what price?Some quotes:The excitement and contradictions of love and lust in its initial steps:“…His excitement was close to pain and sharpened by the pressure of contradictions: she was familiar like a sister, she was exotic like a lover; he had always known her, he knew nothing about her; she was plain, she was beautiful; she was capable – how easily she protected herself against her brother – twenty minutes ago she had wept; his stupid letter repelled her but it unlocked her. He regretted it, and he exulted in his mistake. They would be alone together soon, with more contradictions – hilarity and sensuousness, desire and fear at their recklessness, awe and impatience to begin…”Aging:a) Healthy mind“However withered, I still feel myself to be exactly the same person I’ve always been. Hard to explain that to the young. We may look truly reptilian, but we’re not a separate tribe.” b) After dementia sets in:“In the next year or two, however, I will be losing my claim to this familiar protestation. The seriously ill, the deranged, are another race, an inferior race. I won’t let anyone persuade me otherwise.”Emily, an embodiment of the acceptance of her circumstances in loneliness, wronged child, wronged wife, debilitating migraines, drifting through life:“Fretting, concentrated throught, reading, looking, wanting – all were to be avoided in favor of a slow drift of association, … and the silence deepened around her… There was a silence in the room, her aggrieved, overlooked ten-year-old self,…, who used to wonder taht emassive emptiness of time… age and weariness would return Jack to her, and nothing would be said, or needed to be said. And here was the ghost of her childhood, diffused throughout the room, to remind her of the limited arc of existence. How quickly the story was over. Not massive and empty at all, but headlong. Ruthless.”Robbie’s Freedom before joining the war. This touched me greatly.“Freedom was still a novelty. The pace and clatter, the colors of coats, jackets and skirts, the bright, loud conversations of West End shoppers, the friendliness of the girl who served him, the spacious lack of threat – he sat back and enjoyed the embrace of the everyday. It had a beauty he alone could appreciate.”The reunion between Robbie and Cecilia, so much to say and do, so little time.“ This moment had been imagined and desired for too long, and could not measure up. He had been out of the world, and lacked the confidence to step back and reach for the larger thought. I love you, and you saved my life… Prison made him despise himself, while she looked as adorable as he remembered her, especially in a nurse’s uniform. But she was miserably nervous too, incapable of stepping around the inanities… He took her hand and squeezed. The gesture had to carry all that had not been said, and she answered it with pressure from her own hand… He kissed her, lightly at first, but they drew closer, and when their tongues touched, a disembodied part of himself was abjectly grateful, for he knew he now had a memory in the bank and would be drawing on it for months to come.” Love, complete love, from Cecilia to Robbie, at the end of the letter that explained why she chose him over her family:“… Most of all, I have you to live for. Realistically, there had to be a choice – you or them. How could it be both? I’ve never had a moment’s doubt. I love you. I believe in you completely. You are my dearest one, my reason for life. Cee.”Briony’s guilt and shame:“Did she really think she could hide behind some borrowed notions of modern writing, and drown her guilt in a stream – three streams! – of consciousness? The evasions of her little novel were exactly those of her life. Everything she did not wish to confront was also missing from her novella – and was necessary to it. What was she to do now? It was not the backbone of a story that she lacked. It was backbone.”more
 -a keeper-gets inside its characters and carries me along with themmore
eBook

I saw the movie first, which might have been a mistake. Nevertheless, it's hard to find much to say about either the movie or the book. Both are solid pieces of entertainment; I liked and was impressed by both.

But neither made much of an impression.

The sole stand-out is the character of Briony, specifically as a child. McEwan rather wonderfully captures the imaginative forces endlessly churning in the mind of a child. His description of Briony's thoughts as she slashes as a bunch of nettles could have come straight out of my memories: the intricate details are perfect.

Aside from that, though, this book just kind of washed over me like a wave, leaving me unchanged, and mostly unmoved. It seems like the kind of book that should really appeal to me, self-aware and self-referential without being cloying and depressing as hell (which seems to be my thing of late). But when I wake tomorrow, I won't be thinking about this book. I don't know what, but it's missing some vital spark.more
Being the first McEwan novel I read, I was a little apprehensive as to how I would find it. I think that the novel can't be fully appreciated until it has been finished and the reader has had time to consider the events of the novel. In all honesty, to begin with I wasn't too keen. The first part of the novel seemed to carry on for a long time, and initially I failed to see the importance of this. It is for that reason that I got half way through, watched the film adaptation, then finished the novel. As a warning to anyone who thinks this is a good idea, please don't do this! The novel is so much better if read through continuously then appreciated for the novel in itself. Can I also add at this point that the film does the novel great credit, and so 'd advise watching the film afterwards; it makes me cry every time. All I'm going to go on to say is that 'Atonement' is well worth reading, and it is in fact one of my favourite, if not my ultimate favourite novel that I've discovered in the last 5 years. The ending is worth holding out for; it is a fabulously stunning ending!more
This book is the reason that I hold McEwan as one of the few living authors worth reading. It is beautifully written. The story is quite compelling, the Dunkirk chapters are gripping. A lot of this as been said, and much better than I could ever say it, on other reviews. My personal take is that this is above all a book about writing and why does a writer write. McEwan's answer is atonement, to make amendments, at least to make things a little better if you cannot fix them. When he talks of the writer as god, he seems to suggest that a writer writes to teach God how to improve his work, to suggest this God of ours he could try to be at least a little bit less cruel. It seems quite paradoxic that an author nicknamed McAbre can claim to be much less cruel than God. Unfortunately he is absolutely right about it. This is the world we live in. I will conclude that even if it is always a pleasure to read McEwan, and this is one of his most beautifully written books, and I must emphasize it: "beautiful". Still, as in most of his books, it is obvious that McEwan has studied Creative Writing, that he has done his research, that he is one of the most accomplished artificers of the trade, and by this I mean that, as usual, one can often tell throughout the reading when he is simply using one of those creative-writing techniques he has learned at school and that I personally find in general quite irritating. Well it has been said before, and I say it again, one should not be made to think of technique while reading, on the contrary technique must be cleverly and subtly crafted in order to be there but remain invisible. Something that what I call the Creative Writing generation fails completely. Still "Atonement" is such a master piece and McEwan such an amazing writer, that what I would usually find extremely irritating becomes a minor detail, a nearly nothing, and he is the only writer of his generation I can say this about. Therefore 4 very deserved stars.more
In 1935, Briony Tallis, 13 years old, misinterprets several incidents between her older sister Cecilia and her childhood friend, Robbie. These misunderstandings lead her to make a false accusation later that changes everyone's lives. We follow each of the characters as they pay the consequences of Briony's actions for years to come.It was a good story, although somewhat disappointing. I found the writing to be a little too verbose and flowery for my tastes.more
Loved the plot and the characters, for the most part, just found the reading to be somewhat tedious due to the extremely wordy descriptions (such as Briony examining her hand...didn't really add anything to the story and came across [in my opinion] as filler).more
I enjoyed this a bit more than I expected, but I'm not really convinced. The opening country-house section is very well done, but the Dunkirk and hospital chapters just struck me as unnecessary showing-off ("look at me: I can work with archive material"). I felt it would have made a much better novella or short story than it does a novel.more
I'm glad I read this first because I like to read the book before I see the film.I did feel a little as though the ending took something away from the story.It could have been a lot shorter, the use of different perspectives was good at the beginning but it felt as though it was jarring in the second and third parts.more
I really didn't like this book. I had expected to love it, but found the characters empty and vacuous, the story drawn out and the resolution unsatisfying.more
Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness combines all the satisfaction of a superb narrative with the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose. On a summer day in 1935, thirteen year old Briony Tallis witnesses flirtation between his older sister, Cecilia and Robby Turner, the son of a servant. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives and her precocious imagination brings about a crime that will change all their lives, a crime whose repercussions Atonement follows through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the 20th century. That McEwan has a superb grasp of the English language cannot really be debated. His vocabulary is impressive. The issue is with the content. Critics proclaim him a modern Jane Austin and while his wording can seem similar, it is far from being true. McEwan’s wording is long, convoluted, and soulless. That last adjective is the most bothersome as while the author puts together long long sentences full of descriptors, it feels like he is just using the big words because he can without an sense of meaning, feeling, or emotion in the word choice. Austin’s words were emotion packed. It felt like a lot of hot air and the nuance and lessons on morality were lost in the text. . The story is okay but the book could probably be 200 pages shorter as the story does not require the amount of words used to tell it.more
It took me a while to get into this book and I almost put it down as a did not finished but I am glad I stuck with it as I really enjoyed the second half of the novel. McEwan writes some of the best prose that I have read, and every word has a depth to it that you do not find with most authors. I think this is another reason it took a while to get into this novel as I have found that I need to be in a certain reading mood to read anything by McEwan due to the prose used throughout the novel. The descriptions used throughout the novel are so graphic and accurate that I felt like I was standing there beside the characters, watching the events unfold in front of my eyes. To me this is usually a sign that I am reading a book by a very talented author. McEwan is an extremely talented author and knows exactly what he wants to convey through his words. For me this novel was just a bit slow-paced at the start, I love novels that grab my attention from the first line and keep me hooked. However, overall the second half of the book made up for the first half and I highly recommend this book.This review was first published on everybookhasasoul.more
Read all 277 reviews

Reviews

Top 10. Read it slowly, because once you know the device of the book it will never be the same again. The highest of craft there is one part in it when they are retreating to Dunkirk where I was actually dodging the bullets, how brilliant is that?more
This book has been highly overrated. I felt the story was trite and the characters were not very likable. I slogged through this.
more
Memorable. Good writing. The best description of a migraine in print...more
I'm afraid me and Ian McEwan just don't get on. Something about his prose just falls completely flat for me, even when his story is compelling -- and I didn't find the opening of Atonement particularly compelling, unlike Enduring Love, so there wasn't that to propel me onwards with it. It just took too long to get anywhere that interested me, and while characterisation and setting felt right, felt real, it was just... boring, for me.

I did, in the end, enjoy the ending: I thought that was clever, and it rang true. But it was too much of a struggle to get there. For this stage in my life, at least, this is my last attempt at reading Ian McEwan's work.more
I expected this book to be very dark and dismal, but I found it to be poetic, romantic, real, and enthralling. It is a mesmerizing story that makes you wish it won't ever end. (I did like the first half better than the second half, though.)more
I thought this book was beautifully written, but some might find the language too much. It's good to get a dramatically romantic story in every once in a while.more
Beautifully written, and quite moving, but I felt the whole thing was a bit of a trick, deceitful on the author's part. I'm hard put to explain what upset me so, but let's just say I could see the conclusion long before reaching the final pages of the novel and I was resentful of McEwan's decision to do it the way he wrote it.more
I really wish I would've known about the book before seeing the movie, because of course I would've read the novel first. Because I saw the movie first, the book seemed a bit drawn out, overly descriptive and tedious. I felt like I could skip a few paragraphs, or even pages, and still not have missed out on the overall plot. This is a great reason I don't like watching the movies before reading the book. That said, I did absolutely love the original story line and overall plot. The exploitation of a child's innocence was taken in a grim view of over-fantasized dramatic life sequences that played off of that child's objection to reality, and later, guilt. This novel is quite the page turner.more
Review pending.

I still can't decide what I think of this. I liked it, but I don't know if it was a 4 or 5.more
Having watched a bit of the beginning of the film, I expected to find Briony thoroughly unlikeable. She seemed a horrid little judgemental prig without the benefit of the interior monologue revealed in the novel. In the book we are able to understand the conflicts within that lead her to her terrible action - an action for which she would spend her life attempting to atone.

A charming, although dreadful (in the sense of full of dread/foreboding) book, with brilliant imagery and characters brought to life so effectively that I felt I knew them all very well, and cared about them immensely. The ending provoked tears at bedtime, I'll tell you, and for many conflicting reasons.

Life in all its glorious imperfection.more
i loved it, but it's been years since i've read it (though i did run through a bunch of other mcewan stuff this summer, inspired by 'on chesil beach') so i'm re-reading it now in order, admittedly, to prepare for the movie...more
The sister is a bitch. End of story. Screw her and her sorry life.

However, I really hated that girl, so the writing was great and the story held my attention!

Still, that chick is/was/will always be a giant bitch. I think she's on my top 10 literary villain list.

Bitch. Seriously. A big one.more
Beautifully written and insightful. I refused to see the movie until I had read the book and I finally got around to both. I loved the book. McEwan has a flair for capturing both historical time and the points of view of the different characters. There are some deliciously constructed phrases that I absolutely relished. The story is also captivating and the characters are compelling.more
I really liked the first roughly half of this book a lot. The story is told from several different viewpoints showing how the characters appear to themselves and then to others through a number of different situations. That was done very well. The second part was good but the writing style kind of fell apart for me. Still liked the book and I'm glad I finally read it.more
I would like to call this the "Titanic" of books. Everyone read it and loved it, but I didn't really. I mean, I understand why because the writing does a great job of creating this world and describing it down to the very last detail and there are even some really interesting parts. But I felt like NOTHING HAPPENED for about 80% of the book. I mean, the entire second part was absolutely useless to me except to tell us that someone went to jail and was now fighting in the war. Except they said it in about 100 pages.more
I was given this book to read as the summer reading book prior to entering Smith College. I finished it, but I hated it. I felt like it didn't really go anywhere. It bored me. This is the type of literature that I feel a lot of people hold up as classic, good, "quality" literature that just doesn't cut it for me. People look down on graphic novels and juvenile fiction, but the only book I've ever hated more than this is Richard Wright's Native Son, which I actually threw in a trashcan.more
There are many layers to this book. Very interesting. Stays with you.more
For the first time ever, I wished I had read the book first instead of the movie. Knowing the ending, and having it present itself literally on the last two pages, was both anticlimactic yet also eagerly anticipated. I was horrifyingly dramatized when the truth presented itself during the movie. I suspect if I had read the book first, I would have felt equally maddeningly disturbed, reading and re-reading the last paragraphs, validating what I had read. Hmmm. Perhaps, I’m getting ahead of myself here, all bent out-of-shape over the ending. Then again, perhaps that’s the point of a good book – stirring emotions and reliving those moments that captivate you.The book is divided into 4 portions. The first introduced all characters, with a focus on the 13 year old Briony who has an excess of imagination and righteousness that ultimately led to the ‘crime’. The second focused on Robbie as a solider, retreating in France, surviving on his wit and hanging on the words that made his life worth living – “I love you. I’ll wait for you. Come back. Cee” The third showed us the 18 year old Briony, fully understanding the extent and damage of her mistake, trying to find the courage and have a backbone. The fourth, the 77 year old Briony is ready to tell all, in her own revised ways, and the final long-overdue atonement publication will mean litigation. I find a certain tingle and tickle to the manipulation and usage of Ian McEwan words. The hallway mirror that would not let Cecilia pass wearing her outdated pink dress. The tentacular awareness of the sickly Emily made her all-knowing throughout the house using this sixth sense. The self-pity that needed her (Briony) full attention, and only in solitude could she breathe life into the lacerating details. The story within a story theme further solidified his literary trickeries. It’s hard to not walk away from this book without some pain. Unfinished love. A life of atonement. Family relationships severed or simply conveniently ignored. Briony lived a full life, even a celebrated one, but at what price?Some quotes:The excitement and contradictions of love and lust in its initial steps:“…His excitement was close to pain and sharpened by the pressure of contradictions: she was familiar like a sister, she was exotic like a lover; he had always known her, he knew nothing about her; she was plain, she was beautiful; she was capable – how easily she protected herself against her brother – twenty minutes ago she had wept; his stupid letter repelled her but it unlocked her. He regretted it, and he exulted in his mistake. They would be alone together soon, with more contradictions – hilarity and sensuousness, desire and fear at their recklessness, awe and impatience to begin…”Aging:a) Healthy mind“However withered, I still feel myself to be exactly the same person I’ve always been. Hard to explain that to the young. We may look truly reptilian, but we’re not a separate tribe.” b) After dementia sets in:“In the next year or two, however, I will be losing my claim to this familiar protestation. The seriously ill, the deranged, are another race, an inferior race. I won’t let anyone persuade me otherwise.”Emily, an embodiment of the acceptance of her circumstances in loneliness, wronged child, wronged wife, debilitating migraines, drifting through life:“Fretting, concentrated throught, reading, looking, wanting – all were to be avoided in favor of a slow drift of association, … and the silence deepened around her… There was a silence in the room, her aggrieved, overlooked ten-year-old self,…, who used to wonder taht emassive emptiness of time… age and weariness would return Jack to her, and nothing would be said, or needed to be said. And here was the ghost of her childhood, diffused throughout the room, to remind her of the limited arc of existence. How quickly the story was over. Not massive and empty at all, but headlong. Ruthless.”Robbie’s Freedom before joining the war. This touched me greatly.“Freedom was still a novelty. The pace and clatter, the colors of coats, jackets and skirts, the bright, loud conversations of West End shoppers, the friendliness of the girl who served him, the spacious lack of threat – he sat back and enjoyed the embrace of the everyday. It had a beauty he alone could appreciate.”The reunion between Robbie and Cecilia, so much to say and do, so little time.“ This moment had been imagined and desired for too long, and could not measure up. He had been out of the world, and lacked the confidence to step back and reach for the larger thought. I love you, and you saved my life… Prison made him despise himself, while she looked as adorable as he remembered her, especially in a nurse’s uniform. But she was miserably nervous too, incapable of stepping around the inanities… He took her hand and squeezed. The gesture had to carry all that had not been said, and she answered it with pressure from her own hand… He kissed her, lightly at first, but they drew closer, and when their tongues touched, a disembodied part of himself was abjectly grateful, for he knew he now had a memory in the bank and would be drawing on it for months to come.” Love, complete love, from Cecilia to Robbie, at the end of the letter that explained why she chose him over her family:“… Most of all, I have you to live for. Realistically, there had to be a choice – you or them. How could it be both? I’ve never had a moment’s doubt. I love you. I believe in you completely. You are my dearest one, my reason for life. Cee.”Briony’s guilt and shame:“Did she really think she could hide behind some borrowed notions of modern writing, and drown her guilt in a stream – three streams! – of consciousness? The evasions of her little novel were exactly those of her life. Everything she did not wish to confront was also missing from her novella – and was necessary to it. What was she to do now? It was not the backbone of a story that she lacked. It was backbone.”more
 -a keeper-gets inside its characters and carries me along with themmore
eBook

I saw the movie first, which might have been a mistake. Nevertheless, it's hard to find much to say about either the movie or the book. Both are solid pieces of entertainment; I liked and was impressed by both.

But neither made much of an impression.

The sole stand-out is the character of Briony, specifically as a child. McEwan rather wonderfully captures the imaginative forces endlessly churning in the mind of a child. His description of Briony's thoughts as she slashes as a bunch of nettles could have come straight out of my memories: the intricate details are perfect.

Aside from that, though, this book just kind of washed over me like a wave, leaving me unchanged, and mostly unmoved. It seems like the kind of book that should really appeal to me, self-aware and self-referential without being cloying and depressing as hell (which seems to be my thing of late). But when I wake tomorrow, I won't be thinking about this book. I don't know what, but it's missing some vital spark.more
Being the first McEwan novel I read, I was a little apprehensive as to how I would find it. I think that the novel can't be fully appreciated until it has been finished and the reader has had time to consider the events of the novel. In all honesty, to begin with I wasn't too keen. The first part of the novel seemed to carry on for a long time, and initially I failed to see the importance of this. It is for that reason that I got half way through, watched the film adaptation, then finished the novel. As a warning to anyone who thinks this is a good idea, please don't do this! The novel is so much better if read through continuously then appreciated for the novel in itself. Can I also add at this point that the film does the novel great credit, and so 'd advise watching the film afterwards; it makes me cry every time. All I'm going to go on to say is that 'Atonement' is well worth reading, and it is in fact one of my favourite, if not my ultimate favourite novel that I've discovered in the last 5 years. The ending is worth holding out for; it is a fabulously stunning ending!more
This book is the reason that I hold McEwan as one of the few living authors worth reading. It is beautifully written. The story is quite compelling, the Dunkirk chapters are gripping. A lot of this as been said, and much better than I could ever say it, on other reviews. My personal take is that this is above all a book about writing and why does a writer write. McEwan's answer is atonement, to make amendments, at least to make things a little better if you cannot fix them. When he talks of the writer as god, he seems to suggest that a writer writes to teach God how to improve his work, to suggest this God of ours he could try to be at least a little bit less cruel. It seems quite paradoxic that an author nicknamed McAbre can claim to be much less cruel than God. Unfortunately he is absolutely right about it. This is the world we live in. I will conclude that even if it is always a pleasure to read McEwan, and this is one of his most beautifully written books, and I must emphasize it: "beautiful". Still, as in most of his books, it is obvious that McEwan has studied Creative Writing, that he has done his research, that he is one of the most accomplished artificers of the trade, and by this I mean that, as usual, one can often tell throughout the reading when he is simply using one of those creative-writing techniques he has learned at school and that I personally find in general quite irritating. Well it has been said before, and I say it again, one should not be made to think of technique while reading, on the contrary technique must be cleverly and subtly crafted in order to be there but remain invisible. Something that what I call the Creative Writing generation fails completely. Still "Atonement" is such a master piece and McEwan such an amazing writer, that what I would usually find extremely irritating becomes a minor detail, a nearly nothing, and he is the only writer of his generation I can say this about. Therefore 4 very deserved stars.more
In 1935, Briony Tallis, 13 years old, misinterprets several incidents between her older sister Cecilia and her childhood friend, Robbie. These misunderstandings lead her to make a false accusation later that changes everyone's lives. We follow each of the characters as they pay the consequences of Briony's actions for years to come.It was a good story, although somewhat disappointing. I found the writing to be a little too verbose and flowery for my tastes.more
Loved the plot and the characters, for the most part, just found the reading to be somewhat tedious due to the extremely wordy descriptions (such as Briony examining her hand...didn't really add anything to the story and came across [in my opinion] as filler).more
I enjoyed this a bit more than I expected, but I'm not really convinced. The opening country-house section is very well done, but the Dunkirk and hospital chapters just struck me as unnecessary showing-off ("look at me: I can work with archive material"). I felt it would have made a much better novella or short story than it does a novel.more
I'm glad I read this first because I like to read the book before I see the film.I did feel a little as though the ending took something away from the story.It could have been a lot shorter, the use of different perspectives was good at the beginning but it felt as though it was jarring in the second and third parts.more
I really didn't like this book. I had expected to love it, but found the characters empty and vacuous, the story drawn out and the resolution unsatisfying.more
Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness combines all the satisfaction of a superb narrative with the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose. On a summer day in 1935, thirteen year old Briony Tallis witnesses flirtation between his older sister, Cecilia and Robby Turner, the son of a servant. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives and her precocious imagination brings about a crime that will change all their lives, a crime whose repercussions Atonement follows through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the 20th century. That McEwan has a superb grasp of the English language cannot really be debated. His vocabulary is impressive. The issue is with the content. Critics proclaim him a modern Jane Austin and while his wording can seem similar, it is far from being true. McEwan’s wording is long, convoluted, and soulless. That last adjective is the most bothersome as while the author puts together long long sentences full of descriptors, it feels like he is just using the big words because he can without an sense of meaning, feeling, or emotion in the word choice. Austin’s words were emotion packed. It felt like a lot of hot air and the nuance and lessons on morality were lost in the text. . The story is okay but the book could probably be 200 pages shorter as the story does not require the amount of words used to tell it.more
It took me a while to get into this book and I almost put it down as a did not finished but I am glad I stuck with it as I really enjoyed the second half of the novel. McEwan writes some of the best prose that I have read, and every word has a depth to it that you do not find with most authors. I think this is another reason it took a while to get into this novel as I have found that I need to be in a certain reading mood to read anything by McEwan due to the prose used throughout the novel. The descriptions used throughout the novel are so graphic and accurate that I felt like I was standing there beside the characters, watching the events unfold in front of my eyes. To me this is usually a sign that I am reading a book by a very talented author. McEwan is an extremely talented author and knows exactly what he wants to convey through his words. For me this novel was just a bit slow-paced at the start, I love novels that grab my attention from the first line and keep me hooked. However, overall the second half of the book made up for the first half and I highly recommend this book.This review was first published on everybookhasasoul.more
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