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 atone.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Romance, class tensions, the evils of war, struggles with the past—Atonement is a modernist masterpiece. During a heat wave in 1935, 13-year-old Briony falsely accuses her sister’s lover of sexual assault; the effects of her lie ripple for years to follow. Ian McEwan conjures scenes with such sensory nuance that we weren’t just imagining the languid, sunbaked afternoon at Briony's family estate—we were diving into the pool, feeling the bracing water on our faces. McEwan’s level of detail translates beautifully into the film starring Kiera Knightly.
This haunting novel, which just failed to win the Booker this year, is at once McEwan at his most closely observed and psychologically penetrating, and his most sweeping and expansive. It is in effect two, or even three, books in one, all masterfully crafted. The first part ushers us into a domestic crisis that becomes a crime story centered around an event that changes the lives of half a dozen people in an upper-middle-class country home on a hot English summer's day in 1935. Young Briony Tallis, a hyperimaginative 13-year-old who sees her older sister, Cecilia, mysteriously involved with their neighbor Robbie Turner, a fellow Cambridge student subsidized by the Tallis family, points a finger at Robbie when her young cousin is assaulted in the grounds that night; on her testimony alone, Robbie is jailed. The second part of the book moves forward five years to focus on Robbie, now freed and part of the British Army that was cornered and eventually evacuated by a fleet of small boats at Dunkirk during the early days of WWII. This is an astonishingly imagined fresco that bares the full anguish of what Britain in later years came to see as a kind of victory. In the third part, Briony becomes a nurse amid wonderfully observed scenes of London as the nation mobilizes. No, she doesn't have Robbie as a patient, but she begins to come to terms with what she has done and offers to make amends to him and Cecilia, now together as lovers. In an ironic epilogue that is yet another coup de th tre,McEwan offers Briony as an elderly novelist today, revisiting her past in fact and fancy and contributing a moving windup to the sustained flight of a deeply novelistic imagination. With each book McEwan ranges wider, and his powers have never been more fully in evidence than here. Author tour.
Customer ReviewsSee All
First- this man writes some magnificent sentences. Works of art.
My experience was impatience originally at the amount of introspection, which came across as artistically created padding or waffle.
But half way through I was sucked right in.
How would it all pan out.
A good book on a fascinating theme with a satisfying ending.