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Atonement [Paperback]

Ian McEwan
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (350 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 May 2002

On the hottest day of the summer of 1934, 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 is Robbie Turner, her childhood friend 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. Robbie and Cecilia will have crossed a boundary they had not even imagined at its start, and will have become victims of the younger girl's imagination. Briony will have witnessed mysteries, and committed a crime for which she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (2 May 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099429799
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099429791
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (350 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ian McEwan is a critically acclaimed author of short stories and novels for adults, as well as The Daydreamer, a children's novel illustrated by Anthony Browne. His first published work, a collection of short stories, First Love, Last Rites, won the Somerset Maugham Award. His novels include The Child in Time, which won the 1987 Whitbread Novel of the Year Award, The Cement Garden, Enduring Love, Amsterdam, which won the 1998 Booker Prize, Atonement, Saturday and On Chesil Beach.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Atonement is Ian McEwan's ninth novel and his first since the Booker Prize-winning Amsterdam in 1998. But whereas Amsterdam was a slim, sleek piece, Atonement is a more sturdy, ambitious work, allowing McEwan more room to play, think and experiment.

We meet 13-year-old Briony Tallis in the summer of 1935, as she attempts to stage a production of her new drama The Trials of Arabella to welcome home her elder, idolised brother Leon. But she soon discovers that her cousins, the glamorous Lola and the twin boys Jackson and Pierrot, aren't up to the task, and directorial ambitions are abandoned as more interesting preoccupations come onto the scene. The charlady's son Robbie Turner appears to be forcing Briony's sister Cecilia to strip in the Fountain and sends her obscene letters; Leon has brought home a dim chocolate magnate keen for a war to promote his new "Army Amo" bar; and upstairs Briony's migraine-stricken mother Emily keeps tabs on the house from her bed. Soon, secrets emerge that change the lives of everyone present...

The interwar upper-middle-class setting of the book's long, masterfully sustained opening section might recall Virginia Woolf or Henry Green, but as we move forward--eventually to the turn of the 21st century--the novel's central concerns emerge, and McEwan's voice becomes clear, even personal. For at heart, Atonement is about the pleasures, pains and dangers of writing, and perhaps even more, about the challenge of controlling what readers make of your writing. McEwan shouldn't have any doubts about readers of Atonement: this is a thoughtful, provocative and at times moving book that will have readers applauding.--Alan Stewart --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'A superb achievement which combines a magnificent display of the powers of the imagination with a probing exploration of them' -- Sunday Times

‘... smoulders with slow-burning menace. You know that, even as you savour the voluptuous sentences, something terrible will happen and sure enough it does…' -- The Times

‘Atonement is a magnificent novel, shaped and paced with awesome confidence and eloquence' -- Independent

‘He is this country's unrivalled literary giant…a fascinatingly strange, unique and gripping novel' -- Independent on Sunday

‘The best thing he has ever written' -- Observer

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars atonement 13 Jan 2008
i have read ian mcewen books in the past, enduring love and the child in time. they were good books. i bought atonement in a charity shop about a year ago and after reading the outline on the back of the book i couldnt muster the enthusiasm to read it. i saw the film advertised with its images of war and decided it might be worth reading. i must say this is one of the best books i have ever had the pleasure to read. i could not put it down. i was at work in the canteen reading about briony in the hospital i was laughing at the soldier having shrapnel removed the next i was close to tears as i read brionys meeting with the young french soldier. a true modern great, i would recomend this book to anyone
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good book 31 Oct 2005
I started reasing this book one saturday and I have to admit I found it very hard to put down. I'd only ever read Enduring Love of McEwan's before and found that even more exciting, mainly because of the start and the fact that there were many twists in the tale. The first part of Atonement, set in a family house and grounds in the 1930's is incredibly written- sensitive, mysterious and gripping. The plot moves on but into a different decade and focussing soley on one character, then again in part three to another character. Fans of war novels will enjoy these parts, as McEwan's depiction of war time on the battle field and in the hospitals is realistic and moving. However I found the end slightly disappointing, not really because of the story but because the perspective changes from an impartial onlooker without an identity to a character we have observed throughout the novel. I found this view slightly biased and odd to read, and although the resolution of events at the end is fascinating I found that a few details and characters in the story were overlooked.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His best yet? 4 Aug 2006
By Mr. G. Bridgeman-clarke TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Ok I am a big Ian McEwen fan, but whilst I may be bias I rate this as one of the top ten book written by a British author in the last twenty years.

The story is one of family conflict and deceit. The story delves into the lives of a family and close friends who one evening are bought together when a incident occurs which is covered up. Someone has to shoulder the blame and the story revolves around the consequences of the cover up and the wrongful accusation of a young family friend and how that affects not just his life but those of the family.

The story spans a period of 60 years or so but the plot entwines through the years, to climax at the very end.

I was shocked by some of the prose, especially the description of the mayhem on the roads to Dunkirk and the horrors of war, but I was greatly moved by the book and recommend it highly.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This was my first experience of Ian McEwan. I'd been lent the DVD and wanted to read the book first. Having heard mixed reviews I was intrigued. However, I was not disappointed.

Split into four parts (well, 3 and a short epilogue) this book, for me at least, seems to really have only two distinct halves - pre-war and wartime. However, this is a crude description and does not do the book justice. The first half smoulders with a slow burning intensity. It describes the events of a stiflingly hot summer's day, set against the backdrop of a stately home in Surrey. The oppressive heat is felt through the descriptions of everything from the clothes to the house - suffocating, cloying, clinging, engulfing. McEwan uses the English language exquisitely, taking the reader and placing them right in the book, in the very scene being read. I've read other reviews with interest. The excessive descriptiveness is not loved by those who prefer more plot driven novels. However, for a lover of prose this book is a treat, albeit a slow going one.

The theme of the first half is an awakening, the awakening of emotions of the 3 main protagonists. With Briony Tallis, it is the exposure to adult emotions she is ill equipped to comprehend and the end of her childhood. To her sister Cecilia, it is the realisation of her feelings towards her childhood friend Robbie Turner; and to Robbie it is both the arousal of his feelings for Cecilia and his intense anticipation at the promising future spread out before him. It is this eager, youthful expectation which makes the "crime" committed by Briony all the more unjust.

The crime of which Briony spends the next half of her book, in fact her whole life, attempting to atone for is the culmination of the events of this sultry summer's day.
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72 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ian McEwan's masterpiece 28 Sep 2007
I bought my copy of Atonement around five years ago and I never seemed to get around to reading it, even though I am a big fan of Ian McEwan's work. I knew that the release of the film version is imminent, so I decided to take it with me on holiday, so that I could set myself the goal of reading it before the film comes out. When I started it I could not understand why it had taken me the best part of five years to get around to reading it. I was totally engrossed by every aspect of the book; it is very atmospheric, it has a strong narrative drive, the characters are brilliantly drawn and you care what happens to the main protagonist.

In the hot summer of 1935 thirteen year old Briony Tallis is trying to stage a play to welcome her older brother home, but her cousins are proving not to be up to the task. As she sulks in her room she notices that her sister Cecilia has stripped her clothes off and jumped into a fountain, apparently at the behest of the cleaning lady's son Robbie. Her vivid imagination transforms this scene into something very different, and when that night something truly terrible does happen, she completely misconstrues it, with consequences that will dramatically change the lives of Cecilia, Robbie and herself. McEwan brilliantly captures how a child's mind works and the ways in which a naive young girl can totally misunderstand adult passions.

The second part of the book is set during World War 2 and Robbie is desperately trying to get to Dunkirk. Cecilia and Briony have both become nurses and are dealing with the casualties of the conflict. McEwan's writing is consistently superb throughout this book, but the war scenes are incredible, being totally pervaded by a sense of danger.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
An author whose books I always enjoy and this one does not disappoint.
Published 9 days ago by Joan.S.Landon
5.0 out of 5 stars The story of a very silly girl
My first McEwan and still my favourite. Highly recommended.
Published 1 month ago by david1000words
3.0 out of 5 stars Atonement
This book has a very slow start, in my opinion, that wants to make you stop reading. However, the book becomes better and the plot unravels forming the love story of two lovers who... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Thomas
4.0 out of 5 stars Sweeping, but a little empty
Everytime there is a character in a post-2000s McEwan book who is obsessed with literature, you can bet that somewhere in the final pages, he or she (along with you the reader)... Read more
Published 2 months ago by coronaurora
5.0 out of 5 stars A Poignant story of lost England
I've read lots of Ian McEwan books and some of them (Sweet Tooth, On Chesil Beach) I have loved, and others I've thought have been a bit of a miss (Saturday) but this really is up... Read more
Published 2 months ago by V. G. Harwood
1.0 out of 5 stars No plot, no characters and absolutely no atonement!
Customer Video Review
Length: 3:44 Mins
Published 2 months ago by Thomas_Baden_Riess
5.0 out of 5 stars Atpnement
Excellent and have it on my Kindle. Thanks
Published 3 months ago by Caroline Gulliford
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
I loved this book, and the ending was so hard to hear but also so original and strangely happy. I recommend this book to anyone.
Published 3 months ago by Alice Wright
5.0 out of 5 stars beautifully written!
Beautifully written. I read this in two days, such a good story.
Published 3 months ago by Emma Purtill
1.0 out of 5 stars ... for her course at uni but it was so bad and so so mind numbingly...
My daughter needed to read this book for her course at uni but it was so bad and so so mind numbingly boring she couldn`t get through it - so i had a go and fell asleep - so we... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Leeds lass
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