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.
From the Publisher
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
'A beautiful and majestic fictional panorama'John Updike
On the hottest day of summer in 1934, Briony Tallis sees her older sister Cecilia strip off and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching her is her childhood friend, Robbie Turner. By the end of that day, the lives of all three will have changed for ever: Robbie and Cecilia will have crossed an unimagined boundary, and Briony will have committed a crime for which she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone.
It's Vintage's 21st birthday and we're celebrating by publishing twenty-one of our most iconic
books in a rainbow of beautiful colours. Treat yourself and make your bookshelves happy.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The play for which Briony had designed the posters, programmes and tickets, constructed the sales booth out of a folding screen tipped on its side, and lined the collection box in red crêpe paper was written by her in a two-day tempest of composition, causing her to miss a breakfast and a lunch. When the preparations were complete, she had nothing to do but contemplate her finished draft and wait for the appearance of her cousins from the distant north. There would be time for only one day of rehearsal be-fore her brother arrived. At some moments chilling, at others desperately sad, the play told a tale of the heart whose message, conveyed in a rhyming prologue, was that love which did not build a foundation on good sense was doomed. The reckless passion of the heroine, Arabella, for a wicked foreign count is punished by ill fortune when she contracts cholera during an impetuous dash towards a seaside town with her intended. Deserted by him and nearly everybody else, bed-bound in a garret, she discovers in herself a sense of humour. Fortune presents her a second chance in the form of an impoverished doctor in fact, a prince in disguise who has elected to work among the needy. Healed by him, Arabella chooses judiciously this time, and is rewarded by reconciliation with her family and a wedding with the medical prince on a windy sunlit day in spring.
Mrs Tallis read the seven pages of The Trials of Arabella in her bedroom, at her dressing table, with the authors arm around her shoulder the whole while. Briony studied her mothers face for every trace of shifting emotion, and Emily Tallis obliged with looks of alarm, snickers of glee and, at the end, grateful smiles and wise, affirming nods. She took her daughter in her arms, onto her lap ah, that hot smooth little body she remembered from its infancy, and still not gone from her, not quite yet and said that the play was stupendous, and agreed instantly, murmuring into the tight whorl of the girls ear, that this word could be quoted on the poster which was to be on an easel in the entrance hall by the ticket booth.
Briony was hardly to know it then, but this was the projects highest point of fulfilment. Nothing came near it for satisfaction, all else was dreams and frustration. There were moments in the summer dusk after her light was out, burrowing in the delicious gloom of her canopy bed, when she made her heart thud with luminous, yearning fantasies, little playlets in themselves, every one of which featured Leon. In one, his big, good-natured face buckled in grief as Arabella sank in loneliness and despair. In another, there he was, cocktail in hand at some fashionable city watering hole, overheard boasting to a group of friends: Yes, my younger sister, Briony Tallis the writer, you must surely have heard of her. In a third he punched the air in exultation as the final curtain fell, although there was no curtain, there was no possi-bility of a curtain. Her play was not for her cousins, it was for her brother, to celebrate his return, pro-voke his admiration and guide him away from his careless succession of girlfriends, towards the right form of wife, the one who would persuade him to return to the countryside, the one who would sweetly request Brionys services as a bridesmaid.
She was one of those children possessed by a desire to have the world just so. Whereas her big sisters room was a stew of unclosed books, unfolded clothes, unmade bed, unemptied ashtrays, Brionys was a shrine to her controlling demon: the model farm spread across a deep window ledge consisted of the usual animals, but all facing one way towards their owner as if about to break into song, and even the farmyard hens were neatly corralled. In fact, Brionys was the only tidy upstairs room in the house. Her straight-backed dolls in their many-roomed mansion appeared to be under strict instructions not to touch the walls; the various thumb-sized figures to be found standing about her dressing table cowboys, deep-sea divers, humanoid mice suggested by their even ranks and spacing a citizens army awaiting orders.
A taste for the miniature was one aspect of an orderly spirit. Another was a passion for secrets: in a prized varnished cabinet, a secret drawer was opened by pushing against the grain of a cleverly turned dovetail joint, and here she kept a diary locked by a clasp, and a notebook written in a code of her own invention. In a toy safe opened by six secret numbers she stored letters and postcards. An old tin petty cash box was hidden under a removable floorboard beneath her bed. In the box were treasures that dated back four years, to her ninth birthday when she began collecting: a mutant double acorn, fools gold, a rain-making spell bought at a funfair, a squirrels skull as light as a leaf.
But hidden drawers, lockable diaries and cryptographic systems could not conceal from Briony the sim-ple truth: she had no secrets. Her wish for a harmonious, organised world denied her the reckless possi-bilities of wrongdoing. Mayhem and destruction were too chaotic for her tastes, and she did not have it in her to be cruel. Her effective status as an only child, as well as the relative isolation of the Tallis house, kept her, at least during the long summer holidays, from girlish intrigues with friends. Nothing in her life was sufficiently interesting or shameful to merit hiding; no one knew about the squirrels skull beneath her bed, but no one wanted to know. None of this was particularly an affliction; or rather, it ap-peared so only in retrospect, once a solution had been found --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.