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Atonement (Vintage War) [Paperback]

Ian McEwan
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (334 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 May 2002 Vintage War

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: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (334 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,813 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 beautiful and majestic fictional panorama" (John Updike)

"Subtle as well as powerful, adeptly encompassing comedy as well as atrocity, Atonement is a richly intricate book... A superb achievement" (Sunday Times)

"He is this country's unrivalled literary giant...a fascinatingly strange, unique and gripping novel" (Independent on Sunday)

"McEwan's best novel so far, his masterpiece" (Evening Standard)

"Atonement is a magnificent novel, shaped and paced with awesome confidence and eloquence" (Independent)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 31 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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9 of 9 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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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
By james-Arundel VINE VOICE
Format:Audio CD
I have already raved about this book in the form of a paperback - see my other review there. But for a wonderful book to be read so beautifully with such expression by a voice as rich and resonant as Isla Blair's is a real pleasure. She depicts the different characters with great expression and real attention to the nature of the characters, from the main Briony narrative to the "little boy" voices of Jackson and Pierrot, and the booming complacency of Paul Marshall.

I have whiled away many hours of tedious driving listening to this audiobook in the car. A real pleasure.
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70 of 76 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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5 of 5 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 33 people found the following review helpful
Though this book is only of average length, it has the feel of a big family saga, so completely does McEwan delve into the consciousness of his main characters as they attempt to cope with the long-term repercussions of a "crime" committed by Briony Tallis, a naïve 13-year-old with a "controlling demon." Briony's "wish for a harmonious, organised world denie[s] her the reckless possibilities of wrongdoing," so it is doubly ironic that her attempt to "fix" what she sees as wrongdoing involving her sister and Robbie Turner, a childhood friend, becomes, in itself, a wrongdoing, one she feels compelled to deny and for which she will eventually attempt to atone.
Opening the novel in 1935, McEwan creates an intense, edgy, and almost claustrophobic mood. England is on the brink of war; Briony, a budding writer, is on the edge of adolescence; her newly graduated sister Cecilia is thinking of her future life; and Robbie is about to start medical school. The summer is unusually hot. Troubled young cousins have arrived because their parents are on the verge of divorce; Briony's mother is suffering from migraines; her father is "away," working for the government; her adored brother Leon and a friend have arrived from Cambridge; and Briony, an "almost only child," with a hypersensitive imagination, finds her world threatened.
Step by step, McEwan leads his characters to disaster, each individual action and misstep simple, explainable, and logical. The engaged reader sees numerous dramatic ironies and waits for everything to snap. When Briony finally commits her long-foreshadowed "crime," the results are cataclysmic, and the world, as they know it, ends for several characters.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars The Weight of Words...
I watched the film with Keira Knightley years ago, and while I didn’t exactly dislike the film, I certainly didn’t quite comprehend the hype. Read more
Published 16 days ago by Valerie L. Pate
5.0 out of 5 stars great read
Enjoyed the story plot the language used to help you bring the characters and events to the forefront of your imagination.
Published 1 month ago by Helen Robertson
5.0 out of 5 stars A Pleasure
Quite a slow read to start with but once I got started but once I had gotten into it after quite a while I was unable to put it down.

A very lovely book. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Rachaelle Milton
2.0 out of 5 stars Trying to be literary
This is well written, in the sense that the sentences are elaborate and well crafted - but I always feel that such writing becomes the opposite of well-written. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Kublai Dom
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece
Ian McEwan's mature writing styles is one of the best things one can experience in life. This book is a masterpiece, no doubt about that.
Published 2 months ago by Andrea
4.0 out of 5 stars Atonement
Ian McEwan's novel "Atonement" (2001) has received deserved praise. The writing style is varied and superb, the pace of the novel carefully controlled, and the characters live from... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Robin Friedman
4.0 out of 5 stars Atonement?
It left me feeling cold, numb and depressed but I'll probably get over it in a couple of days when a more upbeat but unrealistic storyline lands on my lap. Read more
Published 3 months ago by IC Camilleri
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!
Got to read it but maybe before you watch the movie. The pictures he paints are so vivid, that the movie might take away some of this enjoyment. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Thea
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed this
book so much. Great story, excellent characters, who seem so real. Would recommend this to anyone, who likes a good plot, that doesn't get over complicated. Loved the ending.
Published 3 months ago by LW
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it!
Definitely one of my all time favourite books. Beautifully written, touches on so many emotions and addresses them in such an eloquent manner. A must read for everyone.
Published 4 months ago by My opinion
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