9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars atonement
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...
Published on 13 Jan 2008 by Mr. M. Bounds
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
I've read several of Ian McEwan's books but this one I was really disappointed in. The first part was totally contrived. To think that Robbie didn't know enough of the character of this 13 year girl beggars belief. To trust her with a very personal note to her sister (even if it had been the originally intended note) is incredible. To convict on the say so of a conceited,...
Published on 28 Jun 2011 by MissAnnThrop
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars atonement,
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
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good book,
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.
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His best yet?,
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A slow burner, but undoubtedly worth persevering with...,
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. Briony witnesses a scene between Cecilia which she misconstrues and her 13 year old imagination creates a monster in Robbie, a threat the family, compounded by an innocent mistake of Robbie's which sees an explicit letter, never meant to be sent, being read by Briony.
Without spoiling the plot, the crime is a case of mistaken identity, as a result of Briony's naivety. She convinces herself she has seen something which then goes onto destroy the lives of Robbie and Cecilia. She does a terrible thing, but as a reader you can understand who she reached her conclusion, even if you can't empathise with the character.
The second half of the book deftly describes the horrors and futility of war. Briony, no longer a precocious 13 year old, is an 18 year old probationary nurse at St Thomas' Hospital in London, where through nursing the war wounded she attempts to do penance for the crimes of her youth.
The question is - does she achieve the atonement she desires? Perhaps. But with a bittersweet edge to it. Again, not wanting to spoil the plot, she also receives suitable retribution through a disease which will ultimately ravage the very thing which both made her fortune as a novelist, but also damaged so many lives.
The book within the book is very clever, and the review within the review, where McEwan writes a critique of Briony's writing, is genius. Atonement is a beautifully written modern classic and I would highly recommend it.
72 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ian McEwan's masterpiece,
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. You have a real sense of the terror and confusion that the British forces must have experienced as they retreated from France. There is an intense immediacy to the writing in the war scenes and it is hard to believe that McEwan has no direct personal experience of being in a war zone. The horrors of war are graphically brought home, as well as the capacity of the soldiers to exhibit compassion or violence.
All of the characters are still living with the repercussions of Briony's actions from that sultry day of 1945. How will Briony atone for her crime and the promising lives that she has destroyed? She is desperate to re-establish conflict with her estranged sister and make amends to both her and Robbie. We see her character grow, develop and mature and the manner in which she attempts to redeem her earlier actions is revealed in an extraordinary twist. The whole novel is a testimony to the power of writing and the effect it can have upon our lives. If you haven't already read it, read it now because it is one of the best books written in the past decade, and is easily the best novel to come from the pen of England's finest living writer.
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "You think the world is at your feet, [but] it can rise up.",
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.
Giving depth to his themes of truth, justice, honesty, guilt and innocence, and punishment and atonement, McEwan uses shifting points of view and an extended time frame. Part I is Briony's. In Part II, five years after the "crime," Robbie, now a footsoldier retreating from the French countryside to Dunkirk, continues the same themes, seeing the crimes of war, not only between the combatants but against civilians and, at Dunkirk, by the Brits against each other. In Part III, Briony, atoning for her earlier crime by working as a student nurse, rather than studying to be a writer, brings the past and present together, tending the casualties of war. The ending takes place in 1999, at her 77th birthday party.
This is a totally absorbing, fully developed novel, the kind one always yearns for and so rarely finds. The characters, the atmosphere, the lush descriptions, the sensitively treated themes, the intriguing and unusual plot, and the rare entrée into the mind of a writer, both Briony and McEwan, make this novel an absorbing experience from beginning to end. Mary Whipple
39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful listening - an excellent book, beautifully read,
This review is from: Atonement (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.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a fantastic book!,
I have just this second finished the book and had to come straight on here and express my feelings for it. What a rollacoaster of emotions. The first half of the book is very slow moving but sets the tale for what lies ahead. After that theres no turning back. The passion, the lies, the love two people have for one another and the imagination of a young girls mind is written with such detail you cant help but picture yourself in the scene with them. I have not read a book ive enjoyed so much in a long time and i hope the film can live up to it. The ending was both heart breaking and beautifully written. Your left feeling sad but satisfied. Please give this book a try. Im not a great lover of things like this but im so glad i picked it up. Loved every moment of it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good,
I remember Atonement getting good reviews when it was first published a few years ago, also the film (which I have not seen) got good reviews. I intended to read the book but didn't get round to it until the new year when a friend who is a great reader praised it and lent me her copy.
I was not disappointed. It is an excellent book in many ways. I can sympathise with those who say that it is a bit slow starting and needs a bit of perseverance to get into it, but this is not unusual in good novels in my experience.
The events that define the book certainly take their time in coming, but this gives ample time to build the characters. I found all of them credible and all (well most) sympathetic. I wanted to see a good ending for all of them, although this is of course unrealistic.
I expected the war sequences to be a greater part of the book but they are just about right, and in many ways are the most defining parts of the book. The epilogue, written in the first person, finally puts things in perspective. I also found the long delayed premier of young Briony's play rather moving.
I did not find the young Briony as dislikeable as many see her and her search for reconciliation is, of course, the main thrust of the book. Does she achieve this? Well this is unclear and the epilogue is very well written in casting considerable doubt on events previously related. The closing of the loop between fact and fiction with Briony, a respected elderly author, being revealed as the author was well done.
A few details niggled. I am not convinced about the letter sent in error (which is a pivotal point of the book). I can believe Robbie writing it, but I not sure that an upper class girl like Cecelia would be familiar with the language. And if she was (she had been to Girton after all) would her thirteen year old sister? Although I did find the suggestion of jealousy by the adolescent girl being a reason behind her actions convincing.
The other thing is why should this letter precipitate two people who hitherto had a brother and sister relationship into a passionate relationship?
And Lola: she is portrayed as the "baddie" of the book and I cannot really see this. Unless I have missed something and she was a willing participant in the "attack" all along of course.
I also think that the book owed something to The Go Between, also an excellent book.
Incidentally I learned something. I was totally unaware of the disaster at Balham station.
Definitely a recommendation.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thrilling read,
We are first introduced to the story through the eyes of a naïve, yet intelligent 13-year-old, Briony, the main character of Atonement and owner of an overly fruitful imagination. It is because of this and her sense of determination to act on her imagination that the story unravels, thus causing such pain and such great tension between members of her family. Having created such a disaster, the central part of the novel sees her returning to the midst of the anguish to atone for the mistakes she made in childhood. By the end of the novel, I had warmed to her; a conclusion I didn't think I would result in at the beginning, where she is portrayed as an unlikable brat.
Atonement is a sensational read, set over three time periods; this novel captures the lifestyle of an upper middle class family pre Second World War, whilst also managing to show the true hardness experienced during the war, in such a graphic, realistic way, it really pays tribute to those who fought in the war in such a way I have never experienced in War films nor books.
A great book is made phenomenal by the excellent writing and use of words so typical of McEwan, the theme of romance throughout the novel is portrayed in a more subtle way than most, although it is still obvious that it is a tale of love. . It has been argued that McEwan goes into too much detail where it isn't necessary. However, I believe that this novel would be enjoyed by anyone who is passionate about literature, of any age. This is a truly worthwhile read and possibly the peak of McEwan's work.
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Atonement by Ian McEwan (Hardcover - 20 Sep 2001)
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