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on 3 September 2017
I can only describe this as a novel about a meta-novel.

The narrative at its core starts like Downtown Abbey but phases into scenes that make that first 30mins of Saving Private Ryan feel pedestrian . Start to end this is a technical tour de force of wordmanship....the author must be at the peak of his powers. That would be enough but the structure into which this has been folded is quite superb.The story has been skillfully wrapped up into an essay on novel writing itself and there is even a segment - delivered as a rejection letter from a publisher - that appears to be a commentary on an earlier draft of the novel you are reading.

Best thing I have read in a long time. Maybe ever. And one i suspect that will reward a revisit.

Highly recommended.
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on 17 August 2016
Ian McEwan is one of the greatest novelists writing today but this book, published in 2001, is a big disappointment in my view. It sounds interesting - the tale of how a 13-year old girl from an upper middle class family ruins the life of two other people one day and then has to live with her demons. There are several glimpses of Ian McEwan's huge talent - particularly his ability to focus in on how characters think, feel and change their minds. But there are two major problems from the book in my view. Spoiler warning! The first is the weakness of the characters. Briony, in her chocolate box reincarnation, after she decides on the course of atonement is both boring and unconvincing. The other characters are rather feeble as well. What I personally disliked was the trick that is revealed at the end. It is the same kind of move that John Fowles made with his alternative ending in The French Lieutenant's Woman. In both cases, I find this a betrayal of the reader and a demonstration of the godlike power of the author. If that is the punchline of the novel then I would rather not waste my time.
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on 27 July 2017
A good story but possibly a bit padded out. I think its one of those books that you reflect on later and realise you got more out of it than you thought at the time. The Dunkirk episode was grueling and really came to life. I recently watched the film which stays very close to the book but has an amazing cameo role at the end with Vanessa Redgrave. Of the two i prefered the film.
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on 18 May 2012
With this book, my journey of falling in love with Ian McEwan's writing began, and yet I have not written reviews for any of his books... I have read the book in 2007, and just today stumbled upon an email I was writing to a friend 5 years ago, recommending this book. I thought the extract of email would work as an honest review, because I still feel strongly about the book and I keep recommending it, moreover, "Atonement" has become one of my all-time favourite books, and the position has not shifted for 5 years now, and I doubt it ever will. An outstanding book.

So herewith the extract from the email of 5 years ago:

Yesterday I finished the book - 'Atonement' by Ian McEwan, you know the movie I tried to recommend you, the one with Keira Knightly. Well, I haven't watched the film, but now that I read the book, I cannot wait to see the film.

So yeah, yesterday, at about 10PM I was finishing the book, and I started to cry, and couldn't stop, all the last pages. I literary was in hysterics. The novel is amazing, so sad, magnificent and beautiful. For the first time the book about war impressed me so much, the horrific waste of a single human life, the wasted love, desperate, but unfulfilled hope... and wait. Terrific book, beautiful. Why did he made it so horrible? - I was asking myself. But, the thing is, that how it was, the casualties of war, when no-one was important on a singular individual basis.

And how one word, one deed, can change the life of a person forever. How cruel people can be. And how in love can people be, no matter what.

I tried to console myself, went to have a bath, and I was crying all the way to the bathroom, I was crying while taking my make up off, I was crying while undressing (my t-shirt was soaked with tears), I was crying, while sitting in the bath, I was crying when I was putting my pyjamas on, I was crying when I was drying my hear (and even the heat from the hair-drying couldn't dry them). I was crying when I was falling asleep, I was crying when I woke up in the morning - seriously. At night, I had vague dreams about the book. And on the train, I tried to completely blank my mind from any thoughts, because all the thoughts I had were about the book. And I couldn't do it, and I felt how my eyes were swelling, and I was biting my lip just to stop myself from crying, I was thinking about the hair on the black arm of the Indian guy, holding a handle on the train, I was thinking about blue sky and warm November morning, I was thinking about negligence in tort, but those thoughts were so weak and unimportant... So I just prayed not to cry in public. This emotion is really private.

It's been more than 10 years since I cried over the book.

Hmm, a book to change one's life? I don't think so. Or, at least, I haven't read that kind of book yet. And I read a lot. And I am quite an emotional human-being, but no, no book has ever changed my life. Altered my view a little bit - definitely. Or opened my eyes to something I never understood before. And I think to open one's eyes or to alter one's view is quite a deed for a book! "Atonement" was definitely one of those rare books for me.
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on 2 April 2015
I had watched the movie Atonement some time ago and so was hesitant when I was first assigned this book to read for my Literature class. However, having now finished it, I am able to say wholeheartedly that the movie - although enjoyable - does no justice to the beauty of McEwan's writing.
One thing that stood out for me when reading Atonement was McEwan's ability to force his readers to connect with his characters emotionally; whether positively or negatively.
I don't want to say anything else in fear of spoiling any plots etc but I shall end my review by saying that although saddening, the books epilogue was one of the most satisfying, beautiful and heart warming, whilst still remaining realistic I have ever read.
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on 18 January 2015
Enjoyed reading this book for my book club.
The only surprise was that the act the narrator has to atone for happens two thirds of the way through the book, rather than right at the beginning.

There are some scenes set in wartime France during the Dunkirk retreat, which I found particularly gripping. I also enjoyed the perspective on what it is like to be a writer, which comes in through the narrator's early attempts at writing a play.

The character who is wronged is put in an interesting situation. Ian McEwan makes you think what you could possibly do if you were also in that situation.
I'm sure we have also done things which we may have later regretted and can imagine those acts magnified to the level that the narrator has to atone for.

Would like to see the film now to see how it compares.
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on 8 June 2017
Like a lot of really good books it took me a while to get into this story but I am so glad that I persevered as it set the stage for the rest of the book. Atonement is brilliant, it goes into such depth explaining the withdrawal of our military from France and actually arriving at Dunkirk, the detail is amazing. Then onto the hospitals and the strict working conditions of the nurses when nursing was a true calling. All the while running through all of this a love story with a twist. Love, jealousy, spite, guilt it's all there. A must read.
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on 16 October 2017
Ian McEwan's story reveals itself in a powerfully irresistible way making a book difficult to put down. The plot slumped a little half way through for me, enough for me to give four instead of five stars. The story leaves you in self reflection, how would you have reacted as a child? How would you react being accused? Thought provoking.
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on 17 August 2013
I had never read any Ian McEwan but several people recommended Atonement to me in a short space of time so I decided to give it a go. I got into it really quickly - I find the issues of perspective and consequence intriguing and these are both major themes (there is something reminiscent of The Butterfly Effect about it). Contrary to what seems to be the trend among reviews written here, I found Part 2 (i.e. the war, which deals with the adult lives of the main characters) much less engaging than the first part, which looked at the young Briony (and to a lesser extent Cecelia) confronting sexuality and responsibility for the first time.

I think this is an easy pleaser, which is not a criticism - readers with preferences for a range of styles and themes can find something that resonates within the pages of Atonement. I enjoyed reading it and have recommended it to a few people, but I wouldn't say that there is anything especially original or hugely memorable about it.
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on 20 November 2014
If you like to read a novel that is effectively the author saying "look what a clever writer I am", Atonement is the book for you. Well-written to the extent that McEwan is verbose and uses well-constructed sentences throughout but after 100 pages of that, I found it rather tedious. The section where McEwan effectively reviews his own novel within the novel (yoou will recognise this when you see it) is particularly irritating. Why is he adored by so many?
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