A Novel

eBook - 2002 | 1st ed. in the U.S.A
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On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, 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 forever. 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 that creates in her a sense of guilt that will color her entire life. Ian McEwan has in each of his novels drawn the reader brilliantly into the intimate lives and situations of his characters. But never before has he written on a canvas so large: taking the reader from a manor house in England in 1935, to the retreat to Dunkirk in 1941, to a London hospital soon after where the maimed, broken, and dying soldiers are shipped from the evacuation, to a reunion of the Tallis clan in 1999. Atonement is Ian McEwan's finest achievement. Brilliant and utterly enthralling in its depiction of childhood, love and war. England and class, it is at its center a profound-and profoundly moving-exploration of shame and forgiveness, of atonement and the difficulty of absolution.
Publisher: New York : N.A. Talese/Doubleday, 2002, c2001
Edition: 1st ed. in the U.S.A
ISBN: 9781400075553
Characteristics: 1 online resource (351 p.)


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Nov 09, 2020

I love to read about cosmology and quantum physics, but quantum universes within one cover I’m not sure about...
This McEwan title had me engaged at least...
The idea of class in England in the 1930s, and how it massively changed within a couple decades, is fascinating.
Then again... Lords are still a leaping, aren’t they...?
In the comments, I see that many of us are not entranced with the slow pace of endless description... too much like real life. Hurry up with the good stuff! (... stop reading McEwan!)

Mar 21, 2020

Was it a good story? Yes BUT all the editors and publishers are afraid of Ian McEwan to the point they are scared to edit the crap out of his self centered babbling on and on and on and on just to hear himself wax poetic about every damned thing. I skipped huge tracks just to get through the crap and get to the end to find out if that little brat got her comeuppance.

Mar 29, 2019

Dark and tragic, this well written modern literary novel is a study of personal atonement for past wrongs. At the heart of the story is an upper-class British family who are involved in a deeply tragic romance. I greatly enjoyed the book, but the first third literally plods along at a snail's pace before the action picks up during the war years.

Feb 10, 2019

A masterpiece. I have truly enjoyed every single text by McEwan that I have read and this novel is no exception. The plot, the narrative perspective, the tone, the literary references or imitations of various authors of the 1930s or 1940s (the period when the story takes place), the originality - compared to those literary references... Everything contributes to creating a novel that offers reflections on various serious subjects (guilt, social mobility, love, responsibility…) while being entertaining.
Of course, it does not hurt that McEwan writes some of the best sex scenes of literature. Robbie and Cecilia's lovemaking is depicted so much better than Grey and Anastasia's… ;-)

Apr 02, 2018

Wow. What a great novel. It really pulls you in, although it can seem a bit too slow at the start, but that's part of the magic. It's a slow day in a big house on a huge tract of land and the only place for the girl to put her energy and her intelligence is in watching the people around her (and then jumping to all the wrong conclusions and screwing up everyone's lives!).

ArapahoeKati Jan 29, 2018

It's incredible to see the ramifications of how one lie told by a child impacts the lives of everyone around her. The writing is gorgeous, the characters are fully realized, and the end made me ugly cry over this love story.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 02, 2016

A gorgeous novel. Its layers unveil new subtleties with each reading. I cannot read the final pages without being stirred emotionally.

Nov 19, 2014

Ian Mc Ewan's portrayal of the world of Briony Tallis from 1935, through the years of WWII and beyond is quite brilliant. In modern parlance she was the spoilt, often neglected, highly fanciful afterthought in a large British family with servants who lived in an ugly old mansion with a sprawling garden. She went on to work through the war as a nurse and later became a noted novelist.The ramifications of the lie she told about the incident she saw when she was 13 in 1935 affected so many lives.The characters are entirely believable.The various styles of novel writing all play a part in the development of the story. The title is apt but life is never simple..The novel translated to an excellent film.

antonio_brewbrew Aug 26, 2014


Jul 26, 2014

Not a bad read, but I found it a little slow in the second part. It's interesting because, in my mind, not alot happens in the book in terms of events, but the reader is given alot to think about. Great for a book club!

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May 09, 2018

OfMazesandMages thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over

Aug 30, 2015

VV12 thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

Jun 01, 2011

vchuynh thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over


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Jun 04, 2011

This whole story is based on a misunderstanding that goes horribly wrong. Cecilia, a young woman is home for the summer from school. Robbie, the gardener's son is also at home. Cecilia decides to put some flowers in a very expensive vase to welcome the arrival of her brother and his friend. She sees Robbie in the garden and he volunteers to do this for Cecilia, however she wants to do it herself, as they fight to hold the vase, the handle breaks off and it falls into a fountain. Cecilia must retrieve the handle so she strips down to her underwear to dive into the fountain to retrieve it. As she emerges from the fountain, Briony her younger sister sees this from the window and sees Robbie watching her soaking wet sister in her underwear. Meanwhile, the brother and his friend arrive and he invites Robbie to dinner. Robbie decides to attend, and bring a note for Cecilia as he has fallen for her. He makes up many different drafts including a very vile and sexual note as a joke. He finally decides on a note and as he is getting dressed, he quickly picks up the note and heads out. He sees Briony playing outside on the outskirts of the property and he decides its better for Cecilia to see the note before he arrives so he gives the note to Briony to give to Cecilia. Shortly after, he realizes he gave the wrong note to Briony. Briony out of curiosity reads it before actually giving it to Cecilia. When Robbie arrives, he and Cecilia go into the library and he tries to explain to Cecilia. They both realize they are in love and they make love in the library. At the same time, Briony is looking for Cecilia and sees Robbie and her in the library in way such that Robbie looks like he is in an attacking position. During that night, the friend that was visiting the family with the brother rapes the family's cousin who is living with them. The police come and Briony tells them all she has seen and misunderstood. The cousin that was raped did not see who it was because it happened in the dark outside. The police end up arresting Robbie. Robbie must go to war. Cecilia is enraged, cannot stay with her family any longer decides to become a nurse. Briony does as well. Years later, Briony realizes that the friend is the one who raped her cousin, especially after she learns they are getting married. Briony continually tries to atone for her actions. Alas, Robbie dies at war, Cecilia also dies in a flood. All because of a misunderstanding.


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TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 06, 2016

A person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn and not easily mended.


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