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Atonement by Ian McEwan
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Atonement (2001)

by Ian McEwan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
20,05951779 (3.93)1 / 987
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    browner56: Two superbly crafted explorations of the cathartic power that comes from the act of writing.
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    BookshelfMonstrosity: Atonement, like Rules of Civility, paints a picture of events that instantly turn characters' worlds upside down. Also set in the 1930s, it highlights the lingering opulence of the age and how that can disappear amid tragedy.
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Showing 1-5 of 482 (next | show all)
Atonement by Ian McEwan

★ ★ ★

I've been told that if you can get through the first part of this book, the second part is much more interesting. And I can see why. I listened to the audio of Atonement and I believe it was only due to the wonderful narration that I was able to get through the first half, which I felt dragged a bit. The second part was more intriguing, it had the ability to keep my attention but by then it felt like too little, too late. I know a lot of people that like this book and I can see the beauty in it and understand it's popularity but I guess it just wasn't the book for me. I didn't really care for most of the characters and the author was definitely a bit too wordy for my liking. I don't do audio books often but this is one I have to give kudos to. I would have never made it through this book if it wasn't for the audio. A good book but nothing special to me. ( )
  UberButter | Feb 9, 2016 |

Originally posted here

This is quite the heavy read. After watching the film when it was released, I was so emotionally moved. I was not sure reading the book afterwards would add anything I didn't know already. I was wrong, the book does differ from the film and I am glad I decided to read it.

Atonement is essentially about a misunderstanding. A series of interconnected events lead a young girl, Briony Tallis, to give false evidence that she believes to be true. The ripple effect of the consequences of Briony's actions is then examined throughout the entire book. It's a moving and emotional story.

The best thing about Atonement is the detail, there are lots of layers to the story that I don't think could be gleaned from anywhere else but the book. The first half of the book is structured traditionally, each chapter focusing on a different point of view. The second half has a much looser structure and was the most enjoyable to read for me.

I do think the finale is something the film handled much better then the book in my opinion. I was a sobbing mess at the end of the film when it came to the final confession. The book sort of glosses over it and it didn't give the same emotional punch. Nonetheless, the book is worth reading and savouring as it is truly brilliant. ( )
  4everfanatical | Feb 8, 2016 |
A brilliantly stunning novel! It takes time to get into the story, but the reward for this perseverance is breath-taking. ( )
  tashlyn88 | Feb 5, 2016 |
A great book, one of the most interesting and depressing novels I ever read. Unfortunately I made the mistake of watching the movie first (not knowing about this book at that time), which spoiled part of the novel and especially the ending for me. That's the reason for changing the rating from 4 stars to 5, adding this book to my alltime favourites.

I was drawn into the book right from the beginning - the pre-war setting with its lush and carefree atmosphere, spoiled by the events during the course of a day, then the darker and more brutal scenery during the war - the author did a great job here.
The characters were great as well. The motivation for their deeds (and for the things they didn't do) were understandable and there was a lot of character development. The actions that seemed to be out of character were explained by the ending. Going into depth more would spoil the book for those of my friends who might be planning to read it (if they haven't read a synopsis somewhere else or seen the film).

I still sometimes think about some of the questions the book posed for me. Is there really a thing like atonement? Is it possible to forgive someone who spoiled the entire lifes of other persons, even if she did it without fully understanding what she was doing? A really good book - and definately on my list to reread. ( )
  Ellemir | Feb 1, 2016 |
SPOILERS THROUGHOUT.

This is probably the worst book I have ever read.

I've read some fairly bad books - I've read Twilight - but this was something else. This was awful. Everything about it, from beginning to end, was just very, very, inexcusably bad.

Let's take the first part - the part where all the action happens. Sort of. Except for the fact that nothing happens for seven chapters, aside from McEwan's (OR IS IT?) endless descriptions of every minute detail of everything in the house or adjacent to the house or that once rubbed shoulders with something twice-removed from the house. His prose is horrible, cloying, droning, and ultimately, boring. I love wordy books, I love the scenery that words can construct. This didn't work for me. Also, was it hot day? Did he ever mention it was a hot day? I THINK HE MIGHT JUST HAVE.

Then, there's the characters. God how I hate every single one of them. They're either directly, obviously hateful (Lola, Briony, Paul Marshall and his rapist's moustache (WHY DIDN'T ANYONE SEE IT COMING?), Emily) or they're just stupid (Cecelia and Robbie, mainly). Each and every single one of them is a cliche, and by the point it came to the big, terrible, awful thing which was to happen to them, I had simply ceased to care. Okay, so we know Robbie's not a rapist. Big deal. The whole thing feels horribly contrived taken at face value - taken in the context of what is learned later in the book, I didn't find any greater meaning behind this.

The pacing is all off, too. I think the idea was to create suspense. This did not happen. By about Chapter Ten I was seriously considering chucking the whole thing, but I pressed on.

Part Two is, if possible, worse than Part One. Here is where Ian McEwan regurgitates everything he ever possibly knew about WWII. Firstly, it's all over the place, jumping from time period to time period in a completely unclear manner. Secondly, again, it's boring. Part Three is just cringeworthy. BRIONY BECOMES A NURSE MAYBE THIS MAKES HER A GOOD PERSON GUYS. I just don't see what we're supposed to care about, here... so I'm just going to skip to the end.

So, what WAS the point? Briony? Briony who turns out in the last part to have been narrating the whole thing? Is this in fact part of her journey? What flaming journey? She's gone from being a terrible author with issues telling the difference between fantasy and reality to... what? She's still a terrible author! She's still got horrible issues! Who the hell cares by this point? McEwan's grasp of characterisation is tenuous at best. The characters, as seen through the eyes of Briony, are one-note caricatures. It doesn't matter if this is, in fact, the point - it doesn't make it a good device. I can get a picture of them as people, the problem is that they're not interesting people and they're certainly impossible to care about. I read this directly after reading Herzog, and perhaps, given the richness of the characterisation in that, I am being too harsh on this book. Can't all be astronauts! However, the idea that somehow it's excusable that the writing in this book is so bad because it's being seen through the eyes of this unreliable, thirteen-year old narrator, is ridiculous. If that is supposed to be the point, it was very badly executed. Surely if the point is supposed to be that Briony has grown up an accepted what she's done, then she would be able to see the whole situation more clearly, and write a better book? And if she hasn't, then, as I said before, she hasn't really gone on a journey in the book, and all anyone learns from the book is that there are horrible, twisted people in the world - HEY GUYS, I THINK WE GOT THAT MEMO.

This has turned into a ramble. I do HAVE coherent thoughts on this book, but every time I start typing I get lost in a sea of completely anger that this utter inanity ever, ever became successful. It's very, very rare that I dislike a book this much. I can usually find positives to say about almost anything. I can't with this - it had no redeeming features at all.

Oh no, wait, it had one. "I WANT TO THANK YOU FOR SAVING MY LIFE. I WILL BE ETERNALLY GRATEFUL TO YOU."

AHAHAHAHA.

Ian McEwan clearly owes Toy Story a debt (btw, those films? WAY BETTER WRITING.) ( )
  thebookmagpie | Jan 30, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 482 (next | show all)
McEwan is technically at the height of his powers, and can do more or less anything he likes with the novel form. He shows this fact off in the first section of Atonement, in which he does one of the hardest things a good writer can do: engrossingly, sustainedly, and convincingly impersonate a bad one.
added by jburlinson | editNew York Review of Books, John Lanchester (pay site) (Apr 11, 2002)
 
McEwan is crafty. Even as he shows us the damages of story-telling, he demonstrates its beguilements on every page. Atonement is full of timeworn literary contrivances--an English country house, lovers from different classes, an intercepted letter--rendered with the delicately crafted understanding of E.M. Forster.
added by Shortride | editTime, Richard Lacayo (Mar 25, 2002)
 
If it's plot, suspense and a Bergsonian sensitivity to the intricacies of individual consciousnesses you want, then McEwan is your man and ''Atonement'' your novel. It is his most complete and compassionate work to date.
 
Ian McEwan's remarkable new novel ''Atonement'' is a love story, a war story and a story about the destructive powers of the imagination. It is also a novel that takes all of the author's perennial themes -- dealing with the hazards of innocence, the hold of time past over time present and the intrusion of evil into ordinary lives -- and orchestrates them into a symphonic work that is every bit as affecting as it is gripping. It is, in short, a tour de force.
 
Ian McEwan’s new novel, which strikes me as easily his finest, has a frame that is properly hinged and jointed and apt for the conduct of the ‘march of action’, which James described as ‘the only thing that really, for me at least, will produire L’OEUVRE’.
 

» Add other authors (37 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ian McEwanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Basso, SusannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tanner, JillReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Verhoef, RienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zulaika, JaimeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
"Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English: that we are Christians. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you. Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive at them? Could they be perpetrated without being known in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing, where every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay everything open? Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?"
    They had reached the end of the gallery; and with tears of shame she ran off to her own room.
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
Dedication
To Annalena
First words
The play – for which Briony had designed posters, programs and tickets, constructed the sales booth out of a folding screen tipped on its side, and lined the collection box in red crepe paper – was written by her in a two-day tempest of composition, causing her to miss a breakfast and a lunch.
Quotations
Novels and movies, being relentlessly modern, propel you forwards or backwards through time, through days, years or even generations. But to do its noticing and judging, poetry balances itself on the pinprick of the moment. Slowing down, stopping yourself completely, to read and understand a poem is like trying to acquire an old-fashioned skill like drystone walling or trout tickling.
How much growing up do you need to do?
It wasn’t only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding; above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you.
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Wikipedia in English (4)

Book description
Briony’s tale begins with her restless and excited preparations for a play she had proudly written for her visiting older brother. The young girl's childish anxieties induce a light and amusing atmosphere for the story’s first few scenes. But soon enough, a series of baffling events takes place before Briony’s eyes and sets of her wildly-imaginative mind to believe a new story of her own creation. Coerced by her own impetuous sense of duty, she soon commits a “crime” that forever changes the lives of people around her, as well as her own. This highly-praised novel from Ian McEwan is no more of a love story than it is a contemplative essay on the rapturous highs and atrocious lows of our frail human existence.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 038572179X, Paperback)

Ian McEwan's Booker Prize-nominated Atonement is his first novel since Amsterdam took home the prize in 1998. But while Amsterdam was a slim, sleek piece, Atonement is a more sturdy, more 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 older, idolized 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 prospects of preoccupation 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 Ammo" chocolate 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, Amazon.co.uk

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:21 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Imaginative thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis, misinterpreting a scene between her older sister Cecilia and Robbie Turner, the housekeeper's son, later accuses Robbie of a crime she has no proof he committed and spends years trying to atone for her actions.… (more)

» see all 15 descriptions

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