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Espiazione by Ian McEwan

Espiazione (original 2001; edition 2005)

by Ian McEwan

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19,65949582 (3.93)1 / 962
Espiazione è un romanzo di sentimenti, ancora prima che di persone, di fatti e di luoghi. I sentimenti sono assoluti e crudi, come dovrebbero essere e quando l'amore è rappresentato è travolgente, così come la gelosia e la coggiutaggine infantili che sono il motore dell'intera triste vicenda.
La penna di McEwan è elegante, crea un'atmosfera palpabile e tratteggia scenari e vicende umane sin troppo verosimili. Come nella realtà, in Espiazione la vita non è un idillio. C'è la guerra a separare le persone e soprattutto c'è il risentimento e il senso di colpa a divedere due sorelle.
Briony porta il peso di una colpa per cui non potrà mai avere perdono. Ma avendo il dono della scrittura le viene data facoltà di fare ammenda per il proprio peccato, in un modo inaspettato che sarà appannaggio solo di chi concluderà il romanzo.
McEwan divide il romanzo in quattro parti (tre parti e un epilogo). La prima occupa la prima metà del libro ed è, per quanto fondamentale, la meno incisiva. Bellissima la seconda parte che rappresenta la guerra dal punto di vista di una manciata di soldati e non ammantata di risvolti pattriottici, ma vista da un punto di vista meramente umano. In questa vediamo lo svolgersi, tramite flashback della vera e propria storia d'amore. Nella terza parte attraverso gli occhi di una Briony diciotenne si giunge alla conclusione del racconto, del percorso di espiazione di una giovane donna che ha capito l'errore sciocco commesso durante l'infanzia ma che sa che di aver perduto per sempre una sorella.
In realtà poi l'epilogo ci riporta nuovamente alla cruda realtà che non è di certo preferibile ad una versione più edificante sebbene meno veritiera. ( )
  Zeruhur | May 26, 2012 |
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Showing 1-25 of 464 (next | show all)
The detailed writing that often looses my attention, in this book kept me turning the page. He made me yearn to know the fate of the characters. Best sentence: "How guilt refined the methods of self-torture, threading the beads of detail into an eternal loop, a rosary to be fingered for a lifetime." ( )
  laverack | Aug 19, 2015 |
I really liked the the first and last sections of this book a lot. The writing in those sections was engaging and seemed to perfectly portray all the thoughts that can go through one's head in a few seconds. However, I found the middle section of the book to be really dull, and all the descriptions of the war just didn't hold my interest. ( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
When I saw the movie years ago, I was enamored with the gorgeous cinematography and began to fall in love with the story — about a young girl who makes a terrible mistake that causes a young man and friend to go to prison and her sister to be separated from her lover — which was beautiful and wonderful... right up into the ending, which felt like the greatest cheat of all time and had me leaving the theater in rage. I remember asking, "How can they possibly call that the greatest love story of all time?" and having a friend answer, "You have to read the book to understand."

So, now I've read the book and I almost understand, although the ending still feels like a bit of a cheat. Just like the cinematography in the movie, the writing is lush and gorgeous and I might have been able to enjoy it more, if I hadn't seen the movie and didn't already know what was going to happen. The ending in the book provides more explanation and a bit of nice symmetry that is not in the movie, but it still left me annoyed. ( )
  andreablythe | Jul 2, 2015 |
This is a thrilling novel with a compulsive plot, which made it impossible for me to stop reading until I had found out how the story ended. It is also beautifully written, and wonderfully evocative of different times and places. There are so many things in this book -- vivid characters, precise descriptions of sense images and emotional states, ruminations on the art of the novel, and on and on and on. It also has perhaps the most realistic portrayal of a girl just leaving childhood that I can recall. I found this an eminently satisfying novel on many levels. Highly recommended. ( )
  annbury | May 4, 2015 |
Wow. I had to read this book in college, and I'm so glad I did. I've never read anything like it and doubt I ever will again. I won't say what happened at the end but just tell you that it ripped my heart out. ( )
  reneenmeland | Apr 30, 2015 |
Briony Tallis...this is the first juvenile character I have ever wanted to give a 10 year time out. ( )
  storm_indigo | Mar 21, 2015 |
I wouldn't mind saying this book was one which took me a long time to complete. Though there is a lack of pace and a general gloomy storyline to the book, it could be considered as the musings of a little girl. What she had caused, how she had caused it and how well she found it easy to live in the world of her own unless realization struck her are all shown in the book. The book is a good read, along with it a lot of things could be done. ( )
  durgaprsd04 | Feb 25, 2015 |
I listened to the book on tape which is always a little different than reading the book. Set during WWII, the story is about the aftermath of lives destroyed after thirteen year old Briony Tallis witnesses an event between her older sister Cecilia and Robbie Turner, a family friend who also happens to be the son of a maidservant. Briony misinterprets the enounter which has devastating results. ( )
  KatherineGregg | Feb 19, 2015 |
I read this on board the cruise ship, perhaps would not have been able to finish without the extra leisure and minimal distractions. The story starts with the tale of a young pre-adolescent girl, who witnesses what she supposes is a sexual assault of her cousin, and persists in accusing a young man who was adopted by her family, and in love with her older sister. She later learns more of the truth, immerses herself in war nursing, and tries to make restitution to her sister. The story of the young man evolves into the story of the Dunkirk evacuation and the blitz, and ends, either on a hopeful note, or in despair 50 years later. Your choice depends on if you take the first ending as the ending of a novel, written by the young girl in later years, or if you take her account of her older years as the truth; in the self-referencing form of the novel it is hard to be certain. Absorbing, but much too long in the first parts, dwelling on the children's games. ( )
  neurodrew | Feb 8, 2015 |
My first time reading anything by Ian McEwan, I found Atonement to be a completely absorbing novel. It has 4 parts that are all quite different in era and setting. The characters were deep and believable and the writing style is top notch. I would definitely recommend this novel to others and would surely be interested in reading another McEwan novel. ( )
  briandarvell | Jan 3, 2015 |
Non è una passeggiata, questo libro di McE. E' una scalata verso il basso - ma non è una discesa. E' sentire precisamente di salire quando in realtà stai scendendo (Ivan Illich docet). Con solidità narrativa, con un utilizzo magistrale della lingua, McE. ci svela un mondo che non potrebbe essere più vivido neppure se lo avessimo vissuto in prima persona. Una capacità straordinaria di scrivere e descrivere un mondo di malizie adolescenziali, crudeltà adulte e tragedie epocali che nessun film potrà mai rendere appieno. ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
“He walked/across/the land/until/he came/to the sea.

“A hexameter. Five iambs and an anapest was the beat he tramped to now” (p. 206).

The last work of Ian McEwen I read (a couple of years ago) was Amsterdam. As I said at the time, my only objection to Amsterdam was that “it’s a joke. A long, articulate, and entertaining joke, I grant you — but a joke nevertheless.” Atonement, I’m happy to say, is anything but a joke.

I’ll go out on a limb here and suggest that Ian McEwan may’ve had Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace in mind when he wrote this novel. The stories bear similarities (the French Army’s retreat from Moscow; the British infantry’s retreat from Dunkirk; the utter banality, insipidness and absurdity of both the Russian and English aristocracies). If so, I’ll go further out on that same limb and suggest that Atonement is the better of the two novels. I grant you that I read only a translation of War and Peace, but Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky are serious and capable translators; I’ll assume that their translation of War and Peace is the real deal. And if it is, I’ll go one step further out on that limb and state categorically that Ian McEwan is the better of the two writers.

Ian McEwan — along with William Boyd and Michael Cunningham — revive my hope for English/American letters (i.e., belles lettres). With all of the tripe that’s now being published, these three authors remind us that good English-language literature still exists — and good writers with it.

I could go on and on about the virtues of Ian McEwan’s Atonement/B>, Instead, I’ll just quote a passage or two and let you — a potential reader — decide. On pp. 90-91, we have the following:

“On two occasions within half an hour, Cecilia stepped out of her bedroom, caught sight of herself in the gilt-frame mirror at the top of the stairs and, immediately dissatisfied, returned to her wardrobe to reconsider. Her first resort was a black crêpe de chine dress which, according to the dressing table mirror, bestowed by means of clever cutting a certain severity of form. Its air of invulnerability was heightened by the darkness of her eyes. Rather than offset the effect with a string of pearls, she reached in a moment’s inspiration for a necklace of pure jet. The lipstick’s bow had been perfect at first application. Various tilts of the head to catch perspectives in triptych reassured her that her face was not too long, or not this evening. She was expected in the kitchen on behalf of her mother, and Leon was waiting for her, she knew in the dressing room. Still, she found time, as she was about to leave, to return to the dressing table and apply her perfume to the points of her elbows, a playful touch in accord with her mood as she closed the door of her bedroom behind her.

“But the public gaze of the stairway mirror as she hurried toward it revealed a woman on her way to a funeral, an austere, joyless woman moreover, whose black carapace had affinities with some form of matchbook-dwelling insect. A stag beetle! It was her future self, at eighty-five, in widow’s weeds. She did not linger — she turned on her heel, which was also black, and returned to her room.”

I’ll be the first to confess that I have no idea what “pure jet” is, but no matter. I defy you to find another male writer who can climb into a woman’s head and describe that woman’s experience as convincingly as Ian McEwan has done here. And trust me: this is just one of dozens of such excerpts. I’ve chosen it not because it’s exceptional, but rather because it’s typical. Ian McEwen is a stylist par excellence (even if his use of “unreally” on p. 318 has me a bit perplexed)!

I’ll give no further hints about the plot-line other than to cite the following from p. 307 and let you decide for yourself, between the title of the book and this citation, what Atonement might be all about, and from whose point of view the story is being told:

“‘I require and charge you both, as ye will answer at the dreadful day of judgment when the secrets of all hearts will be disclosed, that if either of you know(s) of any impediment, why ye may not be lawfully joined together in matrimony, ye do now confess it.

“By my estimate, it was a very long time until judgment day, and until then the truth that only Marshall and his bride knew at first hand was steadily being walled up within the mausoleum of their marriage. There it would lie secure in the darkness, long after anyone who cared was dead. Every word in the ceremony was another brick in place.”

What can I say in conclusion? Only this: that Ian McEwan’s craft is the thing all of us who pretend to be writers can at best aim for. Can one read enough, study enough, build, hone and polish enough to come even close? I don’t know. All I know is that I came away from my reading of Atonement slightly depressed. ‘Depressed’ because of the subject-matter? No. Depressed because I realize yet again (as I realized after reading both William Boyd and Michael Cunningham) that I will never be at their level, will never have the gift they have, will never possess the means to move the magic from my fingertips through my pen that the three of them obviously possess.

Brooklyn, NY

( )
  RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
I would not have read and certainly would not have finished Atonement if it were not required reading for my English class.

Not much happens in Atonement. I can enjoy books were there's not much happening, but in that case I have to enjoy the characters.

I didn't enjoy these characters. They were not sympathetic, likable, admirable or even interesting.

Heck, the book isn't even funny. It's just dull.

In short, Atonement did not give me a reason to care.

I will say that I liked the second and third section more, but they were incredibly out of joint from the first section. These three sections felt like different books entirely and did just not fit together.

However, many members of my English class are in spasms of delight over this book, so presumably they're getting something I'm not. When I say that I don't like Atonement, I'm normally accused of only liking fantasy and books where things explode, which doesn't take into account how much I like Jane Austen or, say, East of Eden. There are plenty of interesting "literary" books where things happen or the characters are worth reading about. Atonement just isn't one of them.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page. ( )
1 vote pwaites | Nov 28, 2014 |
Book Club book from State Library, January 2011
  deirdrebrown | Nov 6, 2014 |
loved this book, really want to see the movie now ,Briony and her sister Cecilia and about the live in housekeepers son Robbie , who has to go to prison because of Briony's deception,then to fight the war and how she becomes a nurse in the war and returns to seek forgiveness from her Sister and from Robbie . ( )
  Suzannie1 | Oct 26, 2014 |
I was captivated by McEwan's prose and characters from the start. I'm a little surprised to see some negative reviews here, but it seems this book generates strong feelings. This book explores the themes of love, memory, guilt, and of course, atonement. No spoilers here, just praise for McEwan's lovely writing. The movie is a pretty faithful interpretation of the book, but of course, the book is always better and this one is no exception. ( )
  LaineyMac | Oct 19, 2014 |

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.



Ian McEwan clearly owes Toy Story a debt (btw, those films? WAY BETTER WRITING.) ( )
2 vote humblewomble | Oct 19, 2014 |
When I first tried to listen to this book a few years ago, I quickly got bored and gave up. A kids' play, an incident in a fountain, a broken vase – who cares? Perhaps it was just my reading mood at the time.

Fortunately, I decided to give it another try, and I am so glad I did.

Yes, it does take a little while to get off the ground. But that background leads to a fabulous story, a not very mysterious mystery (but then, mystery wasn't the point), a brutal look at war, and most of all, human foibles.

The ending – someone wrapping up the story years later – is fabulous.

Having finished this and the author's The Children Act, I am an unabashed fan.

If you are in an impatient mood as I was the first time I gave this book a try, show a little more patience than I did. I was not disappointed, and my hope is that other impatient readers will not be, either. ( )
  TooBusyReading | Sep 20, 2014 |
Atonement is my favorite Ian McEwan novel. It is set in England in the 1930s. The novel is about childhood, love, and war. It is beautifully written and has very interesting characters. Some parts of the book will always stay in your mind forever because they are so memorable and heartbreaking. ( )
  limebooks | Sep 16, 2014 |
I don't generally read books about the war - or at least this was the case when I first read this book - but I really enjoyed it. It's quite heartbreaking. McEwan was able to make me care for the young couple so much that I kept rooting for them even when it seemed hopeless. I would recommend this (and a box of tissues). ( )
  CaitlinAC | Aug 10, 2014 |
Mi encanto por este libro es tan grande que no tengo palabras suficientes para describirlo. Una verdadera historia de la tragedia de un amor épico en medio de la guerra. El mejor final, en un libro, de todos los tiempos. ( )
  Glire | Jul 7, 2014 |
I own a copy and read a bookcrossing copy.
Truly fantastic. I've read some books I haven't been crazy about lately, or have just plain confused me, and this was such a nice change. I loved it, the characters all so real and human and sometimes so thoroughly unlikeable. Brilliant writting, the shifting perspective of events and then not really knowing what was real by the time it was all over. Was the reality that Cee and Robbie are together or both dead? I'm still wondering. Just wonderful.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
When you reread this book knowing what you’re going to find out at the end, you see how much McEwan paves the way for the revelation. Even the young Briony wondering if everyone is as alive as she is has a hint of the insubstantial nature of the characters at the end.

Regardless of whether you like the way this is a post-modern novel or whatever, it has all the hallmarks of the best of McEwan’s writing – he really does have a way with words! When I was rereading it, I really enjoyed phrase after phrase. Poor Jackson, amusingly described as ‘Arabella’s disapproving father’, ‘had wet his bed’ and made to wash the sheets himself in the laundry trough, ‘the sheets as heavy as a dead dog and a general sense of calamity numbing his will’. Here McEwan marries humour with a sensitivity to the boy’s unhappiness as his parents split up. Clearly the author is having a lot of fun in this part. The trouble is that, retrospectively, we’re meant to see this as coming from the pen of a contrite Briony – is this flippancy the right note? Perhaps with more of an eye on the future McEwan has Briony think, when mystified by the breaking vase incident, ‘how easy it was to get everything wrong, completely wrong’ and ‘it wasn’t only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding’.

Of course this book exists on different levels – it has the conventional plot and then it has McEwan using the young Briony to reflect on what it is an author does so even at this early stage in the novel we’re aware that we’re really getting two voices. ‘In a story you only had to wish, you only had to write it down and you could have the world’. Then there’s Robbie’s thoughts about the value of literature, putting it into place and recognising what it has to offer although I’m not sure McEwan wants us to fall in line with Robbie’s conclusions – they seem a bit too much the over-confidence views of a 23 year old. The point of his thoughts is, I think, to keep going this overt discussion of what to expect from a novel. And continue it does with little references to its art form peppering the text. When out looking for the twins, Briony’s mind turns towards what writing is: ‘a kind of soaring, an achievable form of flight, of fancy, of the imagination’ – more preparation for what was to come. Even more overt are Briony’s thoughts when she has become a nurse: ‘The very concept of character was founded on errors that modern psychology had exposed. Plots too were like rusted machinery whose wheels would no longer turn . . . It was thought, perception, sensations that interested her . . .’ Here again I think McEwan wants this to be as much about exposing an over-sure Briony as about the modern novel. Since he himself has just produced a traditional, plot and character section with Robert retreating to Dunkirk, he clearly believes there is some place for this unless retrospectively you think McEwan wants us to see this as all fake, in style because it is all fiction within fiction. But the ‘thought, perception’ bit does seem highly redolent of what is to come. Then pages later we have Briony thinking ‘the only conceivable solution would be for the past never to have happened’, words that seem innocent enough at the time but then lead to how the book was supposedly written by Briony.

Of course the novel becomes more and more complex. The reader is left wondering where they stand when Briony gets the rejection letter along with all the advice from CC , the potential publisher – and we realise first of all that, despite being in the third person, this is a personal narrative that Briony is making about herself. We realise that she has taken some of CC’s advice, adding more of a plot, reducing some parts and altering other – and that she’s included a war bit anyway. So far, so good, but it’s also the first time we realise that this is Briony fictionalising her past and then we realise that the writer must be still some distance into the future as she’s still got more of the story to unfold. And so at the end we come the way a novelist can’t find atonement, being the god who creates all the characters. What difference does it make in the end about what really happened and what didn’t, she asks – and so the reader is left with quite a number of issues to consider. ( )
  evening | Jun 27, 2014 |
I will give this story credit for teaching me something about myself: it showed me that I do not appreciate eloquent prose if there is not a compelling story wrapped within it. On the surface, "Atonement" has the makings of a compelling story, but it buries its narrative ideas within layer upon layer of relentless plumbing of character psyches, all for the sake of a gimmick to lay out a psychology of writing. It takes far too long to get to the actual story in the first part of the book, and far too little time is spent on the main event's aftermath. There are some poignant scenes in the second part, particularly regarding the wartime nurse's perspective, but if that is the kind of thing you want to read, there are better and more rewarding books about war. Briony's character reveals about two/thirds of the way through the novel that all of the criticisms that were forming in my mind as I read through were probably intentional on McEwan's part; that does not make them any less irritating to me. If all the accolades plastered on the covers and front pages of this book mean that story really matters less than form, then I owe an apology to all the adult fanatics of YA literature I've criticised over the years, and I'd better hang up my hopes of ever becoming a novelist. ( )
  quaintlittlehead | Jun 26, 2014 |
Well written, good read, read it in 2 days. Will not spoil the story for others by telling the story. Give it a try. ( )
  JanicsEblen | Jun 10, 2014 |
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