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Atonement : a novel
2002
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Fiction/Biography Profile
Awards
2002 - Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book nominee
2002 - Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book -- regional winner (Eurasia)
2001 - Booker Prize nominee (Shortlist)
2002 - British Book Award for Book of the Year nominee
Characters
Briony Tallis (Female), Imaginative; aspiring writer
Cecilia Tallis (Female), Recent Cambridge graduate; Briony's sister
Robbie Turner (Male), Ambitious, Recent Cambridge graduate; son of the Tallis' cleaning lady
Genre
Fiction
Historical
Literary
Psychological
Saga
Topics
Country life
Family relationships
Sisters
False accusations
Betrayal
Shame
Loss of innocence
Guilt
World War II
Ex-convicts
Forgiveness
Redemption
Setting
England - Europe
Dunkerque, France - Europe
France - Europe
Time Period
1935-1999 -- 20th century
Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

McEwan typically writes scathing little fables, but this book sounds almost sagalike: it sweeps from prewar Britain to Dunkirk to a family reunion in 1999, propelled by a dark moment when three children lost their innocence. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Publishers Weekly Review

This haunting novel, which just failed to win the Booker this year, is at once McEwan at his most closely observed and psychologically penetrating, and his most sweeping and expansive. It is in effect two, or even three, books in one, all masterfully crafted. The first part ushers us into a domestic crisis that becomes a crime story centered around an event that changes the lives of half a dozen people in an upper-middle-class country home on a hot English summer's day in 1935. Young Briony Tallis, a hyperimaginative 13-year-old who sees her older sister, Cecilia, mysteriously involved with their neighbor Robbie Turner, a fellow Cambridge student subsidized by the Tallis family, points a finger at Robbie when her young cousin is assaulted in the grounds that night; on her testimony alone, Robbie is jailed. The second part of the book moves forward five years to focus on Robbie, now freed and part of the British Army that was cornered and eventually evacuated by a fleet of small boats at Dunkirk during the early days of WWII. This is an astonishingly imagined fresco that bares the full anguish of what Britain in later years came to see as a kind of victory. In the third part, Briony becomes a nurse amid wonderfully observed scenes of London as the nation mobilizes. No, she doesn't have Robbie as a patient, but she begins to come to terms with what she has done and offers to make amends to him and Cecilia, now together as lovers. In an ironic epilogue that is yet another coup de the tre, McEwan offers Briony as an elderly novelist today, revisiting her past in fact and fancy and contributing a moving windup to the sustained flight of a deeply novelistic imagination. With each book McEwan ranges wider, and his powers have never been more fully in evidence than here. Author tour. (Mar. 19) Forecast: McEwan's work has been building a strong literary readership, and the brilliantly evoked prewar and wartime scenes here should extend that; expect strong results from handselling to the faithful. The cover photo of a stately English home nicely establishes the novel's atmosphere (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Summary
On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her older sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching Cecilia is their housekeeper's son Robbie Turner, a childhood friend who, along with Briony's sister, has recently graduated from Cambridge.<br> <br> 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 never before dared to approach and will have become victims of the younger girl's scheming imagination. And Briony will have committed a dreadful crime, the guilt for which will color her entire life.<br> <br> In each of his novels Ian McEwan has brilliantly drawn his reader into the intimate lives and situations of his characters. But never before has he worked with so large a canvas: In Atonement he takes the reader from a manor house in England in 1935 to the retreat from Dunkirk in 1941; from the London's World War II military hospitals to a reunion of the Tallis clan in 1999.<br> <br> Atonement is Ian McEwan's finest achievement. Brilliant and utterly enthralling in its depiction of childhood, love and war, England and class, the novel is at its center a profound-and profoundly moving-exploration of shame and forgiveness and the difficulty of absolution.
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