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by Ian McEwan

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  • First Published:
    Mar 2002, 448 pages
    Feb 2003, 448 pages

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There are currently 17 reader reviews for Atonement
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Power Reviewer Cloggie Downunder (03/02/11)

For me, Ian McEwan’s book, Atonement, was mistitled. I think a better title would have been “How to profit from ruining others’ lives”. I was prepared to give this book a chance. A slow start, but good use of language, beautifully written, characters to love and hate and what seemed like a good story until the rather grim ending, which made a complete lie of the blurb on the back: “Briony will have witnessed mysteries, and committed a crime for which she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone”. If doing a bit of wartime nursing and then writing the story of your crime after all the people to whom it might matter have died, first changing the ending so that it will be more acceptable to the reader, then Briony’s definition of atonement is something different from the accepted one. “Atonement: amends or reparation made for an injury or wrong”. I felt cheated by the ending for the time I spent on this book. Guess I don't need to try any more by Ian McEwan!
Chris (11/30/10)

I want atonement for the money I spent.
I read this book for my English class and I cannot fathom how it has received nothing but praise. Novels are supposed to SHOW the reader, not TELL the reader, and telling is McEwan's specialty. This is one of the only novels that has actually made me FALL ASLEEP WHILE READING IT, multiple times. And the movie wasn't much better.
Marilou Sprang (01/13/10)

Atonement is a fantastic and addicting novel that is full of surprising twists and turns. It presents the power of the human imagination and what can happen when our imaginations run wild. McEwan’s imaginative story, complicated characters, and immense detail make this book one of the most powerful books I have read. Because there is so much to be gained from McEwan’s compelling story of 13 year-old Briony, her family, and the events of that summer in 1935 that alter all of their lives forever, Atonement is a must read for everyone!
A Bookshelf Monstrosity (12/18/09)

I usually make a point of not seeing a movie before I get a chance to read the book, but the opposite is true for my experience with McEwan's Atonement. I rented the movie last summer from Netflix and as soon as the movie ended, I stared at the blank screen for a moment, blinked a couple of times in wonderment, and then hit play and watched it in its entirety a second time. Needless to say, I was completely entranced with the storyline and the cinematography. All of this is to say that after having such a wonderful experience with the movie adaptation, I began to worry that I'd ruined the possibility of having a good reading experience with the novel. I find it difficult to read a book after I've seen the movie since I have so many preconceived notions of the characters' appearance and eccentricities locked into my head visually.

Never fear. I loved the book just as much as the movie. I actually listened to this book, mostly while driving, and I'm quite lucky I didn't wind up in a ditch somewhere due to my complete inattention to my surroundings. I became so wrapped up in the characters, the story, and the heart wrenching consequences of one thirteen-year-old's misinterpretation of a number of events and a rash decision. This was my first foray into Ian McEwan's writing and it definitely won't be the last. I was mesmerized with his writing style. The characters, especially that of the young Briony, were so well-drawn. She is so frustratingly self-absorbed and narcissistic in the beginning of the novel, and her imaginative whims that so many young girls possess lead to such a catastrophic turn of events. I'll say no more. You must read it for yourself.

I don't often reread books anymore due to the sheer quantity of amazing novels out there that I must get my hands on, but I can definitely say this is a book I will revisit, perhaps a few times, in the future.
Emily (01/21/09)

Atonement Book Review
There was a crime. But there were also the lovers. This line from the final pages of Atonement by Ian McEwan accurately and succinctly describes the story. Atonement is a book that doesn't really seem like it would go together, but it does. It is a love story, a war story, and is full of suspense and adventure. The many different parts and the way they fit together are what make the book so good.

[deleted because of plot spoilers] Ian McEwan was born soon after the end of World War II, and I think that his father, who was a Scottish Army Officer, may have had some influence on McEwan's obvious interest in the war. His stories of the retreat from Dunkirk seem real, and indicate that he has either done a lot of research, or knows a lot of war stories, or both. The plot of this book is full of twists and surprises, and it is not your typical love story. It is much more complex, and it talks about social changes, moral decisions, consequences, and class tension in a way that is not boring or pretentious. Once you begin reading, the suspense of the plot will draw you in. Once I began reading, I did not put the book down, because I wanted to see who had really committed the crime. Each of the sections fits together even though they are very different, and the book flows smoothly. At first I disliked Briony because she made a very serious decision without getting all the facts or looking at the real-world consequences. At the end of the book, I still don't think she did enough, but at least she put in an effort, and the things that happened were a result of an unlucky combination of factors. While I didn't like Briony, I do have to admit that she is real. Or, at least, she seems to be real, which is part of the book's charm and appeal. I could see parts of myself in each character, which drew me in and made me more interested in their fates.This book is AMAZING, and each of the characters has their own quirks and passions. The story seems real, and is very descriptive, which is liked because I could visualize the places and people.

This is a great book for many different audiences because of its wide variety of subjects, which are all realistic. They include everything from love, sex and family relationships to war, death, and ill fated mistakes.
Marquie (12/01/08)

Atonement avalanche
Prodigious! Supreme masterpiece! If novels came with sound effects then each voluptuous sentence within ATONEMENT would burst with class and vivacity!
McEwan wields a glorious prose portraying a bittersweet tale of romance - the atonement of a childish and envious crime, hate to admit this but it really did squeeze sour tears from my eyes when Robbie and Cecilia were separated!
Its amazing how a 13 year old girl's imagination can smash a couple's sweet affair to pieces, Briony Tallis is brilliantly crafted that she seems so real!
mcEwwan's splendid talent sinks us deep into the story plot - we hear each conversation between the characters, each tremble of the breath we hear as our own!
McEwan is a GENIUS..
ATONEMENT is a book for everyone to enjoy!
Amy M (03/19/08)

Good but not without fault
I did really enjoy this book, even if I felt that the author was and is the most pretentious pompous ass I have read. It seemed to me that he must have been getting paid per word and not for the book because why else would there be a very, very large amount of run-on sentences!! I mean get real buddy this is simple things that you learn in English class in the 3rd grade! I found that the massive use of unnecessary words distracted from the story itself and it also was that way in the movie. There was A LOT of just walking and waiting that really could have been shortened. I do have to say that it was a book that I couldn’t put down but I don’t feel that it was only because of wanting to know what happened but it was also so I would be able to stay in the grove of just plowing through the heavy unnecessary wordiness of it all. I felt that McEwan was trying to show us all how smart he was and how well he could use a dictionary instead of working more on the story. I felt that in the end all that it did was to in fact take away from an amazing story! I would have preferred to have more of the story put before me and less of the colour of the sky at all times of the day! I really enjoyed the way that young Briony is unable to understand what she sees and in fact it would seem to me that not even Cecelia or Robbie are able to take it all in. I love the way you can see how all of their minds work throughout the story and how they will always have to rely on their own discernment of the chain of events that shaped their lives into what they were. I’m not sure that there is ever really any atonement in the end but is there ever really any? Everyone has things that they did that were wrong and wish that they could change them but there is in fact a point that no matter what you cannot apologize for the past. I did enjoy that no matter how you want the story to end you will be happy and yet sad at the same time as is true with all things in life!
Margie W (01/10/08)

Atonement Review
Atonement is a fantastic love story about childhood friends. It will make you sigh, laugh and maybe even cry. Atonement brings to life the importance of perspective.

One could claim that McEwan was inspired to use World War II as the backdrop to his story because of his own parents love story. At the onset of WWII McEwan’s mother was having an affair with McEwan’s father, but was married to another man. His mother’s husband was killed in combat and she was able to marry her McEwan’s father; Ian McEwan was born several years later.

No one who did not live through a former era can really know what life would have been like, but through the eyes of Cecilia, Robbie, and Briony one gets a very good idea. Atonement is the story of three young people that begins at the family’s country estate in 1935 England. Temperatures and emotions are running high. Through McEwan’s detailed descriptions one can feel the tension in the household. The mood of the house is obvious, you can feel the oppressive heat that causes everything to seem as if in slow motion. At any moment the pretenses could break and all of the pent up emotions could break loose.

[This review has been edited to remove plot spoilers]
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