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Atonement | [Ian McEwan]

Atonement

In Atonement, three children lose their innocence, as the sweltering summer heat bears down on the hottest day in 1935, and their lives are changed forever. Cecilia Tallis is of England's priviledged class; Robbie Turner is the housekeeper's son. In their moment of intimate surrender, they are interrupted by Cecilia's hyperimaginative and scheming 13-year-old sister, Briony. And as chaos consumes the family, Briony commits a crime, the guilt of which she shall carry throughout her life.
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Publisher's Summary

National Book Critics Circle, Fiction, 2003

In Atonement, three children lose their innocence, as the sweltering summer heat bears down on the hottest day in 1935, and their lives are changed forever. Cecilia Tallis is of England's priviledged class; Robbie Turner is the housekeeper's son. In their moment of intimate surrender, they are interrupted by Cecilia's hyperimaginative and scheming 13-year-old sister, Briony. And as chaos consumes the family, Briony commits a crime, the guilt of which she shall carry throughout her life.

©2003 Doubleday, Division of Random House, Inc.

What the Critics Say

  • Book Sense Book of the Year Award Finalist, Adult Fiction, 2003

"A tour de force. Every bit as affecting as it is gripping." (The New York Times)
"Enthralling...With psychological insight and a command of sensual and historical detail, Mr. McEwan creates an absorbing fictional world." (The Wall Street Journal)
"A beautiful and majestic fictional panorama." (The New Yorker)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (1035 )
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4.1 (321 )
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4.2 (326 )
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Performance
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  •  
    William R. Creech Bainbridge Island, WA United States 09-02-03
    William R. Creech Bainbridge Island, WA United States 09-02-03 Member Since 2001
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Well written; well read."

    Atonement is a beautifully written but ultimately very sad piece of serious literature. Days after finishing it, I find myself thinking about the lead character and the questions that she raises. The reading was also well done. Some listeners may find that the story moves too slowly for their tastes. For example, the first half (seven hours) of the book covers just one day in 1935 and is full of nice description but little action.

    43 of 45 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cynthia Sheller Olympia, WA United States 12-25-04
    Cynthia Sheller Olympia, WA United States 12-25-04 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Attonement ... reasons to read"

    The two previous pans of this piece of literature spurred me to add my review. Yes, there was such a complex set of possiblities of meaning that I did listen to the beginning and other parts more than once. For me, that's what you do with a really great book. Light fluffy books have their place, as do deep and complex books. Attonement tends toward the latter; towards literature as opposed to entertainment, though not in a highbrow and full of its own importance way. Its certainly really funny in parts. So that is what I would like to add to the discussion....read Attonement if you love books that lift you beyond your narrow existence.

    21 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alastair Binnie 10-01-04 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Ian McEwan's best yet"

    If it seems slow at first, stay with it. What you get is a simple plot that starts bright then gets dark and deep, a haunting love story (including a virtuoso erotic scene), a war story which is compelling and convincing, a precise portrait of the genteel psychological drama of the 1930s English upper-middle classes, and an extraordinary structural twist that will make you rethink the whole thing. Beautifully read with just the right accent and rhythm. Makes an interesting compare and contrast with Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin (also a top tip).

    16 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rachel stroudsburg, PA, USA 08-17-04
    Rachel stroudsburg, PA, USA 08-17-04 Member Since 2001
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "An amazing book about complex human perception"

    "Atonement" is a deeply satifying, extraordinarily well written book that seems simple because it is so well crafted, but deals with such complex issues. Core to the book is that each of us comes to our own 'truth' while never really seeing the whole. One of the characters says "It's like being close up to something so large you don't even see it. Even now, I'm not sure I can. But I know it's there." Throughout the book the reader watches this happen again and again, something so large the individuals don't see the whole of it, although they know it is there. For Briony, this lack of understanding leads to tragic consequences, but the book goes on to show how each of us lacks a comprehensive understanding.

    I thought it a wonderful, brilliantly written book that will stay with me for many years. Rarely have I had such a satifying "read." From start to finish McEwan didn't let me down. I think those who don't like it are listeners who prefer more action in their books, and this isn't that. It isn't a light read, nor is it fast-paced. I find myself almost wishing I belonged to a book club so I could talk about it, since I know that for all I got out of it, I missed so much. If this type of book isn't to one's taste, or the subject matter and ideas the author explores aren't interesting to you, then certainly don't get it. But that it is well written is not in doubt. I also found the topic utterly fascinating and felt the author was able to express ideas that I have played with in my own head but never would be able to write up as well.

    16 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donna brooklyn, NY, USA 10-23-07
    Donna brooklyn, NY, USA 10-23-07 Member Since 2001
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Stellar selection"

    I am a big consumer of recorded books, and I have rarely been moved to write a review. This book was so intriguing, so beautifully written, I couldn't resist singing its praises. It also has one of the most satisfying endings I've ever encountered. A lovely reading of a brilliant book.

    14 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JOHN Plantation, FL, United States 06-22-07
    JOHN Plantation, FL, United States 06-22-07 Member Since 2003

    Audible Member Since 2003

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Impressed"

    This is my first Ian McEwan book and I now see why his work is so highly respected. Atonement is not an action-packed thriller but a well-conceived and drawn story about the events of one day and their lifelong consequences. Probably the first third or more of this book details the events of that fateful day, where the author skillfully replays the same scenes over and over as experienced by different characters in the story. Perhaps this is why some find the book "boring." For my taste, it is anything but boring and this author's skill had me very wrapped up in this seemingly simple but complex plot.

    The manner in which this book ended is pure genious - wrapping up all of the details into a very surprising and thought-provoking finale.

    I now have one or two McEwan titles on my wish-list and will definitely purchase one in the future when I am ready for another "dark" novel.

    20 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Judith Monterey MA 08-04-07
    Judith Monterey MA 08-04-07 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "My best audiobook yet"

    When I try to convince friends to get into the audiobook habit, i recommend starting with this one! This is the best of the best. Flawless. Great book and exquisite narration.
    By the way, there is another recording of the same book. I recommend this one. Ever since I listened to Jill Tanner reading here, I try to get any other book she is reading. She is my best narrator yet.
    In short: a warm recommendation! If you have to listen to just one audiobook ever, this should be the one.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Doggy Bird Glen Ridge, NJ USA 12-05-11
    Doggy Bird Glen Ridge, NJ USA 12-05-11 Member Since 2001

    Mes livres preferes sont les grands classiques, certains romans, la po├ęsie, et l'histoire. J'aime ├ęcouter dans la voiture et au gym.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "This is one of my favorite modern novels"

    This is one of my favorite books, I have already read it twice and it's not very old. It's very well written and constructed and it works so well on so many different levels. The narration is wonderful and it is just as good as an audiobook as it is a written text. What I like about Ian McEwan's fiction is the way it is so full of prisms that allow you to see things from so many different perspectives without losing the coherence of narrative and setting. Very highly recommend.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lea Brooklyn, NY, USA 12-29-07
    Lea Brooklyn, NY, USA 12-29-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
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    "The best book ever!"

    For me its like Margaret Mitchell, Jane Austen and Ian McEwan all got together to write this awsome tale. I was mesmerized. I can't wait to see the movie and although the review for it are good, I cannot see how they could encompass all the book into a 2 hour movie. I'm glad I LISTENED to the book instead of reading it as I probably would've skipped the WWII parts which are so essential to the story. Beautifully written and beautifully read.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brad San Angelo, TX, U.S. 04-13-13
    Brad San Angelo, TX, U.S. 04-13-13 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Worth the trouble in the end..."
    Any additional comments?

    I am a frequent audiobook reader and rarely do I find I just can't take the tedium any more and put it down. This book was assigned to my high school senior's literature class and I like to read the same books so we can intelligently discuss them. I put this book away twice in the first ten chapters before I finally mustered the drive to press on.

    Chapter 10 is about when things start to happen. In the first part of this book you literally listen for hours and NOTHING happens. We get a description of a 10 year old's daydream, a description of the wallpaper, what the landscape vista looks like, etc. Patience pays off however, and by the time part II starts you start to really care about the characters.

    This is basically a 3 part book with an epilogue. The second part gives a vivid description of the early British army in WWII, and part 3 the life of a young nurse in London just before the Dunkirk evacuation. I found the descriptions in these parts to be fascinating. It was almost as if the reader was there.

    The epilogue brings it home with the big picture of the whole story. Different reviewers take away different ideas but my thought was how much our lives and the guilt we carry forward our whole lives can rest on the poor decisions made in childhood and our youth. It's a great theme for young people to consider. We never know how even the smallest decision in youth can have a profound effect on our whole lives.

    The reader had just the right cadence and accent. Overall, I would recommend this one only for those who don't mind a slowly developing plot and big ideas to consider in the end.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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