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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

4.0 (1305 )
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4.2 (556 )
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Performance
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  •  
    B. McIver San Angelo, Texas 04-13-13
    B. McIver San Angelo, Texas 04-13-13 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
    ratings
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    13
    5
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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
  •  
    Suzanne H NYC 11-09-07
    Suzanne H NYC 11-09-07 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Beautiful book"

    This book was beautifully written. The reader is one of my favorites on audible (she was one of the readers of "The Thirteenth Tale", my favorite audible book to date). The story was long, bittersweet, slow - something to savor over a cup of tea with a warm blanket, or sit on the porch with a cup of coffee. I can't wait to see the movie!

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christina V. California 03-07-15
    Christina V. California 03-07-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    3
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    Story
    "How can you have any pudding if you don't eat . ."

    Aptly enough, a pivotal event in this book is a stifling, excessive and interminable meal. Because that's exactly what this book is, except that unlike the characters, the readers do at least get a surprisingly flavorful pudding at the end.

    Remove the author's infatuation with his own turn of a phrase and observations, and you have a story that can told in a paragraph: upper class British girl falls for the maid's son, her younger sister (acting out of either malice or ignorance) gives false testimony about the boyfriend, resulting in drastic consequences for him; boyfriend goes to war and experiences atrocities; younger sister turns down college, goes to work as a nurse, and tried various other measures to atone. Plus a twist at the end. The twist was by far the best part of the book, and frankly, I didn't think the author had it in him, but it was not such an awesome twist that it even remotely justified the tedious hours I spent listening.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kate Saco, ME, United States 01-26-15
    Kate Saco, ME, United States 01-26-15 Member Since 2015

    I love audio and ebooks but only give them a 5 if they hold my attention. An avereage story gets a 3 . Thrillers & Crime are my favorites.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Still waiting for the plot!"

    Ok, so I listened for two hours and NOTHING has happened so far. I gave up and stopped listening. Sadly, the description sounds like it will be good but then the part where the three characters supposedly lose their innocence but the event is really a non-event.

    The whole story up to this point is overly drawn out descriptions of mundane activities with no clear point or action. I have now seen in other reviews that one should wait until chapter 10 for the plot to get moving but I am quitting after chapter 5. Its just not worth it!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MasterMarquette Palm Springs, CA United States 12-30-12
    MasterMarquette Palm Springs, CA United States 12-30-12

    Karim Marquette

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Different from the Movie"
    Any additional comments?

    Atonement is one of my favorite films. The book is also wonderful, but the visuals of the film are stupendous. The book is quite different than the film in some areas, but not significantly. The description of what happened at Dunkirk is especially moving. How easy it is to forget the sacrifice made by so many young men. This book reminds one of the incredible devastation of war.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barry Petaluma, CA, United States 07-21-12
    Barry Petaluma, CA, United States 07-21-12 Member Since 2008

    My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Best book I've read in the last 5 years"

    This is such a great book but I don't know what I can say about it that won't be too much of a spoiler. It was a mind-opening experience as far as what can be done with the written word. More importantly, in a world where so many people are obsessed with forgiveness, it was refreshing to see someone focus on the other side of that activity. Hence the title of the book. I cannot recommend this highly enough.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carole Philadelphia, PA, USA 02-22-08
    Carole Philadelphia, PA, USA 02-22-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very slow"

    Perhas the movie will hold my interest. This seemed to take forever and frought in small insignifcant details.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kenneth Mantua, NJ, USA 05-10-05
    Kenneth Mantua, NJ, USA 05-10-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
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    10
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    "Literary Yoga"

    In each section of Atonement, McEwan stretches the listener's nerves like rubber bands, farther and farther, thinner and thinner, until everything's about to snap. Then he stops, and he relaxes into the next section. only to begin the stretching all over again. The workout is mental of course. But it's also physical; the listener's muscles tighten and relax as the action ebbs and flows. The overall effect is stunning. This is the first great novel of the new millennium!

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kristi Warriner 03-24-08 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    174
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    "I loved this book"

    Like other reviewers I wondered where we were going for the first six hours. After I finished the book I went back several times and realized that every sentence in the first half describing a day in the life of the characters had a purpose.

    What seemed to be meandering was actually taut and direct. The writing hovers between literature and prose. This one stayed with me for days after I finished it.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter Port Matilda, Panama 01-19-08
    Peter Port Matilda, Panama 01-19-08 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
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    24
    5
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    "McEwan at his best"

    Not a great fan of McEwan even after reading Enduring Love but I adored the way this was read, the way he writes and as a Brit living in America I could taste the English countryside, hear the sounds of winter bird song and feel the passion of two loyal lovers. No hesitation in recommending this to all that appreciate literature and a good "listen".

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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