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.
"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)
"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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Audible Member Since 2003
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.
Avid reader of classics and fiction, history and well-written genre novels. Music lover and huge audiobook fan.
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.
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.
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.
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