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Atonement: A Novel Paperback – February 25, 2003
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Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose.
On a hot summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’ s incomplete grasp of adult motives—together with her precocious literary gifts—brings about a crime that will change all their lives.
As it follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece.
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“Flat-out brilliant. . . . Lush, detailed, vibrantly colored and intense.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A tour de force. . . . Every bit as affecting as it is gripping.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Luminous. . . . Atonement is brilliant and like nothing he’s ever written before.” —Newsweek
“No one now writing fiction in the English language surpasses Ian McEwan.” —The Washington Post Book World
“Brilliant. . . . McEwan could be the most psychologically astute writer working today, our era’s Jane Austen.” —Esquire
“A work of astonishing depth and humanity.” —The Economist
“His most complete and passionate book to date.” —The New York Times Book Review
“In the seriousness of its intentions and the dazzle of its language, Atonement made me starry-eyed all over again on behalf of literature’s humanizing possibilities.” —Daphne Merkin, Los Angeles Times
“Resplendent. . . . Graceful. . . . Magisterial. . . . Gloriously realized.” —The Boston Sunday Globe
“McEwan is technically at the height of his powers.” —The New York Review of Books
“Astonishing . . . [with] one of the most remarkable erotic scenes in modern fiction. . . . [It] is something you will never forget.” —Chicago Tribune
“Enthralling. . . . With psychological insight and a command of sensual and historical detail, Mr. McEwan creates an absorbing fictional world.” —The Wall Street Journal
“[Atonement] hauls a defining part of the British literary tradition up to and into the 21st century.” —The Guardian
“Astonishing. . . . Gorgeous. . . . Bewitching. . . . A thought-provoking, luxuriant novel.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“McEwan is one of the most gifted literary storytellers alive. . . . [Atonement] implants in the memory a living, flaming presence.” —James Wood, The New Republic
“[McEwan’s] best novel so far. . . . It will break your heart.” —The Star (Toronto)
“A masterpiece of moral inquiry. . . . Beautiful and wrenching.” —New York
“A first-rate novel on any scale. . . . His most expansive and ambitious book. . . . Few, if any, novelists writing today match McEwan in ingenuity and plotting.” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Magnificent. . . . McEwan forces his readers to turn the pages with greater dread and anticipation than does perhaps any other ‘literary’ writer working in English today.” —Claire Messud, The Atlantic Monthly
“The extraordinary range of Atonement suggests that there’s nothing McEwan can’t do.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“Magically readable. . . . Never has McEwan shown himself to be more in sympathy with the vulnerability of the human heart.” —Sunday Times (London)
“Magnificent. . . . Suspenseful, psychologically astute and intellectually bracing.” —Newsday
“Not since the 19th century has a writer stepped in and out of his characters’ minds with such unfettered confidence.” —The Plain Dealer
“A novel of artistry, power and truth that puts it among the most extraordinary works of fiction of the last decade. . . . It is, quite simply, magnificent–a masterpiece.” —Michael Pakenham, The Baltimore Sun
“Magical. . . . A love story, a war story, and a story about stories, and so it hits the heart, the guts and the brain.” —The New York Observer
“Luminous. . . . McEwan’s writing has often made me blink, but never before blink with emotion. . . . [McEwan] is at one with his talent.” —Robert Cremins, Houston Chronicle
“Atonement can’t be laid down once it’s been picked up. . . . [McEwan] can write rings around most others writing in English today.” —The Weekly Standard
From the Inside Flap
On a hot summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment?s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia?s childhood friend. But Briony?s incomplete grasp of adult motives?together with her precocious literary gifts?brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime?s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece.
- ASIN : 038572179X
- Publisher : Anchor Books; 1st edition (February 25, 2003)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 351 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780385721790
- ISBN-13 : 978-0385721790
- Item Weight : 9.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.18 x 0.8 x 7.97 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #15,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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Thought I would order the book because books can lend so much more detail and backstory that a movie simply cannot.
I love reading. I have read many different genres, and have even slugged away through Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series... and I thought Robert Jordan enjoyed his descriptions! But Robert Jordan's world was such that even though many passages and even in one case, an entire book were laborious to get through, I still re-read those books and have every single one of them.
I have to say that usually when I get a new book, I finish it within a week, no matter how long it is. If it is really good, I will devour it in a few days.
Well, it has been weeks that I have had this book and I haven't yet made it past part one. The part of the book I am currently on is where everyone has just gone out to search for the twins.
I enjoy descriptions and feeling as though I am a part of the world the reader is trying to describe, but this novel is TOO wordy.
So many adjectives and my eyes glaze over. Especially since I don't feel emotionally invested in really any of the characters because there is too much about everything else!
When I read two pages about the sunset, all of it's colors, then in turn all of the colors it is turning the trees, leaves, and the surrounding areas and how if the character had just stood up and contorted their body in just the right way, then they would see these things that have just been described to me in full detail, I have a hard time really getting into the book.
When there is so much description about the surroundings that several pages later the plot has not progressed, I start to think of other things I should or could be doing. And this is hard for me to admit, because I love reading.
Reading should be an escape to another world where you don't have the voice in the back of your mind telling you about mundane household chores you should be doing!
Sadly, though I want to like this book so rich in detail, it has too much detail. I will finish it, as I don't like to leave any book unfinished, but it will likely take quite some time, as I will read other books to take my mind off of the odious task of finishing Atonement.
I will not be checking out anything else from this author.
Then the second part switches to the fields of the war-ravaged France and goes into high gear, trading the langour of a romance gone wrong for brutal descriptions of war horrors. Then you begin to understand the author's intent and the novel's brilliance. McEwan hints at the major plot twists well in advance, through subtle hints and gradual changes in the writing style, but when they are finally properly revealed, they still produce a satisfied 'oooh' out of you. The prose and characterization are excellent throughout, but the crowning achievement of the novel is a chilling and accurate description of what goes on in the mind of a child blessed (or cursed?) with early literacy.
Top reviews from other countries
The first, set in a country house during the oppressively hot summer of 1935, is the build up to the commission of a terrible crime. The offence is the false accusation made by one of the three main characters, Briony, against another. She knows the accusation is at best doubtful, and probably false, but she persists in it, even under oath, to the point of wrecking the life chances of a man who isn’t just innocent but also did her nothing but good.
This is the crime for which atonement must be made.
Five years later, we find ourselves plunged, again in sweltering heat, into the middle of the British Army’s catastrophic retreat in front of German armoured troops through Northern France to Dunkirk. This is the most powerful account I have read of the torment felt by individual men, especially a wounded man, struggling to keep up with what was practically a rout – undisciplined, chaotic and painful. It’s a tribute to the research McEwan carried out at the Imperial War Museum in London that he was able to capture the atmosphere of that harrowing time, and further proof of his outstanding qualities as a writer that he could convey them so vividly.
And the third nightmare is the one experienced again by Briony, in a first step towards atonement, as she trains to be a nurse at a hospital recognisable as St Thomas’s in London. That culminates in an extraordinary day of frightening and intense work, as she nurses wounded men from the Dunkirk evacuation. McEwan gives us a detailed account of the many hours she works, with men lightly injured, with men suffering terrible but treatable wounds, with men who cannot be saved.
Finally, there is a kind of coda in which McEwan deepens the dreamlike feeling of the novel still further. Because he leaves us wondering whether what he has given us is a novel of his own creation, or one written by Briony herself, a character he created. We see her going from a first attempt at writing the story, rejected by a publisher who nonetheless gives her excellent advice on how to improve it, to the final work, the one we’ve just read. And she asks us whether she hasn’t told the story as it deserves to be told. She tells us that she could have changed its details is significant ways but chose not to, and calls on us, the readers, to agree that she was right.
This reader is sure she is. My view is that Briony turned an indifferent first draft into an excellent novel. And Ian McEwan did well to make her work, and his own, available to us.
In a strange way I felt that not much happened throughout the novel yet I was intrigued and captured by the characters and their thoughts. It is definitely a slow mover of a story and although this is what turns a lot of people off the book, it is instead what made me love it. For me, the beauty was in the structure of the novel and the different writing styles that McEwan employed.
The first part is told from different perspectives whereas in parts two and three he switches to follow two characters' journeys. The final section of the book really made me think - McEwan somehow brings everything into doubt and makes you question the beautiful and emotional story that he has set out. I sat and pondered on it by myself for a while and then wanted to know how people interpreted the ending and what their thoughts were on the story as well. I love it when a book does that to me.
The narrative at its core starts like Downton Abbey but phases into scenes that make that first 30mins of Saving Private Ryan feel pedestrian . Start to end this is a technical tour de force of wordmanship....the author must be at the peak of his powers. That would be enough but the structure into which this has been folded is quite superb.The story has been skillfully wrapped up into an essay on novel writing itself and there is even a segment - delivered as a rejection letter from a publisher - that appears to be a commentary on an earlier draft of the novel you are reading.
Best thing I have read in a long time. Maybe ever. And one i suspect that will reward a revisit.