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Paperback Atonement: A Novel Book

ISBN: 038572179X

Atonement: A Novel

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Brilliant work of fiction intrigues and then rewrites itself

In Atonement, Ian McEwan has written a marvelous book. We peer deep into the workings of characters--their psychologies are rich and complex, their motivations too developed to fit neatly together. The book triumphs in its portrayal of the mind of a thirteen year old girl--an accomplished feat, considering the gender and age of the author! The girl's world is beautiful and immature, and this world--so very real to her--comes into startling collision with the realities of adults. The novel is woven of colliding realities: different perceptions of what *is* come into painful dispute. My only objection to the novel is its very light treatment of a sexual assault. The event--though central to the story--seems to be more of a plot device than anything else. The horror of that event is dwarfed by the worries of other characters. This use of rape is cheap and unkind. It's not a fatal flaw for the novel, but it leaves the book short of something masterful. And yet, the twists, at the end of the novel were indeed masterful. For me, the sudden revelations at the end of the book forced me to rethink the novel. Despite my one misgiving about the novel, its stellar characters and remarkable transformations at the conclusion left me awestruck and aglow. Upon putting down the book I did--and do now--feel that I finished something of a masterpiece.

Trials of a summer night

This is an engaging story and so finely written that the reading is both effortless and seductive. After I had finished (that is, after drying my eyes and regaining my breath), I was amazed to realize how complex a plot it is considering how smoothly it is told. By far, it is the best book I have read in years.The story starts on a summer day at a large country estate in pre-WWII England. For anyone who delights in the heady mix of intelligence, innocence and youthful imagination, the beginning is like eating rich chocolate: 13 year old Briony has written a play -- the references to Austen, Burney, and family performances within 18th century lore are abundant and perfect -- to be rehearsed and performed by her unwilling and displaced visiting cousins in order to celebrate her brother's return to home with his sophisticated friend. However, reheasals in the playroom for THE TRIALS OF ARABELLA (of course) do not run smoothly: the twins boys do not understand what is expected of them; there's tension between Briony and 15 year old Lola. During the hot summer afternoon, Briony looks out the window to see her older sister Cecilia and Robbie, the cleaning lady's son, having what looks like some kind of menacing (and intimate) interaction in the fountain. The rest of the day's events and mishaps play out without implication until nightfall when a real crime of a sexual nature occurs and Briony's overactive imagination and lack of sophistication lead her to make a accusation which results in genuine tragedy for everyone. Without revealing the entire plot and overwhelming descriptions of war and survival, Briny spends her life paying for this mistake. Near the end of her long life, and having enjoyed without enjoyment a successful writing career, Briony's birthday is celebrated by her relations. This party is held at the old country house, now a renovated hotel, where her grand nieces and nephews perform THE TRIALS OF ARABELLA, a deeply emotional and incomprehensible experience for all (the surviving twin boy, now an old man, breaks down completely, as will nearly every reader). This book goes into my unofficial rank as one of the best reading experiences I've ever had. It tooks me days to shake the feeling that Briony was a part of my life. I was completely transported and I don't think there can be better praise than that.

Magnificent!!

After finishing this wonderful novel, the first of McEwan's I have read, I came on line to read some reviews. Those that hated the book genuinely puzzled me. I found it absolutely enthralling.McEwan evokes such an immediate sense of time and place despite switching locales and timelines, that the reader is drawn in further and further. The book soars on several levels: the tale of the crime and its repercussions, the Writer-as-God aspect that ultimately envelopes the entire narrative, to name but two. In addition, there is the wonderful use of information NOT revealed, be it secondary characters such as Lola and Marshall into who's heads we barely get a glimpse. This book is a wonderful read. With subtle similarities to The English Patient amongst others, it is the most thought provoking character study told from multiple points of view I have read since The Poisonwood Bible. Highly recommended!!I, too, plan on exploring all of Mr. McEwan's work.

Unforgettable

Briony Tallis, 13, has written a play in honor of her idolized older brother's homecoming. It is 1935, the hottest day of summer in a charming country property in England. Briony has rather arbitrarily assigned parts to her young cousins who will be arriving shortly. Briony, of course, has the lead. Older sister Cecilia is readying the house for the party, as the mother as usual is indisposed. Robbie, the brilliant son of the housemaid, is also returning from University, his education financed by Mr. Tallis. The stage is set for Briony to put in motion terrible events that will change the lives of every person in this halcyon setting."Atonement" is written in four books, The Crime, The War, The Atonement, and The 1999 Reunion. Mr. McEwen's prose is a delight: languorous, taut, whatever the situation calls for. The dialogue is crisp and rings true for all characters. The complete change of pace when we follow Robbie through the fall of Dunkirk is breathtaking. It is that most excruciating military situation: the command has broken down; all are on their own. The Atonement itself has the hard clarity of cold winter sunlight on a city street. The author has more to tell than the story at hand; he speaks of writing and the duties of authors to their readers, all without ever wandering away from the storyline.I cannot wait to read "Amsterdam," Mr. McEwen's earlier novel. His writing is magical. - And, oh yes, "Atonement" has a twist at the end that will shock and upset you for days. Do yourself a favor, and read it.

If God were a novelist

I picked up this good-looking book with no advance knowledge of its plot - just a liking for other works of its author - and I'm grateful for that, and won't give away the story here. I was grabbed by its first description, and held closely throughout. McEwan has created characters who are so fully realized that I felt as if I had known them for years. It's an amazing story, though not at all far-fetched. It's slyly easy to read - think "page-turner" - but it is about vitally important things. In addition considerable historic research went into it, and that's a delicious plus.McEwan invites you into an English world that you will smell, hear, feel, and taste - and your mind and emotions will be fully engaged. The family has money and servants but this is nothing you've seen on television or the movies. The story is told with discipline and control, and from several points of view. The people are palpably real. It's a tightly organized and satisfying assemblage of the things that matter, among them family life, childhood, debt and obligation, loyalty, imagination, faith and hope, innocence and guilt, love, desire, varieties of destruction - and the urge to make a difference. Finally: war and peace. (In fact, you might be reminded of Tolstoy in more than a few ways.) In addition it's a fierce and moving meditation on the life of the mind and creativity. At the same time, McEwan's powers of description are such that all of your senses are never anything but fully engaged. English country life in the 1930's - a heat wave, and the fragrance of wildflowers, the feel of a silk dress that is sticking to skin, the thick dark of a moonless summer night - through the horrors of the Second World War (Dunkirk most dramatically and effectively) and beyond. It is either sheer brilliance, or a deeply humane urge, or maybe just a workmanlike sense, but McEwan takes full responsibility for each of his characters- and sees them through to the end.Nearly every page has something unselfconsciously remarkable to think about - or to reconsider. I used my pencil throughout; there is so much that is wise or just plain awe-inspiring in this book. McEwan has accomplished something amazing. I'm telling friends to read the book first, reviews second. The story is so terrific, and so moving and important - and might unfold best for the reader who comes to it blissfully uninformed. It's not very often that I've felt transformed by a novel. Read it as soon as you can.

Atonement Mentions in Our Blog

Published by Chris Viola • May 11, 2016

I recently came across a travel website that proclaimed, “London has a rich literary tradition that permeates its streets.”

It’s true, of course. I know the first time I saw London’s cobblestone back streets, I immediately pictured Oliver Twist and the Artful Dodger tearing through the crowds, possibly having just picked someone’s pocket. For my money, Dickens’ vivid descriptions of 1830s London are just as compelling as his characters.

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