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Atonement

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  324,729 Ratings  ·  13,315 Reviews
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 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son
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Hardcover, 351 pages
Published March 28th 2003 by Turtleback Books (first published 2001)
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Nela In my opinion, the movie is similar in atmosphere at times, but the book is infinitely better. Plus I don't think that neither Keira Knightley, nor…moreIn my opinion, the movie is similar in atmosphere at times, but the book is infinitely better. Plus I don't think that neither Keira Knightley, nor James McAvoy, nor Romola Garai were good fits for their roles (and I watched the movie before reading the book so that really is saying something).(less)
Jenny Meridius A mature 15 year old, yes. Every teen is different, and I don't believe in censoring language, but there is use of the C word in here. That might…moreA mature 15 year old, yes. Every teen is different, and I don't believe in censoring language, but there is use of the C word in here. That might ruffle a few helicopter parental feathers, but 15 is old enough to be choosing one's own literature. (less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Manny
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah
Jun 08, 2010 Sarah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It's like To Kill A Mockingbird. Only, instead of a flawed but relatable protagonist, we have a protagonist vilified beyond all reason. Instead of a persecuted minority, we have a horny young man. And instead of Atticus Finch, we have...Ian McEwan. And never, in the history of literature, has anyone worked quite this hard to invalidate the accusatory gaze of young girls.

The "sinner" here is young Briony. And her sin is pride. We see her exposed to sexist and obscene language, violent sex, and a
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Sarah
Nov 19, 2007 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
In World War II England, 13-year-old Briony Tallis misinterprets her older sister’s love affair with their family’s gardener to be something much worse than what it is. Her innocence and partial understanding of the world begins a chain of events that tears the family apart and alters the course of the rest of the girl’s life.

Sounds a little dry, right? Wrong! I guess I forgot to mention that the book was written by Ian McEwan, the king of uncomfortable moments, weird sex stuff, the rotating thi
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Bart
Sep 12, 2007 Bart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Literary fiction aficionados
That I can remember, I've never before disliked the start of a book so thoroughly, and by the end, gone on to think so much of it as a complete work.

The last 2/3 of this novel are as good as contemporary fiction gets. The first 1/3 is like reading a Jane Austen plot trapped in amber.

As the title indicates Atonement is about a future artist's massive effort to redeem herself for ruining the character of a young man when she is a younger girl. There are parts of this novel that are disjointed - or
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Terry
Jan 12, 2008 Terry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is where a 2.5 star rating would be ideal. I am extremely ambivalent about this novel--first the pluses: the writing is gorgeous; McEwan has some of the best prose out there. Every line has meat to it, nothing is throwaway, and every visual is so vivid that the reader is transported to a specific time and place. Secondly, (what everyone praises the novel for), the commentary McEwan is making about the novel itself--the fact that it is written, that characters and plots are manipulated by th ...more
Allison
Jan 23, 2008 Allison rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I feel that perhaps I have sabotaged this book somewhat as I read it directly after finishing Love In the Time of Cholera, and perhaps in retrospect should have read a poetry book or some non-fiction in between. Clearly anything I would have read after finishing a Masterpiece would pale in comparison but I decided that the critical raves this book had received and high praise from people around me should be enough to encourage me to see it through to the end.

Here is why I found this book lacking
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Martine
Having recently seen and loved the magnificent film adaptation, I decided to reread Atonement, which quite impressed me when it was first published. And guess what? It was an even more rewarding experience the second time around. Knowing what was coming -- knowing the plot twist at the end -- helped me focus on the quality of the writing rather than on the development of the story, and as always, McEwan's prose completely sucked me in. He is, quite simply, one of the most talented authors alive, ...more
Angi M
**WARNING: Don't read this if you don't want the ending spoiled!**

This book...I hate it! It's beautiful, every word of it is gorgeous, but it's as if the author spends all this time painstakingly crafting a really detailed, intricate vessel for you (I'm thinking of a boat :))and then just before your journey's over he snatches it out from under you & you sink. Why go to such lengths describing the lovers, and the war, and Briony & the nursing when in the end none of it even matters? The
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Daniel
Jun 09, 2009 Daniel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-edition, 2009
Sometimes when I write these reviews, especially when they're of novels with widespread popularity and critical acclaim, I start to feel like a real curmudgeon. Is there anything really wrong with Ian McEwan's “Atonement?” Is it not a compelling story well told? Is the writing not clear, succinct, and free of pretentiousness? Does McEwan not draw the reader into a well-imagined world and hold him there until the last page? The answer to all these questions is yes. Yet still, yet still...

Maybe it
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Annalisa
Aug 19, 2008 Annalisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: book club
There are so many angles and perceptions to consider in this book. Sometimes the end can make a book and that is certainly the case here where the story is left open for interpretation. This is a book that leaves you thinking and considering, making up your own conclusions--and strong enough characters to make you want to.

The first few chapters I did find my mind wandering through lengthy descriptions (I'll call it beautiful, poetic scenery), and yet that scenery set a lackadaisical feel vital t
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Jr Bacdayan
Jun 17, 2013 Jr Bacdayan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A scintillating piece of the purest gemstone, a diamond, was tracing around the forceps of a persona, the face of a mountain. The sky was a jet-black expanse devoid of sunlight and every color that pleases the eyes. There were small bursts of constant explosions inside that cavernous cave of red. A ripping sensation engulfed the whole scenery, like a piece of meat being torn by a pack of savage dogs. Emptiness. Then, a small stream of gold flowed from the heavens. Color was restored in the most ...more
Councillor
"Atonement" focuses on tragic events surrounding the Tallis family during the years prior to, during and after the Second World War. Briony Tallis, a thirteen-year-old girl who has a dream of becoming a famous author, witnesses and misunderstands the sexual tension between her older sister Cecilia and the gardener Robbie Turner, with her mistake leading to years of remorse, hate, solitude – and atonement. One might think this is a concept too unpromising for a full-length story, lacking any furt ...more
Fatty Bolger
If the third star in the scale above is a spectrum—and I like to treat it like it is—I’d place Atonement on the far right, closer to the fourth star and defiantly resisting the pull of the second... and it is carried there on the wings of McEwan’s prose: beautiful, magical and so subtle that it creates a sense of lightness in the reader, an atmosphere that at first is inviting without being overwhelming.

It’s rare that a book should render me speechless for days, but it’s rarer still that, when I
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Shovelmonkey1
Mar 26, 2013 Shovelmonkey1 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
Is it wrong to review a book based on your much more lucid rememberings of the film rather than the actual text itself?

Nah.

Things from the film which were good:
Keira Knightley has a nice green dress. I would like a nice green dress like that. Or to quote Jessi - someone has to get me one of those dresses stat!

James McAvoy looks better in this than he does as Mr Tumnus the faun in Narnia. In Narnia his big wet weepy faun eyes made me want to shoot myself until I got distracted by Tilda Swinton's
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Jonathan
Oct 08, 2012 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Literature lovers, someone interested in a novel set a while ago or a novel turned into a film
Recommended to Jonathan by: Quite a few different sources...

'I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just "on spec", addressed as follows: "Clancy, of The Overflow"'


To borrow the opening verse of a famous Australian poem by Banjo Patterson, this is precisely what parts of Atonement feel like. A letter, written and directed to relatives wrongly accused in the hope of seeking forgiveness or at the least: atonement. A
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Kelly
Nov 14, 2007 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who like character studies, chamber dramas, and psych
Is there word beyond 'amazing' that I can use? Some word beyond 'enthralling'? I need them. I'm reaching for them. But I literally just finished the book and I'm so much in awe of it I just can't. It's perfect. It's perfect in every image and line and mirror and echo. Ian McEwan is such a master of language and storycraft.

I devoured this book in a day. Less than a day. Ignoring all other work to do so. And it was TOTALLY worth it.

I can't think of what to praise first this point, so I'm going to
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Kim
Jan 18, 2016 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This was the favourite novel of a friend of mine who died suddenly a few years ago. She loved it so much that she refused to see the film adaptation because, she said, it couldn't possibly be as good as the novel. I, on the other hand, saw the film without having read the book because when the film was released I was still in the won't-read-McEwan stage of my life that lasted from 1988 or 1989 until two or three years ago.

Anyway, I quite liked the film, or at least it made an impression on me a
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Amy Galaviz
**NOTE: Spoilers included: I like the experience of reading a book and then seeing the movie, which is why I read this book. Both the book and the movie are highly acclaimed, so what could be a better choice?

I haven’t yet seen the movie since I just finished the book today, but perhaps I should have read "No Country For Old Men" instead.

100 pages into this book, I wanted to just give up. It felt like something that would have been forced on me by high school English teachers, with all the desc
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Cecily
A beautifully written and cleverly told story of relationships, growing up, guilt and, obviously, atonement and forgiveness. The essence of the story is how a childish mistake, made in good faith (more or less) can have consequences for many people, for many years.

Although it would be better to read this before watching the film, I’d heard that the book had been thought unfilmable and so was pretty different, which ensured I was alert to reading it with fresh eyes.

Part 1 is perhaps not quite a
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Duane
When I read a contemporary 21st century novel, especially a really good one, I often wonder, will it become a classic? Will people still be reading it 150 years from now? It's hard to know of course. Occasionally I read one that I think will still be around, will be read and appreciated years from now. Atonement is one of those. The setting, the plot, the time period, the historical aspect, were all perfectly connected. The characters were so real that I felt like I was reading a historical reco ...more
Jessica
Sep 26, 2007 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: liars
This is the first book I've read by this guy, and I really enjoyed it. You know who I'd recommend this book to, but I don't think it'd fit in that little box up there? Okay, you know how sometimes you're craving a certain kind of musical style, like sixties soul, say, or classic British punk, but you don't actually want to listen to old music, you want to listen to something that's, like, of the now? There're a few (okay, not many) bands out there that don't just do hollow retro imitations, but ...more
Iris
Nov 07, 2015 Iris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, own, reviewed
I'm sobbing as I write this review of this hauntingly beautiful, poignant and tragic novel. McEwan's writing is something I am completely in awe of- his uncanny ability to capture so many different worlds and minds within this tale is spell-binding. I feel left with the ghostly presence of all the characters- but especially Cecilia and Robbie and their love- and it is like the beautiful ghostly imagery of "the luminous absence shimmering above the wetness of the gravel", This book is a masterpie ...more
Scarlet
This. Book. Drove. Me. Nuts.

Did I sabotage the book by opting to watch the movie first?
Maybe.

Or would it have turned out this way regardless?
I'll never know.


I like the idea of this book. Ian McEwan's definition of atonement is as dazzling as it is strange. I also love the prose. So rich and refined. For these reasons alone, I'm giving Atonement 3 stars.

The rest of this review, I'm afraid, is a jumbled explanation for why this book made me so mad.

I thought the purpose of this book was to tell a s
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Anna M.
Jan 03, 2008 Anna M. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am really frustrated with myself that I can't bring myself to like this novel. The passage from Northanger Abbey that precedes it was promising; anything referencing Jane Austen should be worth reading. However, despite the fact that his style is interesting, that every sentence attempts to make an impact, I feel as if it is trying too hard. A comparison to Austen's writing style is ridiculous, because even though McEwen attempts the same focus on a brilliant turn of the phrase, his style in n ...more
Caris
Apr 25, 2012 Caris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
Goddamn you, Ian McEwan.


I have previously cursed you for writing some of the most heart-wrenchingly painful shit I’ve ever read. Today, I curse your skill.

I put off this book for a long time. I found it a couple of years ago on a bargain rack for two dollars and picked it up, knowing I’d get to it eventually. I wasn’t super excited, because I saw the rather uninspired film adaptation. I don’t usually enjoy historical fiction, either, so there were the two big arguments against actually putting
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Michela
Oct 02, 2011 Michela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hearts-books
"Espiazione" -Ian McEwan (2001)

La nostra storia ha inizio in un caldo pomeriggio d’estate del 1935, nella cornice di una vecchia villa inglese.
In questa giornata afosa e opprimente entriamo nella vita della famiglia Tallis e assistiamo ai preparativi della cena data in onore del ritorno del figlio Leon, e di un suo amico,Paul Marshall. Sembra di assistere ai preparativi di “Mrs Dalloway” di Virgina Woolf, alla stessa maniera, l’incontro si concluderà in maniera drammatica.

Briony ha 13 anni, un
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Alex
Oct 27, 2014 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: little girls who are as smart as they think they are
I was pretty knocked out when I started to get a handle on what this book is. McEwan is attempting a difficult trick, and every sentence has to be just right for it to hang together. 13-year-old Briony has to walk a tightrope between horrible little punk and precocious budding writer: we need to identify with her without condoning what she does. And along the way McEwan throws in little squiggles - little bits where the coloring escapes the lines - that make you suspect that although it's writte ...more
Kate
Mar 24, 2008 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Four stars for the exquisite, lush descriptions in Part 1. Astute insight into a variety of characters and their motivations. The details of a single day made me feel I was there. (My frustrations at the ending make it a grudging four stars.)

I read Part 1 with suspense (even trepidation) at every turn, but it was fueled by information on the book's cover--telling me that Briony would accuse Robbie of a crime and it would change their lives forever. (I am not sure how I would have reacted to this
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Nandakishore Varma
I watched the movie before reading the book, which was probably a mistake because I loved the movie and I felt that the book didn't measure up. Which is unfair, I know, but there it is!

What impressed me about the book was the powerful statement the author is making on the power of narrative - how much it rules our lives. It does not matter whether it is true or false: in fact, true or false has no say in it, because for each one of us it is entirely subjective. And when the person in question is
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Leigh
When I'd just finished Part I, I wrote this:

"More than a little reminiscent of Woolf in its converging and diverging viewpoints, its serious concern with the portrayal of social and interior life... and of course the dinner-party scene. That part, I loved. I wasn't as keen on the latter third or so of Part One (too much prolepsis is nobody's friend), and Part Two thus far is slow going--which is surprising, as it's the WWII part! But it's early yet."

Despite being a perfectly good portrayal of me
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Ian McEwan was born on 21 June 1948 in Aldershot, England. He studied at the University of Sussex, where he received a BA degree in English Literature in 1970. He received his MA degree in English Literature at the University of East Anglia.

McEwan's works have earned him worldwide critical acclaim. He won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976 for his first collection of short stories First Love, Last
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“A person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn and not easily mended.” 1337 likes
“It wasn't only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding; above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you.” 738 likes
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