Atonement
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Atonement

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  245,922 ratings  ·  11,622 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...more
Paperback, 351 pages
Published February 25th 2003 by Anchor (first published September 21st 2001)
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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
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...more
Sarah
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...more
Bart
Sep 12, 2007 Bart rated it 4 of 5 stars 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...more
Terry
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
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
Allison
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...more
Angi Machos
**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...more
Daniel
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...more
Shovelmonkey1
Mar 26, 2013 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Jonathan
Oct 08, 2012 Jonathan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Jr Bacdayan
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
Jessica
Sep 26, 2007 Jessica rated it 4 of 5 stars 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
Kelly
Nov 14, 2007 Kelly rated it 5 of 5 stars 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...more
Annalisa
Aug 19, 2008 Annalisa rated it 5 of 5 stars 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...more
Michela
"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...more
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...more
Anna M.
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
Kate
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...more
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...more
K.D. Absolutely
Dec 27, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to K.D. by: All-TIME 100 Greatest Novels; 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010 editions)
Shelves: 1001-core, 501, war
My 3rd book by Ian McEwan and he still did not disappoint. Rather, he continued to baffle me and keep me in awe while reading his prose. Simply excellent.

Many times, I hesitated picking up this book. The reason: I saw its movie adaptation a few years back and I knew the plot. However, one of my Goodreads friends was right: I still enjoyed the book primarily for the portions that I thought I did not see in the movie like that garden scene where 10-y/o Briony Tallis told their gardener young man,...more
Caris
Apr 25, 2012 Caris rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...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...more
Carolyn
She sits at her desk in the fading late afternoon light that oozes in through the slats. Her hands hover over the keyboard, and she wills them to move, to begin typing out a review of Ian McEwan's novel Atonement, but they do not. She understands, of course, that willing her hands to move and making them move are two entirely different things, that in fact the thinking about the one is preventing her from accomplishing the other. And yet she doesn't quite know where to begin, what to say.

How can...more
Jana
I was attracted to this book, because in the trailer there was Keira, wearing that stunning green dress. And because the soundtrack was impressive. It reminded me of my childhood, raised as a daughter of a hyperactive and workaholic journalist, the sound of typewriting machine was the sound that I was constantly surrounded with. Plus, I had something of Briony in my personality. Book wonder, and sneaking upon my older sister.

So I saw the movie, and because I didn’t have any clue what to expect,...more
Guenda
Che capolavoro.
A volte capita di trovare dei libri speciali. Magari sono quei libri dai quali non ti aspetti neppure tanto, e forse allora ti sembrano ancora più belli perché sono riusciti a sorprenderti. Quei libri che inizi a leggere con un certo atteggiamento e che chiudi in tutt’altro modo, in un senso di vuoto che non riesci a spiegarti. “Espiazione” si è rivelato uno di questi libri. Dopo qualche prima pagina, letta senza troppe aspettative, ho cominciato a notare i dettagli. Alla fine,...more
Noce
Di apparenti arrabbiature e di strade espiatorie lastricate di castelli in aria

Reazione a caldo:

Briony, ti auguro partite di vasetti di Durian aperti, per sette generazioni.

Reazione a bagnomaria:

Cara Briony, che diavolo hai fatto? Ti meriteresti acqua di colonia al Durian ogni volta che hai una cena fuori.

Reazione a freddo:

Se dovessi dire in una frase sola, cosa mi ha dato questo libro, direi che mi ha caricato di grosse aspettative, e quando alla fine le ho viste distrutte da un epilogo a sorp...more
Luana
Il problema in questi cinquantanove anni è stato un altro: come può una scrittrice espiare le proprie colpe quando il suo potere assoluto di decidere dei destini altrui la rende simile a Dio? Non esiste nessuno, nessuna entità superiore a cui possa fare appello, per riconciliarsi, per ottenere il perdono. Non c’è nulla al di fuori di lei. E’ la sua fantasia a sancire i limiti e i termini della storia. Non c’è espiazione per Dio, né per il romanziere, nemmeno se fossero atei. E’ sempre stato u
...more
Angus
Original post at Book Rhapsody.

***

Pretty little literary liar


This is the first book of the month that I read back when I was still a newbie at our book group. I am not sure if I would have read this soon otherwise. It was April then, a hot month in our country, and, like the opening chapter of the novel, the first event takes place on a hot day.

Briony Tallis, the central character, is fussing around with her play. Oh yes, she is an attention-hungry child with a knack for literature. She is direc...more
Beth F.
I loved this book. I know a lot of people walk around sporting huge book boners for Ian McEwan and after my first McEwan novel (Saturday) I didn't get it, because that one was a bit lame in my opinion. Of course after I read it, I had about a million people tell me that it was a bad one to start with, but what can you do? The point being I wasn't expecting to be completely bowled over by this one, but I was.

It started off a little slow but for the past couple days I've had a hard time putting t...more
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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...more
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