Author: Ian McEwan
Publisher: Vintage Books
Release Date: 2001
‘A person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn and not easily mended.’
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 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.
‘…falling in love could be achieved in a single word—a glance.’
Atonement is a classic piece of fiction that I have been meaning to read for a very long time now. Ian McEwan combines the perfect blend of history and romance in his novel and takes readers on a journey that always keep them guessing.
It’s 1935 and 13 year old Briony has dreams of becoming a writer as she directs her first play for the arrival of her brother and his friend, Marshall. With the help of her cousins, the play looks set to be a success until Briony witnesses a crime and wrongfully accuses Robbie, the servant’s son and a man she has witnessed sharing an intimate moment with her sister, Cecelia. Flashfoward 5 years later and Cecelia has disowned her family, Robbie is stuck in France in the mist of WWII trying to make it home to Cecelia and Briony has come to the realisation of what she has done. But is it too late to turn back time?
‘Wasn’t writing a kind of soaring, an achievable form of flight, of fancy, of the imagination?’
First of all I want to apologise for the lack of reviews recently. It has taken me a month to get through Atonement (I Know!) but that has nothing to do with the book (I’ve been super busy with exams). Atonement is perfect for all the history lovers. It delves into the life of a soldier in WWII and two nurses who are trying to keep up with the mounting casualties. I am really into my history so I loved reading about the lives of ‘ordinary’ people during the war. I also loved how unique this plot was. I’ve never come across anything like McEwan’s book and I was constantly in a state of will they/ won’t they, never knowing how this novel would end.
Atonement centres around three characters: Briony, Cecelia and Robbie. Briony is the central character and I had pretty mixed feelings about her. When we first meet Briony she is thirteen and she comes across as being pretty spoilt. I noticed she got pretty angry when things didn’t go her way and that kind of led to her crime. When we next meet Briony, she’s 18 and training to be a nurse. I much preferred the older version of Briony. She was a lot more humble and aware of what she had put Robbie through. I liked how caring she is as a nurse and there is a scene with a French soldier that really touched me. The final time we meet Briony, she’s reached the age of 77 and we learn what has happened in the time she has been away. I really liked this extra touch McEwan added to the story and it let us in on a few more surprises.
‘I love you. I believe in you completely. You are my dearest one. My reason for life. Cee.’
Cecelia is Briony’s older sister by ten years and it is pretty obvious from the get go that there is some chemistry between her and Robbie. They share a few flirtatious moments before Briony witnesses something she shouldn’t have and Robbie disappears from Cecelia’s life. I loved Cecelia’s boldness of disowning her family. She knew what was right and she stood by it. We don’t get to know Cecelia as well as some of the other characters but I was impressed by her morality and I thoroughly enjoyed the love story between her and Robbie.
The final character on the agenda, and most possibly my favourite, is Robbie. At first I thought Robbie was pretty cocky but it wasn’t long until his passion with Cecelia enticed me. Then his world falls apart and we follow Robbie five years on as he makes his way across France and home to Cecelia. I really felt for Robbie at this point. He was an injured soldier but he still had time to save others before himself. I also loved his determination to make it home to Cecelia. They’re romance was completely old school, communicating through letters and photographs, but I fell in love with it and them.
‘Come back, come back to me.’
Overall, I really enjoyed Atonement. My only criticism is that I found it slightly too descriptive and I could have done with a little more dialogue, but apart from that I was impressed with Ian McEwan’s book. He is a world famous British author and he proved that to me in Atonement. Now on to the movie….
About The Author: Ian McEwan
Ian MCEwan is an English novelist and screenwriter. McEwan began his career writing sparse, Gothic short stories. The Cement Garden (1978) and The Comfort of Strangers (1981) were his first two novels. He won the Man Booker Prize with Amsterdam (1998). His following novel Atonement (2001) garnered acclaim, and was adapted into an Oscar-winning film. In 2008, The Times featured him on their list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”, and also in 2008 The Daily Telegraph ranked him number 19 in their list of the “100 most powerful people in British culture”.