Atonement is a British metafiction novel written by Ian McEwan concerning the In , the book was adapted into a BAFTA and Academy Award-winning film of the same title, starring Saoirse Ronan, James McAvoy, and Keira. Atonement book. Read reviews from the world's largest community for readers. Ian McEwan's symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, gu . Atonement: A Novel [Ian McEwan] on *FREE* Story time just got better with Prime Book Box, a subscription that delivers editorially hand-picked.

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This haunting novel, which just failed to win the Booker this year, is at once McEwan at his most closely observed and psychologically. In his latest book Atonement Ian McEwan brings the British novel into the 21st century, says Geoff Dyer. Little wonder Ian McEwan's engrossing, deep novel, Atonement, has been shortlisted for the Booker. This highly literary family saga is his best.

She need not judge. There did not have to be a moral. She need only show separate minds, as alive as her own, struggling with the idea that other minds were equally alive And only in a story could you enter these different minds and show how they had an equal value. She interrupts Robbie and Cecilia having hurried sex in the library, and again infers from their position that Robbie is forcing Cecilia into something unpleasant.

McEwan tells us that actually the lovers were equally sexually inexperienced and mutually attracted. Lola was attacked from behind, and seems unable to identify her molester. Her determination to accuse Robbie is bound up with her literary impulses. She needs to make a story of it: Surely it was not too childish to say there had to be a story; and this was the story of a man whom everybody liked, but about whom the heroine always had her doubts, and finally she was able to reveal that he was the incarnation of evil.

There must be some lofty, god-like place from which all people could be judged alike, not pitted against each other If such a place existed, she was not worthy of it. She could never forgive Robbie his disgusting mind. In part, Briony has been unable to shed her old melodramatic impulses, and is merely showing her age, even as she strives to get beyond it. But in part what is at work in her is the excitement of shaping a story that fits, that makes too much sense.

McEwan surely wants us to reflect on the dangerous complicities of fiction, not just of melodrama but of form itself, which insists on sealing and plotting. What Briony saw was in truth plotless, because it could not be made to mean.

Yet a plot is exactly what she imposes. Fiction, even very good fiction, often tends to notarize the incomprehensible simply because it insists on its readability. This is exactly the kind of fiction that McEwan has tended to produce in recent years; his last two novels, Enduring Love and Amsterdam, both begin with mysteries that they then efficiently lay bare.

Formally and stylistically, both begin novelistically and accelerate into the neat, jigsawed domain of the thriller. And this doubleness, of apologia and celebration, could not be otherwise, for art is always its own ombudsman, and thus healthier than its own sickness. Art is the foundation of its own anti-foundationalism, and the anti-foundation of its own foundationalism. There is no such thing, really, as a confused or truly messy fiction; distortion is built into the form like radon underneath sick buildings.

The greatest, freest, truest, most lifelike fiction is nothing like life though some is closer to it than others. McEwan certainly knows this. It was further confirmation of his guilt, and the beginning of his punishment. It had the look of eternal damnation. The idea that being arrested by the police is confirmation of guilt is a non sequitur indulged in by many people, often to disastrous effect, and probably no more so than to a child, who has rarely if ever seen the police doing their work.

It is the final non sequitur from a girl who has consistently allowed the unfinished picture to finish her judgment, who has taken wonders for signs. In Part Two, we have advanced by five years, and are following Robbie Turner as he retreats, with the rest of the British Expeditionary Force, through northern France to Dunkirk. Cecilia, we learn, has not spoken to her parents or brother since they sided with Briony against Robbie ; and of course there has been no communication between Cecilia and her younger sister.

I doubt that any English writer has conveyed quite as powerfully the bewilderments and the humiliations of this episode in World War II.

This section is vivid and unsentimental, and most importantly, though McEwan must have researched the war, there is no inky blot of other books: his details have the vividness and body of imagined things, they feel chosen rather than copied.

There is marvelous writing.

If your memories serve you well...

Order has broken down, and a tired anarchy rules. And one day Robbie turns to hear behind him a rhythmic pounding on the road: At first sight it seemed that an enormous horizontal door was flying up the road towards them. It was a platoon of Welsh Guards in good order, rifles at the slope, led by a second-lieutenant.

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They came by at a forced march, their gaze fixed forwards, their arms swinging high. The stragglers stood aside to let them through. These were cynical times, but no one risked a catcall.

The show of discipline and cohesion was shaming. It was a relief when the Guards had pounded out of sight and the rest could resume their introspective trudging. As the soldiers near Dunkirk, Robbie crosses a bridge and sees a barge pass under it.

Behind him, ten miles away, Dunkirk burned. Ahead, in the prow, two boys were bending over an upturned bike, mending a puncture perhaps.

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Some of the men are swimming, others playing football on the sand. Like marmosets Was Dunkirk really like this? This is what Aristotle meant when he said that a convincing impossibility is preferable in literature to an unconvincing possibility. Yet this great freedom shows how dangerous fiction can be, and why its transit with lies has historically been subversive and threatening.

Again, McEwan wants us to reflect on these matters. And take the reasonable view and begin to assign the blame? No one would ever know what it was like to be here. Without the details there could be no larger picture.

But—and this is a gigantic but, surely, which this novel acknowledges—those details may be invented, may never have happened in history. In Part Three, we see Briony working as a trainee nurse at a London hospital. Late in the section, she visits her estranged sister in Clapham, and finds her living with Robbie, who has briefly returned from his army service in France.

Further up, where she hardly dared look, were the exposed muscles around his eye socket. So intimate, and never intended to be seen.

It is convincing enough, but its neatness seems like the reappearance of the old McEwan, unwilling to let the ropes fall from his hands. In an epilogue, set in , we learn that Briony, now a distinguished old novelist, wrote the three sections—the country house scene, the Dunkirk retreat, and the London hospital—that we have just read.

Moreover, Robbie and Cecilia were never together, as the third section suggested. Robbie was killed in France in , and Cecilia died in the same year in London, during the German bombing.

She could not resist the chance to spare the young lovers, to continue their lives into fiction, to give the story a happy ending. Instead of the expected sharpness of focus, the first 70 or so pages are a lengthy summary of shifting impressions. One longs for a cinematic clarity and concentration of dialogue and action, but such interludes dissolve before our - and the participants' - eyes.

Even so, the pallid qualifiers and disposable adverbs a "gently rocking" sheet of water, the "coyly drooping" head of a nettle come as a surprise. The language used to distil the scene - a gathering of the Tallis family at their country house on a sweltering day in - serves also as a wash that partially obscures it. Various characters come and go but the novel, at this point, seems populated mainly by its literary influences.

Atonement Reader’s Guide

Chief among these is Virginia Woolf. The technique is not stream of consciousness so much as "a slow drift of association", "the hovering stillness of nothing much seeming to happen". The book later contains a critique of its own early pages - or at least of the draft from which they derive - in the guise of a letter from Cyril Connolly, editor of Horizon , who advises that "such writing can become precious when there is no sense of forward movement".

The requisite propulsion is provided by the unexpected intrusion, as it were, of two other novelists from the interwar years. Cecilia, the eldest daughter of the family in whose house we are imaginatively lodged, was at Cambridge with Robbie, the son of the Tallises' cleaning lady, whose education was funded by Cecilia's father. They become aware, on this sultry day, of some kind of current - animosity? Robbie tries to articulate this in a letter, at the bottom of which he scribbles the naked truth: "In my dreams I kiss your cunt.

The consequences of the go-between blundering in like this are liberating and incriminating in unequal measure.

What Lawrence called the "dirty little secret" of sex besmirches the Tallises' world, or - as Lawrence insisted - reveals how besmirched that world really is. Or as if the contents of McEwan's stories had been explicitly daubed on the walls of Brideshead. Another crisis soon follows, this one imported from EM Forster's India.

Cecilia's young cousin, Lola, is sexually assaulted in the grounds of the house. Lola does not know by whom, but Briony - an aspiring writer - compounds her earlier transgression by convincing her and everyone else except Cecilia that Robbie is the culprit. Unlike the incident in the Marabar caves, this one does not end in a retraction and Robbie, the proletarian interloper, is convicted.

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In the second section of the novel, the pastel haze of the first part gives way to an acrid, graphic account of Robbie's later experiences in the British rout at Dunkirk. McEwan is here playing more obviously to his strengths. The highly decorated novelist deploys his research in an effective if familiar pattern of narrative manoeuvres. Refracted through Robbie's exhausted, wounded view of history in the making, the retreat unfolds in a series of vividly realised details and encounters.

In the atrocious context of battle, Briony's apparently motiveless crime is rendered almost insignificant.

It was cheap. Everyone was guilty, and no one was.Mansfield Park, with its staged play in a country house, and its reflection on the dangerous excesses of the theater, is an obvious progenitor. Set in three time periods, England, Second World War England and France, and present-day England, it covers an upper-class girl's half-innocent mistake that ruins lives, her adulthood in the shadow of that mistake, and a reflection on the nature of writing.

She submits a story to a London journal which is rejected, but in the rejection she is encouraged to develop the story further as it is quite good. In the atrocious context of battle, Briony's apparently motiveless crime is rendered almost insignificant. She didn't know what she was doing, they say; she was too young to understand the impor There are many reviews already of this book, and I did wonder whether the world needed any more.

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