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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 proseOn a hot summer day in 1935 thirteen year old Briony Tallis witnesses the flirtation between her older sister Cecilia and Robbie Turner the son of a servant But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives and her precocious imagination bring about a crime that will change all their lives a crime whose repercussions Atonement follows through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century

10 thoughts on “Atonement

  1. says:

    There are many reviews already of this book and I did wonder whether the world needed any But I disagree so strongly with some of the opinions expressed that I'm afraid I have to exercise my right to reply Two things in particular stand out Let me deal with the simpler one first Some people seem appalled that the author is putting the guilt for this dreadful tragedy on the shoulders of a young girl She didn't know what she was doing they say; she was too young to understand the import of her actions and we shouldn't hold her responsible Well it seems to me that this is completely beside the point The novel we finally learn has been written by the girl herself She's giving herself the blame for what happened She's evidently spent her whole life wondering why she behaved the way she did and she still doesn't really know She's just trying to get the story as straight as she can mainly so that she can understand it herself and I found her efforts extremely moving If anyone is claiming that people don't behave this way all I can say is that their view of human nature is so different from mine that it'll be hard to have a meaningful conversation on the subject So now the second and controversial part Many reviewers dislike the post modernist aspects They complain that McEwan is taking a perverse pleasure in tricking the reader into a view of the story which is finally revealed as incorrect; that he's playing the unreliable narrator card out of sheer willfulness Again I completely disagree I don't think these aspects of the book are irrelevant or peripheral; I think they're at the very core of it and are what make it a great piece of literature McEwan shows us a girl who becomes an author precisely because she wants to expiate the dreadful feelings of guilt she has suffered all her life He lets her explain how it happened in what we eventually discover is a book within a book And the truly awful thing is that she can't do it She cops out with a fake happy ending because she still can't face what she didI don't think this is a trick; I think he's saying something about the very nature of writing Many many writers are like Briony They write to absolve themselves of their guilt but in the end they don't say what they want to say It's too horrible to write down They skirt around the issues and end up presenting them in a favourable light If they're lucky they may finally reach an age when they are so far removed from what happened that they can tell the story straight This is what Briony does in the postscript and I don't find it far fetched To take just one example the first I happen to think of look at Marguerite Duras All her life she kept thinking about her first love affair and it coloured most of what she wrote It was only when she was nearly 70 that she could set it down as L'AmantBefore the events of the fountain Briony was indeed just a little girl; all she could write was the amusingly mediocre Arabella Afterwards she had something that was worth saying though it took a long time to figure out how to do that When she'd completed her task she was able to get back to the one she was engaged in when she was interrupted I love the circular structure which ends with Arabella being staged 60 years late Of the many infuriating changes in the movie version I think I was most annoyed by the removal of this key sceneWood burns observes Monty Python's logician as he gives an example of an incorrect syllogism; therefore all that burns is wood Similarly the fact that much trickery is post modern does not imply that all post modernism is trickery This is a great and heart felt novel

  2. says:

    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 lifeSounds 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 third person close perspective and I’ll say it writing about the human psyche While I’ve found some of his earlier books to be a little too uncomfortable or rather too uncomfortable without good reason or a little too sexually deviant again in the way that it seemed for shock value than with a reason this was a freaking great bookI think the one thing that makes this book so wonderful is McEwan’s eerily accurate understanding of how a 13 year old girl’s mind works her understanding of the world and her emotional reaction to it Briony is trapped between childhood and adulthood She’s old enough to recognize the dark and startling behind the scenes facets of her proper British family’s life but not old enough to properly analyze or judge them She’s old enough to impose her will and her ideas on others but not wise enough to know when to act or when to uestion herself It’s a frustrating and fascination and uncomfortable time and he has it down patMcEwan also experiments with structure in ways that are truly innovative and new without being gimmicky Briony is an aspiring writer who grows and develops her style throughout the 60 years that the novel covers and McEwan’s novel mirrors her literary growth Part One of the story is extremely traditional broken into chapters with a clear rotation of perspectives and a uniform chronology Parts Two and Three are much modern the story which switches gears to follow the gardener into WWII France and Briony to her experiences as a nurse in London loses structure and fluidity and uses modern storytelling techniues Finally the last section is utterly contemporary the story becomes even abstract with unreliable narrators and conceptual writing favored over simple narrativeAnd yet these games with structure and story and perspective in no way take your focus from the story and the characters Instead they add to the experience of watching the main character grow and developIf the book suffers from anything it might be a little slow in some places and move too fast in others Since McEwan tends to be very thorough when it comes to interior thought the story often slows down a bit than it should so that he can explain how every single person felt about a certain moment in time although the story spans 60 years the first 200 pages span a single afternoon and evening The slow story a necessary evil though if we want to keep the detailed character studies in place And we do And the action filled second half of the book which covers the British retreat from the Germans in 1940 and the over capacity army hospitals of London makes up for the sometimes austere and rigorous first half It just takes a while to get the story rolling

  3. says:

    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 workThe last 23 of this novel are as good as contemporary fiction gets The first 13 is like reading a Jane Austen plot trapped in amberAs 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 if they aren't they appear so because the opening act moves so slowly that one is barely conscious and later unable to recall that anything much happened at allHalfway through this novel when its greatness starts to happen a reader almost laments his earlier opinions of it But whose fault is that? The beginning is such an act of endurance that the later parts make a reader wish that McEwan had moved things uickly in the beginning and used those words for character development in the middle so the reader could declare this novel uneuivocally one of the five best novels he's ever readMcEwan is at the top of the art form throughout though whatever a reader opines of the product He knows what he's doing every step of the way right down to an allusion to the disjointed narrative methods employed by Virginia WoolfThe ending is brilliant unexpected and harsh But unlike the case of the returning Baxter character in the third act of Saturday this ending is consistent and at once surprising and inevitableAfter a person has read a few hundred novels he grasps the art form well enough to know when an author is writing usually it's when the author's employing some top heavy descriptive techniue that makes the water droplets gathered on a rose petal somehow important than the protagonist's motives for anything she's done to that point and it fairly well cries out Look at me my creator is a writerKnowing when an author is writing means knowing that if there's a surprise coming it's either going to be predicted about 50 pages out or done in such fantastically poor form that its inconsistency mars the rest of the workMcEwan is fine enough at his craft that the ending is both unanticipated and perfectly consistent That alone makes this novel excellent

  4. says:

    The subject matter of Atonement is literature itself but it is much First the writer is one of its characters; second because Ian McEwan’s novel creates a world where subjectivity and objectivity interfere mutually The characters are full of life and the language even if elaborate and subtle does not go around or makes inroads into itselfThe narrator and protagonist Briony Tallis emerges in the beginner as a pre adolescent that dreams to arrange the world in her texts as in the play she is writing Her love for order for the careful design according to her spoiled desires is translated into an impulse to write that hardly depend on the theme “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 eually alive 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 And only in a story could you enter these different minds and show how they had an eual value That was the only moral a story need have” Her cousins Lola and the twins will be the actors with which she plans to awe the assembled family that include her parents her older sister Cecily and the son of the housekeeper Robbie On that day of 1935 Briony sees Cecily and Robbie in a game that culminates in a fateful scene Briony believes she sees something that profoundly perturbs her The development of the story doesn’t let the reader stop When later Lola is raped by a man that was not seen Briony without any grounds makes a ‘deduction’ of who committed the crimeHere we are therefore in the territory of Jane Austen cited in the epigraph or Henry James George Eliot and many other English authors social tension versus sexual stress pride and prejudice conflicts mere misunderstandings that adopt dramatic dimensions McEwan considers the simple distortions that physical acts such as vision can suffer when clouded by moral bias Briony is attracted to Robbie and envies in Cecily her independence and and in her anxiety to wipe out her shortcomings recreates the world in her own way succumbing to prejudice and threatening her already reduced capacity to accept realityBut than that what McEwan shows is how a writer can worsen weaknesses such as vanity cowardice and credulity sentiments that derive from the solitary and fallible condition that is above all human Briony with an absent father a sick mother a distant brother and an adult sister fills her solitude with words that want to arrange everything as she organizes her room “But hidden drawers lockable diaries and cryptographic systems could not conceal from Briony the simple truth she had no secrets Her wish for a harmonious organised world denied her the reckless possibilities of wrongdoing Mayhem and destruction were too chaotic for her tastes and she did not have it in her to be cruel Her effective status as an only child as well as the relative isolation of the Tallis house kept her at least during the long summer holidays from girlish intrigues with friends Nothing in her life was sufficiently interesting or shameful to merit hiding; no one knew about the suirrel's skull beneath her bed but no one wanted to know” She is emotionally deprived as all of us but a few degrees above the Richer scale her need to be praised her inability to deal with her environment her surrendering to a fantasy of perfection – it is as if she were an immature child seeking protection from life itself However the novel goes beyond an intimate recounting In the second half McEwan throws the reader into the Second World War with memorable descriptions of the United Kingdom’s empire ultimate whisper at the battle of Dunkirk McEwan uses this as background to show us Robbie’s feelings Among dead and wounded he drifts with his head down and wrapped in his own sentiments to protect himself and to dream he will be exonerated for having survived in a battle where so many had died “Now he reduced his progress to the rhythm of his boots he walked across the land until he came to the sea Everything that impeded him had to be outweighed even if only by a fraction by all that drove him on He knew by heart certain passages from her letters he had revisited their tussle with the vase by the fountain he remembered the warmth from her arm at the dinner when the twins went missing These memories sustained him but not so easily” But what rots and sustains him is his hate for Briony “In that shrinking moment he discovered that he had never hated anyone until now It was a feeling as pure as love but dispassionate and icily rational” Above everything “Let his name be cleared and everyone else adjust their thinking He had put in time now they must do the work His business was simple Find Cecilia and love her marry her and live without shame” The ability of McEwan is very well known but in Atonement he arrived were he had not reached before and where few living authors – maybe Coetzee Philip Roth and a few others – were able to arrive The force of his narrative comes from its plot and its magnitude as well as from its richness and structure The story is strong but who narrates is not subservient to its hierarchy and its rhythm it’s a subject that lets it flow and at the same time chooses the moments and the way to reveal its parts McEwan does not need to resort to fragmentation and mysticism to deal with the battle between affection and speech tolerance and freedom a clash so in evidence nowadays

  5. says:

    I was bored with this until half way through but then it got interesting It touches on imagination versus reality fiction versus fact in addition to the story content A portrait of an upper middle class English family is interrupted by a supposed rape in which a young imaginative vengeful girl misidentifies the rapist I found that it stayed with me and that I appreciated it with time The film was a magnificent translation

  6. says:

    Atonement Ian McEwanAtonement is a 2001 British metafiction novel written by Ian McEwan concerning the understanding of and responding to the need for personal atonement Set in three time periods 1935 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 writingAbstract On a summer day in 1935 thirteen year old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment's flirtation between her older sister Cecilia and Robbie Turner the son of a servant But Briony's incomplete grasp of adult motives and her precocious imagination bring about a crime that will change all their lives a crime whose repercussions Atonement follows through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth centuryCharacters Briony Tallis Emily Tallis Cecilia Tallis Leon Tallis Lola uincy Jackson uincy Perriot uincy Paul Marshall Robbie Turnerتاریخ نخستین خوانش روز سی و یکم ماه مارس سال 2012 میلادیعنوان «تاوان»؛ اثر ایان مک اوان؛ ترجمه م‍ص‍طف‍ی‌ م‍ف‍ی‍دی‌؛ نشر تهران، گام نو‫، 1389، در 480 ص؛ شابک 9789646917446؛ ‏چاپ دیگر تهران، نیلوفر؛ 1390، در 437 ص؛ شابک 9789644485213؛ موضوع داستان‌های نویسندگان انگلیسی سده 20 مرویدادهای «تاوان»، در سال‌های پس از جنگ جهانی دوم سپری، و در این میان به یادمانهای سال‌های جنگ نیز می‌پردازد فيلمنامه «تاوان» را «کریستوفر همپتون»، از همین رمان به قلم «ايان مک اوان»، اقتباس کرده، رمانی که در سال 2001 میلادی منتشر شد، و پس از قرار گرفتن در لیست پرفروشترینهای آن روز، به منزلت «مک اوان» افزود، و وی را در کنار «مارتین امیس» و «جولین بارنز»، به عنوان یکی از سه رمان نویس برتر، و زنده ی اهل بریتانیا، به خوانشگران شناساند ا شربیانی

  7. says:

    Read as part of The Infinite Variety Reading Challenge based on the BBC's Big Read Poll of 2003 The cost of oblivious daydreaming was always this moment of return the realignment with what had been before and now seemed a little worse In the heat of a 1930s Summer a family reunites at their country home for what may be the last time Cousins have come to stay a sister has returned from University and a brother is returning from America with a new friend in tow Briony the only child left at home is furiously writing a play to be performed but what she witnesses and is exposed to will force her to make a decision that she will regret for the rest of her lifeThis book reminded me strongly of Evelyn Waugh though I think that's purely based on the surroundings and era and mostly the house Whilst Evelyn had a whimsical style to his writing Ian McEwan is positively overflowing with flowery prose that leads nowhere and brings up memories of terrible books they made me read for college Atonement is a relatively easy read if you can take so much description and little plot None of the characters are anything except a piece of personality and don't go beyond their one trait and I felt nothing for all of them They all had their one job and whilst they did this one job well that was that and there seemed nothing beyond their doing their one jobWe begin in a wonderful countryside house which is described to death and the plot simmers along nicely There's a play being written and the cousins coming down from the North are being forced to act it out There is youthful petulance coming of age rebellion and adults avoiding responsibility and in truth the scene is set nicely in the first few pages But then this setting of the scene continues for around half the rest of the book and it soon becomes clear that the plot is far away and we're not entirely sure if it'll be seen at allSetting the book during the war seemed like a pointless endeavour if only to include some kind of treacherous battle scenes to add to the overall lack of drama up to this point I suppose the book needed to be set somewhere and some time but the overall affect was unimpressive I found the whole thing lacking in truth The book whilst it shifted to another city and even country was just too small Everything was cloying and felt like it was happening in one tiny bubble I prefer big worlds and big plots not just a single thread moving through a mireThe main thing that irritated me about this book is that it was full of needless cliffhangers that were seemingly pointless to anything except to expunge the pathetic attempt at a plot beyond the story arc Nearly every chapter ended with something along the lines of and oh my if this character hadn't done what he's about to do in the next chapter then his life would not have turned out the way it did as if McEwan is unsure of his plot and needs to plead with us to keep reading What what Ian what's going to happen? I must must must read on if you say something interesting is coming along because so far we haven't had much have we Sir?I am grateful however at the vague pleasure I got from the book as I read it that kindled within me a notion of the kinds of books I do and do not like I feel having read this book that I could spot a book I dislike from the first few pages now whereas before I'd probably have to get through it all just to know So of course I will now not be wasting hours on books that seemingly go nowhere even after the first half than I need toBlog | Reviews | Instagram | Twitter

  8. says:

    What a lovely reread this was I first read this novel almost a decade ago and the story has stayed with me The prose is gorgeous and again I was completely absorbed in this novel My favorite character is Briony the young writer seeking atonement for a mistake she made as a child And my heart aches for her sister Cecilia and her wronged lover Robbie I've only read a few of McEwan's books but I like his writing style so much I want to read Highly recommendedFavorite uotesWas everyone else really as alive as she was? If the answer was yes then the world the social world was unbearably complicated with two billion voices and everyone’s thoughts striving in eual importance and everyone’s claim on life as intense and everyone thinking they were uniue when no one was One could drown in irrelevanceThere 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 eually alive 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 And only in a story could you enter these different minds and show how they had an eual value That was the only moral a story need haveAt that moment the urge to be writing was stronger than any notion she had of what she might writeFrom this new and intimate perspective she learned a simple obvious thing she had always known and everyone knew; that a person is among all else a material thing easily torn not easily mended

  9. says:

    This is where a 25 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 the author and how a real character emerges eventually while at the same a written story exists too This is very difficult to write about without revealing anything about the plot but as one reads the novel it becomes clear what McEwan is trying to do Finally the references to other literature including some of the best novels Clarissa Lolita and novelists Elizabeth Bowen is directly mentioned Henry Green and Virginia Woolf are obvious influences is fluid never forced and is done to showcase a love of literature At the same time there are downsides to McEwan's endeavor how to write a novel that is commenting on its obvious falsity its construction as fiction while at the same time trying to convey reality This is perhaps an impossible task and I'm left with the nagging feeling that the novel wants to have its cake and eat it too The characters and situations are so obviously phony that it becomes distracting in the first part of the story I was drawn in by the fantastic writing but then found myself wanting to hurl the novel across the room at some of the ridiculous choices by both the characters and the novelist Namely 1 The main plot twist makes little realistic sense Absolutely zero would fly in a mystery novel let alone real life; 2 The characters in the first part are boring aristocrats who we don't care about check out a Henry Green novel; except in his novels the reader continues to laugh at them there is no attempt at emotional attachment; 3 The 'mystery's' solution is obvious to the reader before the crime even happens; 4 Briony part 1 is an insufferable narrator as kid narrators To Kill a Mockingbird excluded so often are; 5 The novelist's choice to name a sexually precocious teenager 'Lola' too obvious a reference But these choices are meant to be ridiculous reality is only supposed to set in in the epilogue At the same time I marveled at how real parts 2 Robbie at war and 3 Briony as a nurse some of the hospital scenes are the best I've ever read seemed to be Then the uestion became for me if they seemed real because of the way the scenes were written the gore again in the hospital but could not have been real because the characters and overall plot of the Tallis family are so fake isn't that cheating? I haven't reached a conclusion yet but something is still bugging me about the conception of it Ultimately I prefer novels that go the opposite route Paul Auster's Oracle Night for example that start out real and uickly become fake or throw out the idea of a realistic consistent plot entirely only in the conclusion does David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas come together rather than the never ending 'is it real? is it fake?' push and pull of Atonement

  10. says:

    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 endHere is why I found this book lacking without giving too much actual plot away to those who would want to read it themselvesI found all of the characters completely devoid of any true personality or any reason I should care or feel connected to them The details described in the book do a lot for physical surroundings but we know nothing of Cecila except she went to college and chain smokes so I don't particularly care about anything that happens to her besides the fact that much of her life is lived outside what information the book provides Briony is a terrible child a narcissistic teenager and and at last a harmless grandmother who I don't especially care about at any of these three points in her life The only character with the least bit of humanity seems to be Robbie who is still somewhat confined to his role as the victim All the lovely descriptions of ponds and hospital wards and French war torn villages could not make up for the fact that none of these characters were the slightest bit interesting to me or seemed to connect to anything They simply floated through long locational descriptions being powerless to the world around them and unfortunately for me I didn't need 350 pages to get that point It could have easily been accomplished as a short story or novella I just kept feeling that the book had all this great detail but didn't focus it on anything that it shoud have I know this may sound exceedingly harsh and once again I do chalk some of this up to reading Atonement directly after a much better novel it had no hope in eclipsing or even paralleling in its structure but I also know how uickly and easily I fall in love with characters How uickly I can get pulled into a good story and I sincerely feel that although I wouldn't call this book a complete waste that my time would have been much better spent elsewhere