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Atonement: A Novel

A book by Ian McEwan

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The Author leaves you breathless

  • Apr 13, 2002
  • by
In a time when we are blessed with a wealth of gifted writers, even though we still mourn the passing of the likes of WG Sebald, it is still a wonder to encounter a work of the magnitude of Ian McEwan's current masterwork ATONEMENT. Aside from he fact that McEwan has been consistently placing his fine, terse novels such as AMSTERDAM and ENDURING LOVE before us, there is little to prepare us for the grandeur of his magnum opus ATONEMENT. We have grown to expect this author's mastery of the English language, his uncanny sense of timing in creating stories that push forward fresh tales with the speed of a locomotive while finding beauty everywhere in the nature that he sees like few others. But nothing has prepared us for this masterwork.

The story of ATONEMENT is well told by others commenting at this website. What makes this illuminating novel so momentous is the crux of a story at once seeming so simple but ending as an indelible landmark in contemporary writing. This is a contemplation of morality, of love, of the unspeakable disaster of war, of the indefatigable resources of the human soul, of the staggering implications of a lie from the lips of a child of what ever age, and of mortality, of love.

If the first chapters of this book feel slow, making the reader ask why are we detailing every move of what appears to be another languid, hot summer day in a 1935 English household, we are slowly discovering this is a well paced prelude to the brassy blast that WWII exploded throughout the world. A family gathering becomes a microcosm for exploring the thoughtless poisons that produce devastating wars. Once the tale begins to unravel there is no turning back on the series of events that continue to surprise and amaze us and maintain a tension so great that only the interludes of McEwan's matchless descriptions of nature provide breathing room.

The author creates characters so adroitly painted that they are destined to become enduring literary names to reference when describing archetypes like Stephen Daedelus, Holden Caulfield, etc. His ability to draw us into the war plains of Dunkirk, the hospitals of war-torn England, the mossy lawns of English gentry is matched only by his ingenious ability to go back and forth from character to character, from chapter to chapter, showing all the retracings of thoughts and deeds as seen by his various characters.

While reading this magical book I was tempted to remember phrases to use while reviewing, phrases that were such beautiful examples of how fine a wordsmith McEwan is, but that endeavor was quashed when I realized that such phrases and word pictures of drama and still lifes were on all 351 pages of this opus. To try to entice raders by such quotations would be robbing them of the joy of discovery when this book falls hopefully in the hands of everyone who loves literature, who needs nourishment of the sould, who cherishes fine writing. To say more would be unfair. Read with welcome.

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review by . July 19, 2010
I saw the movie before I had the chance to read this book, so I knew the plot twist at the end of the book. Even knowing this I was blown away by the writing. This book proves just how painfully beautiful written language can be. I have read many reviews about how heavy this book is and  is hard to “get into” Yes, this is a heavy book and can be hard to "get into", but once past the first chapter the writing is so breath-takingly beautiful that I cannot do it justice …
Quick Tip by . June 22, 2010
This is an amazing story; the telling of the first day's events is some of the most masterful writing of the last 40 years. Watch out for that denouement!!!
Quick Tip by . June 17, 2010
No matter how hard I tried I could NOT care about the female lead in this book until she was played by Kiera Knightly in the movie version. Character development leaves much to be desired.
Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
this is what writer's hope to achieve when they speak of "honing their craft." poetic. breathtaking. i feel this book to my core.
review by . February 06, 2009
Having seen the film first, this book afforded no real surprises in terms of plot. The language was dense and difficult to enter into for quite some time, and I had to force myself to keep reading for the first 100 or more pages. The characters were interesting enough to keep me going, but the action and the way it was told left something to be desired.      However, as often happens with these types of styles, my efforts to finish the novel paid off handsomely. The prose, the …
review by . March 13, 2009
Reading Atonement was a fairly wrenching experience. Once begun, I was driven to finish. The growing tension of the story made it impossible for me to stop reading until the advent of a new course of action and I was released me until the next event.      In the innocence of childhood, precocious talents are encouraged, applauded. But by the next stage of development, adolescents are often capable of spite and revenge, and exhibit a certain primal sense of justice. Things are …
review by . May 21, 2008
When it comes to Atonement, I'm arriving late to the party. I have been aware of the novel almost since it was first published and I know of the major motion picture produced from its story but, for various reasons, it has taken me several years to get around to reading it.     Ian McEwan has written a complicated, multi-layered book that is simply beautiful when considered as a whole. It is a coming-of-age novel, a crime novel, a love story, a war novel, a mystery and an author's …
review by . September 08, 2005
Reading Atonement was a wrenching experience. Once begun, I was driven to finish. The growing tension of the story made it impossible for me to stop reading until the advent of a new course of action and I was released me until the next time.     In the innocence of childhood, precocious talents are encouraged, applauded. But by the next stage of development, adolescents are often capable of spite and revenge, and exhibit a certain primal sense of justice. Things are black and …
review by . October 04, 2002
Does your heart miss a beat when you see a new book by Dan Koontz? Have You ever marvelled at the writing style of John Saul? If so... you will hate this book. You will find the first 150 pages unbearable, and you probably will not realize that there is actually a surprise ending (it is very subtle). I don't mean to be rude, but this novel is simply not for everyone. However, if you enjoy well written and plush details (Which reminds a little of Daisy Miller, and some of Henry James' works). I enjoyed …
review by . April 30, 2002
This is a very well-written, indeed it's a beautifully written, book. The language used just keeps you flowing along through the story, which is absorbing in its own right. The book presents a tale of misplaced knowledge, of conclusions reached without sufficient information, and of accusations made which profoundly change the lives of everyone involved. We see guilt, sorrow, venality, heroism, in fact, almost every emotion runs through this book except the one most needed: forgiveness. The author …
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Grady Harp ()
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Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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About this book


 Ian McEwan's Booker Prize-nominatedAtonementis his first novel sinceAmsterdamtook home the prize in 1998. But whileAmsterdamwas a slim, sleek piece,Atonementis a more sturdy, more ambitious work, allowing McEwan more room to play, think, and experiment.

We meet 13-year-old Briony Tallis in the summer of 1935, as she attempts to stage a production of her new drama "The Trials of Arabella" to welcome home her older, idolized brother Leon. But she soon discovers that her cousins, the glamorous Lola and the twin boys Jackson and Pierrot, aren't up to the task, and directorial ambitions are abandoned as more interesting prospects of preoccupation come onto the scene. The charlady's son, Robbie Turner, appears to be forcing Briony's sister Cecilia to strip in the fountain and sends her obscene letters; Leon has brought home a dim chocolate magnate keen for a war to promote his new "Army Ammo" chocolate bar; and upstairs, Briony's migraine-stricken mother Emily keeps tabs on the house from her bed. Soon, secrets emerge that change the lives of everyone present....

The interwar, upper-middle-class setting of the book's long, masterfully sustained opening section might recall Virginia Woolf or Henry Green, but as we move forward--eventually to the turn of the 21st century--the novel's central concerns emerge, and McEwan's voice becomes clear, even personal. For at heart, Atonement is about the pleasures, pains, and dangers of...

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Books, Cafe Libri, Fiction, Ian Mcewan


ISBN-10: 0385503954
ISBN-13: 978-0385503952
Author: Ian McEwan
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
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