“In love with her, willing himself to stay sane for her, he was naturally in love with her words.”

Genre: Fiction
Published: 2001
Pages: 372
Rate: 4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads Synopsis
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 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.

“…writing stories not only involved secrecy, it also gave her all the pleasures of miniaturisation.”

My Take

If asked, I’d say Atonement is a distinctive and memorable read. I read the book back in February and it has stuck with me since then; the story, the characters, the places, all of it is still so vivid in my mind. It has taken me so long to write this review because talking about Atonement without spoiling it is very difficult, but I do try.

Ian McEwan is a brilliant writer. He plays with language and words that I’d find myself reading and reading certain sentences and statements, just to take it all in. The plot in itself is such a wonder – with twists and turns that you can’t even begin to guess what will happen. Doubling between what is real and what isn’t, a book within a book about writing, while trying to show the different ways of atoning.

The book is divided in three parts, perfectly showing the collision between fact and fiction, yet grounded in reality. A childish imagination is a catalyst to a whole chain of events which bring about romance, guilt, compassion, and atonement. I love how McEwan weaves all these together, forming such a beautiful story. He brings about class distinction so well, from the get go.

Atonement is rooted in history as it’s set in 1932 and goes on through the second world war. As a history fan, this was such a treat. I love seeing how McEwan interprets that time period. That being said, there’s a soldiers journey that dragged and almost made me sleep. That’s the only reason I didn’t give the book 5 stars.

I am in awe of Ian McEwan and how he managed to give these characters life, personalities that affect both the reader (me) and the other people in the book to such extremes. We have Briony, a very unreliable narrator who is prone to childish whimsy and imaginations, which end up ruining a man’s life. In my head I tried to keep in mind that she’s a child, but at the end of the day a 13 year old is capable of knowing better than to accuse someone falsely, especially since its coming from a point of privilege and jealousy. Its no secret that I absolutely hate her. I get angry just thinking about her and get actions.
Then we have Celia and Robbie… Such strong characters who give my little heart a nice enemies to lovers story arc, which I absolutely love. Celia is an admirable lady who feels passionately and can’t be moved from her stance and her decisions. You get to see that when she is angry at the fact that women aren’t allowed to go to college or when she decides to wait for Robbie. Two different scenarios that bring out her character so well. Everyone in this book has a purpose, role to play and it majorly influences the plot of the story.

Atonement is book with shifting perspectives, filled with imagined parts. A way of looking at the world through words. It’s the kind of book that will have you pause and reflect. You need to sit with this book just to process what you’ve read. The ending packs a punch, and it’s one that I go to over and over again. It is both character and plot based, done so well that I couldn’t put it down.

In case it isn’t obvious, I really loved this book and I want you all to read it too. I highly recommend.