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Atonement

meissen vase

Author: Ian McEwan
First published: 2001, by Jonathan Cape

I have talked a lot about beginnings, but this book is all about the ending. Well, its endings, rather, because Atonement has many of them.

I won’t spoil it for you, and don’t skip ahead to the end! If you do you’ll be committing a crime. The ending(s) exhibit their greatest power only once you’ve been through the whole thing with Briony, and Robbie, and Cecilia . . . lives ruptured by a lie, the devastating consequences that follow, the brutal descriptions of Dunkirk during the war. From the first, Briony Tallis is a storyteller. It’s tragic that she and so many others should have to pay such heavy prices for her stories.

Some people think this book too “clever.” I don’t. Every time I reach the end, and then read on, and reach the end again, I marvel at how McEwan can change the reader’s entire perception with a single sentence or twist of phrase. The effect is in and of itself devastating, to say the least.

The 2007 movie adaptation of Atonement captured all of the pain and tension that makes this novel what it is.

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