ATONEMENT by Ian McEwan
Kirkus Star

ATONEMENT

KIRKUS REVIEW

McEwan’s latest, both powerful and equisite, considers the making of a writer, the dangers and rewards of imagination, and the juncture between innocence and awareness, all set against the late afternoon of an England soon to disappear.

In the first, longest, and most compelling of four parts, McEwan (the Booker-winning Amsterdam, 1998) captures the inner lives of three characters in a moment in 1935: upper-class 13-year-old Briony Tallis; her 18-year-old sister, Cecilia; and Robbie Turner, son of the family’s charlady, whose Cambridge education has been subsidized by their father. Briony is a penetrating look at the nascent artist, vain and inspired, her imagination seizing on everything that comes her way to create stories, numinous but still childish. She witnesses an angry, erotic encounter between her sister and Robbie, sees an improper note, and later finds them hungrily coupling; misunderstanding all of it, when a visiting cousin is sexually assaulted, Briony falsely brings blame to bear on Robbie, setting the course for all their lives. A few years later, we see a wounded and feverish Robbie stumbling across the French countryside in retreat with the rest of the British forces at Dunkirk, while in London Briony and Cecilia, long estranged, have joined the regiment of nurses who treat broken men back from war. At 18, Briony understands and regrets her crime: it is the touchstone event of her life, and she yearns for atonement. Seeking out Cecilia, she inconclusively confronts her and a war-scarred Robbie. In an epilogue, we meet Briony a final time as a 77-year-old novelist facing oblivion, whose confessions reframe everything we’ve read.

With a sweeping bow to Virginia Woolf, McEwan combines insight, penetrating historical understanding, and sure-handed storytelling despite a conclusion that borrows from early postmodern narrative trickery. Masterful.

Pub Date: March 19th, 2002
ISBN: 0-385-50395-4
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Talese/Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2001




11 NOVELS WHOSE FINAL PAGES WILL SHOCK YOU:

FictionSWEET TOOTH by Ian McEwan
by Ian McEwan
FictionTHE TRANSIT OF VENUS by Shirley Hazzard
by Shirley Hazzard
FictionTHE MYSTERY OF MERCY CLOSE by Marian Keyes
by Marian Keyes
FictionTHE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE by Michel Faber
by Michel Faber
ChildrenALLEGIANT by Veronica Roth
by Veronica Roth

MORE BY IAN MCEWAN

FictionTHE CHILDREN ACT by Ian McEwan
by Ian McEwan
FictionSWEET TOOTH by Ian McEwan
by Ian McEwan
FictionON CHESIL BEACH by Ian McEwan
by Ian McEwan

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

FictionTHE STEADY RUNNING OF THE HOUR by Justin Go
by Justin Go
FictionTHE END OF THE POINT by Elizabeth Graver
by Elizabeth Graver
IndieAN UNPLANNED ENCOUNTER by Jonathan R. Husband
by Jonathan R. Husband
FictionI SAW A MAN by Owen Sheers
by Owen Sheers