Atonement – Ian McEwan

Posted 14 January, 2008 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 27 Comments

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Title: Atonement
Author: Ian McEwan
Date Finished: January 12, 2008
Pages: 351
Rating: 4.5/5

I had heard so many great things about this book in the blogosphere and then in looking forward to the movie, I was really wanting to read this book. I had a vague idea of what the premise was, but only little pieces. As I read through the first section of the book, I was pulled through each page with anticipation of what was going to happen. I was hooked to McEwan’s beautiful and smooth prose and his subtle use of suspense.

Atonement is the story of a young girl, Briony, who is on the brink of young-adulthood, but still has so much to learn about life. She witnesses a number of events that revolve around her sister and Robbie during a summer afternoon and makes several assumptions that lead to Robbie’s implication of a crime. That’s all I knew going into the book, so I’ll leave it at that.
The book is divided into three very different sections (at least in terms of style). The first section–the one that describes Briony’s transgression, moves from perspective to perspective giving a glimpse into each of the characters feelings and motivations. Because of the way that McEwan gives just a little bit of information at a time, the buildup was very great for me. I was drawn into the narrative–needing to receive answers. Once I found out what Briony had done, the second section–Robbie’s narrative of World War II seemed slow. By the time the narrative moved back to Briony in section three, I grew a little restless with the story. The ending came together beautifully–and McEwan masterfully shows the reader how powerful atonement can be. It is an ending that stuck with me for a few hours after closing the book (I was on a plane), and it will be an ending that I will continue to remember, which is what I hope for in a book.
I would recommend this book and I will certainly be seeking out McEwan’s other works.

27 Responses to “Atonement – Ian McEwan”

  1. I am so glad you enjoyed this one, Tish. I did also. I actually liked the war bit best, I admit and the first section the least (because I thought there was too much build up before anything significant happened). I love McEwan’s writing, and like you, am looking forward to reading more by the author.

  2. I have to admit, I just sort of skimmed this review!! I’ve been wanting to read Atonement for a very long time, and I just haven’t gotten around to it. My in-laws went to see the movie last weekend, and they said it was fantastic!!

  3. Joy

    This book is on a current challenge list, so I’ll be reading it too; therefore, I did not read your review in full. I will come back though. I’m so glad to see that you really liked it! I’m encouraged.

  4. hi Trish,
    Same as joy and steph, I am avoiding Atonement reviews right now because it is set to be read very soon. I’ll come back to read your review after I read it myself.

    I just noticed a comment you made on my blog months ago and I don’t know if I ever answered you. so sorry! Anyway, my name comes from my high school’s nickname – the Raiders, and I had to add the 3 at lj, so that’s what I use for my nickname. I attended that hs and now I teach there, so I am a real raidergirl at heart!
    Funnily, people think because of the ‘girl’ that I am a kid, but I’m no longer saying hello to my thirties. And I have 3 kids of my own.

  5. *Lit Feline – the build up was what I loved about the book. :) I have Amsterdam sitting on my shelf at home–now I just have to find the time to squeeze it in. Have you seen the movie?

    *Stephanie – I do that too–probably have with a few of your reviews. :) Its funny how people will search out for a review and then just skim it–I did that earlier today with CJ’s review of The Book Thief. I hope you like this one when you get to it!

    *Joy – I can’t figure you out–so I’m not sure if me liking the book is any indication of whether you will! Ha!! :) Anyway, I hope you do enjoy it.

    *Raidergirl – Well, I feel all of you guys since I was in the same boat for so long wanting to read it. I tried not to give away too much in my review, but sometimes its hard to conceal emotions.

    And thanks for getting back to me about your name. I remember leaving that post–a while ago. :)

  6. I did see the movie and I liked it as much as I liked the book. It was very well done. The faults I found with the book, I found with the movie too–which, I guess says how much the too were similar. :-)

  7. What I remember most about reading this book, several years ago, is how hard I wanted to slap Briony. I can’t think of a character I’ve hated more, although many people contend she was just naive. Naive, maybe, with a huge dose of manipulative vindictiveness.

  8. p.s. I just noticed you plan to read The Robber Bride which is one of my favorite books ever. I also loved Ahab’s Wife. Great picks!

  9. *Bellezza – I don’t know if I hated Briony as much as I was annoyed with her. And especially at the end of the book when I felt that she had just ripped my heart out knowing the true consequences of what she had done. GRRRR. :)

    I’ve read a few Atwood novels and love her, but I’m not familiar with Ahab’s Wife at all. I’ve had it on my shelf for over five years now (picked it up at a book sale years ago). Glad to hear something good about it!

  10. Yours is the third favorable review I’ve read about this book. I think I’m just going to have to read it and see why everyone keeps talking about it!

  11. *Jeane – I don’t think I’ve read a bad review yet either. I hope you like it! (and hopefully it will meet your expectations–sometimes things can have too much build up which will affect how I feel about it).

  12. verbatim

    This was my favorite book of 2007. Glad you liked it. Interesting reaction, that many people here, and in my book club, too, disliked Briony intensely. I didn’t get that feeling. I thought she served as a sort of Everyman for each of us who has naively acted on what we thought was truth but found later was illusion. The movie disappointed me.

  13. *Verbatim – the movies always disappointment after reading such a great book (Cold Mountain was like that). It wasn’t that I disliked Briony, but at 13 she had to have some sort of motivation for speaking with SUCH certainty when she KNEW she wasn’t certain in her accusation. And maybe not even motivation, but perhaps recognition that what she was doing was wrong. I bet this one was an interesting read for a book club! Thanks for coming by!

    *Nymeth – it is beautiful; I think you’d really like it!

  14. I tried to read this one on vacation, but I couldn’t concentrate on the plane and gave up. The writing is beautiful, though, I agree. I hope to get back to reading it, soon. So glad you gave it a high rating. I haven’t seen a negative review, yet.

  15. I loved this book when I read it. I just saw the movie. The movie is very good but I didn’t get the same emotional impact as the book.

  16. *Stephanie – I can see how this is one of the best books of 2007–as I can certainly seeing it being one of the best for 2008 (for me). It was very impactful!

    *Bookfool – Ya, I could see this one not being the best for a vacation trip. It took me a few chapters to get into the book, but I was hooked after that. I hope your second try is better. :)

    *Bookgal – I have mixed feelings about the movie, but I think hubby and I are going to see it today. I’ve talked with my mom about it (she saw the movie before reading the book), and from what I know I think I like how the ending was handled in the book better. I can’t imagine it any other way.

  17. (Followed the link through Semicolon.) I havent’ read this yet and was once resolved not to. However, every reviewer I’ve read through Semicolon seems to love it so my opinion of it has been swayed and I’m starting to really look forward to getting my hands on a copy!

  18. *Framed – I hope you enjoy it; I let this one sit on the shelf for a while as well, but it’s a good one.

    *Carrie – Although the book is getting good “reviews” from bloggers, I don’t necessarily know that its for everyone. It may be the type of book that doesn’t hold up well to resistance. :) (i.e. takes a little patience getting into it).

  19. I’m back, as I just finished it. I really liked it, and thought the ending was perfect. You did a great review, and I too found the war section a little long.

  20. *Raidergirl3 – I’m glad you liked it! And thanks for coming back for the review. :) I’ll be interested to see how the movie makes out in the Oscars this weekend–but even in the movie I thought the war section was too long. Oh well!