Atonement Hardcover – 30 May 2014
He is this country’s unrivalled literary giant … a fascinatingly strange, unique and gripping novel― Indepentent On Sunday
A brilliant and majestic fictional panorama. -- John Updike ― The New Yorker
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- Publisher : Everyman (30 May 2014)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 424 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1841593605
- ISBN-13 : 978-1841593609
- Item Weight : 419 g
- Dimensions : 2.8 x 13.4 x 21 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: #293,797 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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The book is divided into three major sections that might be regarded as different genre entries due the manner in which they are deliberately crafted. The first section acts as the foundation for everything else that is to unfold later on in the novel, is what might be described as a 'stream of consciousness' narrative meets the Bronte sisters, and might actually cause some readers to abandon the book. My recommendation would be to labour on through this section even if you find it intensely tedious. There are some great flourishes and deft touches that you will not find in any plot-driven and thoroughly disposable drivel that are out there. The second section deals with separation and yearning of young lovers and moves into the wartime novel territory. The third section deals with study of guilt and the mechanisms we devise to confront it or run away from it, cowardice and the atonement of sins. Literature and fiction, and the manner in which writers construct their own self-contained worlds with their own set of rules is also part of the tale and serves as device to narrate the story. This book is truly deserving of its status and is a gem among modern day works of literary fiction. The 2007 movie adaptation with the same title also serves as a great companion piece to the book. My suggestion would be to read the novel first and then watch the movie. However, if you do intend to watch the movie without intending to the read the book, you won’t be disappointed, for the movie is a great standalone piece of entertainment.
The 2014 Vintage paperback edition (with the light blue background and the red cross on the front cover) purchased from Amazon is really good. The overall quality of the pages and typeface is top-notch.
By Sumit Chawla on 9 November 2017
By Shreya on 11 May 2019
Top reviews from other countries
The first, set in a country house during the oppressively hot summer of 1935, is the build up to the commission of a terrible crime. The offence is the false accusation made by one of the three main characters, Briony, against another. She knows the accusation is at best doubtful, and probably false, but she persists in it, even under oath, to the point of wrecking the life chances of a man who isn’t just innocent but also did her nothing but good.
This is the crime for which atonement must be made.
Five years later, we find ourselves plunged, again in sweltering heat, into the middle of the British Army’s catastrophic retreat in front of German armoured troops through Northern France to Dunkirk. This is the most powerful account I have read of the torment felt by individual men, especially a wounded man, struggling to keep up with what was practically a rout – undisciplined, chaotic and painful. It’s a tribute to the research McEwan carried out at the Imperial War Museum in London that he was able to capture the atmosphere of that harrowing time, and further proof of his outstanding qualities as a writer that he could convey them so vividly.
And the third nightmare is the one experienced again by Briony, in a first step towards atonement, as she trains to be a nurse at a hospital recognisable as St Thomas’s in London. That culminates in an extraordinary day of frightening and intense work, as she nurses wounded men from the Dunkirk evacuation. McEwan gives us a detailed account of the many hours she works, with men lightly injured, with men suffering terrible but treatable wounds, with men who cannot be saved.
Finally, there is a kind of coda in which McEwan deepens the dreamlike feeling of the novel still further. Because he leaves us wondering whether what he has given us is a novel of his own creation, or one written by Briony herself, a character he created. We see her going from a first attempt at writing the story, rejected by a publisher who nonetheless gives her excellent advice on how to improve it, to the final work, the one we’ve just read. And she asks us whether she hasn’t told the story as it deserves to be told. She tells us that she could have changed its details is significant ways but chose not to, and calls on us, the readers, to agree that she was right.
This reader is sure she is. My view is that Briony turned an indifferent first draft into an excellent novel. And Ian McEwan did well to make her work, and his own, available to us.
In a strange way I felt that not much happened throughout the novel yet I was intrigued and captured by the characters and their thoughts. It is definitely a slow mover of a story and although this is what turns a lot of people off the book, it is instead what made me love it. For me, the beauty was in the structure of the novel and the different writing styles that McEwan employed.
The first part is told from different perspectives whereas in parts two and three he switches to follow two characters' journeys. The final section of the book really made me think - McEwan somehow brings everything into doubt and makes you question the beautiful and emotional story that he has set out. I sat and pondered on it by myself for a while and then wanted to know how people interpreted the ending and what their thoughts were on the story as well. I love it when a book does that to me.
The narrative at its core starts like Downton Abbey but phases into scenes that make that first 30mins of Saving Private Ryan feel pedestrian . Start to end this is a technical tour de force of wordmanship....the author must be at the peak of his powers. That would be enough but the structure into which this has been folded is quite superb.The story has been skillfully wrapped up into an essay on novel writing itself and there is even a segment - delivered as a rejection letter from a publisher - that appears to be a commentary on an earlier draft of the novel you are reading.
Best thing I have read in a long time. Maybe ever. And one i suspect that will reward a revisit.