Review: Atonement

Atonement Book Cover

By Ian McEwan
Knopf Doubleday
February 2003

The Short of It:

Atonement is a multifaceted little gem of a book.

The Rest of It:

During the summer of 1935, Briony witnesses an encounter between her older sister Cecilia and a boy named Robbie Turner. Briony’s interpretation of the event and those thereafter, lead her to tell a devastating lie. As time passes, the realization of what she’s done leaves her desperate for redemption and forgiveness which only the absolute truth can bring.

I love this book. I first read it years ago for book group but recently re-read it for the class I am taking. In class, we took several weeks to discuss it and let me tell you, it was quite a treat to have that much time to discuss the book. This is one of those books that is a bit of everything. There’s a love story, betrayal, the loss of innocence, war and the whole theme of atonement itself…it’s just so rich. So full.

As you read, your thoughts go one way and then another. McEwan’s attention to detail was tiresome for some, but for me?  I lapped it up. The setting and the characters were easy to picture in my mind and I found that I could relate to several of the characters at once.  A young girl, living in a huge house out in the English countryside tells a lie that can’t be taken back. How can you resist that?

Atonement is considered by many to be McEwan’s best work. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2001 and this is one case where I can totally understand why.

In class, we watched bits of the movie which came out in 2007  and starred Keira Knightly and James McAvoy.

Atonement the Movie

The parts that I saw were wonderful and really did the book justice. Makes me want to see the entire film now.

If you have a copy of Atonement lying around, I encourage you to pick it up and read it and if you don’t have a copy, you might want to get one. It’s one of those books that will make you love reading all over again.

Source: Purchased

35 thoughts on “Review: Atonement”

  1. I really enjoyed Atonement and I’m glad you did too. I also watched the movie and thought it fell a little short of my expectations…which are usually high after reading a book. lol

    1. The ending was handled differently by Hollywood but I thought it was still true to the storyline. I didn’t see the entire movie, only certain scenes in class but I’m anxious to see it in its entirely to see if it holds up to the book.

  2. I loved this book until I got to the end and felt belittled and unappreciated by the author. Not necessarily because of the ending, but because of how it was told. I actually like the movie much better because that aspect was removed.

    That aside, it would be a fabulous re-read. Nice review!

  3. I hated this book so much I dropped it after 70 pages or so. Well, let’s say I hated the character of Briony. I did like the movie, but I felt the movie was more of Opportunity to Gaze at Keira Knightly than anything else.

    1. You hated it? Now that’s interesting. I loved Briony but not because I felt she was young and innocent and therefore not at fault. I loved her because she was so complex and there was so much going on in her head at all times. The movie did play up Keira and Robbie but when I saw the actor that played Robbie. All was forgiven. Sigh.

  4. Oh no! It’s his best? Maybe I should have worked up to this one then. I hope I won’t be disappointed with his other work because I LOVED this book. I plan to read everything he’s written. You wrote a really nice review. I completely agree with you that it was easy to lap up every moment of this book. 🙂

    1. He actually won the Booker for Amsterdam (I believe) so I’m sure his other works are worthy as well. I read Saturday. It was not widely received but I liked it. Bizarre storyline but the writing was there. I plan to read his others too.

  5. I really should track this book down. I’ve read a couple of his books, and he really does get into his characters. I’ve not even seen the movie, which is crazy. My dad actually watched it one night when he was bored and found a Netflix movie lying around, and he absolutely LOVED it. That made me laugh.

  6. One of my favourite books EVER.

    And while I’m not usually a fan of movies that were first books, Atonement (the movie) is fairly fantastic in its own right (and I’m saying that at someone is is not a Kiera Kightley fan).

  7. I have a copy from a couple of book shopping trips ago and it’s kind of sad that I’ve picked up a few more since that have overshadowed it. I will read it soon, I promise 😀 The movie was lovely & incredible–I hope you see the whole of it some time so you can compare it to the book.

  8. I loved this book and I actually thought the movie was surprisingly good. My one disappointment is that this was my very first McEwan. I’ve since read Saturday, Black Dogs, Amsterdam, Enduring Love and On Chesil Beach and none have lived up to the brilliance and beauty in Atonement. They’re still good, but not quite breathtaking in the way this one is. I wish I’d read his others first so my expectations weren’t so high for the others.

  9. You may have just convinced me to give this book a second try. I picked it up a few months before I started blogging, read about 20 pages, got bored and gave it back to the library. Your enthusiasm is making me curious as to what I missed.

  10. Read it about 2 years ago and it jumped immediately to my all-time top10. I remember thinking about it weeks after finishing. I felt the the film did it justice.

    1. The entire middle section is from Robbie’s point of view, when he gets shipped off to fight in the war. You’ll LOVE that part. That I know.

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  11. I ADORED this book when I read it a few years ago and am so jealous that you read it for a class and got to discuss it with your classmates – Atonement is a fantastic book for discussion!

  12. Because of your excellent worded review I will read this one. Loved the movie but wondered if I would like the book. You have me convinced to give it a try!

  13. I read this very shortly after seeing the movie. Strangely, the fact that the movie was so faithful to the book made the book much less enjoyable for me–I felt like I was reading a book that I had just finished. Although I did like the last part of the book much better than the last part of the movie.

  14. Ti – you and I have eerily similar taste in books (and TBR lists!). This is one of my top five favorite books of all time. I thought it was amazing. It is really like three different books in one, each so different, but connected and so deeply satisfying as a whole. Loved, loved, loved.

  15. Did not like this book. It was clearly beautifully written, but it seemed contrived, the ending, and forcing this reality vs. fiction point way too hard. And Briony was awful and I had a hard time connecting with her as a real person. Watching the movie now and it is beautifully shot, as well, but lacks the depth of the internal dialogue of the novel, which seemed the only thing keeping the story afloat. Just my opinion.

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