Atonement – Ian McEwan

Sep 17

Atonement – Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan is the author of this gripping family tale based in England. The story unfolds in three main acts. “The Incident” occurs in 1935, when young Briony, a newly formed writer herself, comes to possess a letter intended for her sister Cecelia. Briony is on the cusp of becoming a full fledged teen; she feels all of the angst and she is looking for some excitement in her life. The letter from Robbie, a family friend and neighbor, is filled with a freshly formed lust and one fantastic dirty word aimed at Cecelia’s nether regions. A false accusation coupled with a monster need for attention then send the family into a tailspin.

The second act follows Robbie through France during the early part of WWII. The war scenes are fairly graphic and more than a little upsetting. Robbie’s will to live and his inherently good nature shine through.

Act three finds Briony as a blossoming adult, who is knee deep in becoming a nurse when the casualties of war start filtering through the hospital doors.

This story is told amazingly well. I could see the fountain at the family home, I could hear the planes overhead in France, I could smell the disinfectant at the hospital. The story is multi-layered and filled with longing, regret, and a million shades of emotion. We all wish we could atone for some egregious error. The major problem for me in this story? Briony never really feels that bad about her heinous act and the massive ripples it caused for years to come. Here’s hoping I am never that big of a punk.


  1. This sounds like a fantastic read. I like stories set in the 30’s but they have to keep my attention, or I get bored. I have to add this one to my list!


  1. Brooklyn - Colm Toibin - SandBookWich - […] purists. Also, Saoirse Ronan was perfection as Eilis. I can’t believe I hated her so much in Atonement. I…
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