Books

Atonement

Atonement is a book by Ian McEwan.

Ian McEwan

On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her older sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching Cecilia is their housekeeper's son Robbie Turner, a childhood friend who, along with Briony's sister, has recently graduated from Cambridge.

By the end of that day the lives of all three will have been changed forever. Robbie and Cecilia will have crossed a boundary they had never before dared to approach and will have become victims of the younger girl's scheming imagination. And Briony will have committed a dreadful crime, the guilt for which will color her entire life.

In each of his novels Ian McEwan has brilliantly drawn his reader into the intimate lives and situations of his characters. But never before has he worked with so large a canvas: In Atonement he takes the reader from a manor house in England in 1935 to the retreat from Dunkirk in 1941; from the London's World War II military hospitals to a reunion of the Tallis clan in 1999.

Atonement is Ian McEwan's finest achievement. Brilliant and utterly enthralling in its depiction of childhood, love and war, England and class, the novel is at its center a profound–and profoundly moving–exploration of shame and forgiveness and the difficulty of absolution. (From Everyman's Library)

Ian McEwan is a British novelist and screenwriter. He won the Booker Prize for his 1998 novel Amsterdam. He is the author of many critically acclaimed books including The Child in TimeOn Chesil Beach and Sweet Tooth

From the book

The play, for which Briony had designed the posters, programmes and tickets, constructed the sales booth out of a folding screen tipped on its side, and lined the collection box in red crepe paper, was written by her in a two-day tempest of composition, causing her to miss a breakfast and a lunch. When the preparations were complete, she had nothing to do but contemplate her finished draft and wait for the appearance of her cousins from the distant north. There would be time for only one day of rehearsal before her brother arrived. At some moments chilling, at others desperately sad, the play told a tale of the heart whose message, conveyed in a rhyming prologue, was that love which did not build a foundation on good sense was doomed. The reckless passion of the heroine, Arabella, for a wicked foreign count is punished by ill fortune when she contracts cholera during an impetuous dash towards a seaside town with her intended. Deserted by him and nearly everybody else, bed-bound in a garret, she discovers in herself a sense of humour. Fortune presents her a second chance in the form of an impoverished doctor — in fact, a prince in disguise who has elected to work among the needy. Healed by him, Arabella chooses judiciously this time, and is rewarded by reconciliation with her family and a wedding with the medical prince on `a windy sunlit day in spring'.


From Atonement by Ian McEwan ©2001. Published by Vintage Canada.

Interviews with Ian McEwan

Eleanor speaks with six writers on stage at the International Literary Arts Festival in Victoria: Ian McEwan, A.L. Kennedy, Clare Boylan, Rosemary Sullivan, Shyam Selvadurai and Esta Spalding. 52:31

Ian McEwan | "Nutshell," Safe Spaces and Identity

5 years ago
Duration 7:55
Ian McEwan's novel "Nutshell" features an opinionated fetus, which seems to channel McEwan's skeptical views of safe spaces and trigger warnings. 7:55
Feature Interview: Ian McEwan. 28:44
Can we own a consciousness? Can we buy and operate someone else's subjective experience? These themes of Ian McEwan's novel, Machines Like Me, force us to confront our relationship with technology and examine whether our human morality extends to AI being. 24:44

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