On the hottest day of the summer of 1934, thirteen- year-old Briony Tallis sees her sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching her is Robbie Turner, her childhood friend who, like Cecilia, has recently come down from Cambridge.
By the end of that day, the lives of all three will have been changed for ever. Robbie and Cecilia will have crossed a boundary they had not even imagined at its start, and will have become victims of the younger girl's imagination.
Briony will have witnessed mysteries, and committed a crime for which she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone.
Author Biography: Ian McEwan has written two collections of short stories and nine novels. He won the 1998 Booker Prize for his novel Amsterdam. He has also written several film scripts.
On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, thirteen year-old Briony Tallis, a girl with a strange mind and a facility with words is preparing to cast, direct and star in her first melodrama. By the end of the day The Trials of Arabella remains unperformed, but Briony's talent for fantasy starts a chain of events that will dramatically change the lives of many and haunt her for more than sixty years. Atonement has three distinct parts. The first, making up more than half the novel, describes the events of that summer's day in 1935. The Tallises are an affluent family living in middle class comfort in Surrey. Father is a hazy figure, a senior ministry figure working on plans for the impending war and carrying on a secret affair in London. Neither he nor his frail and anxious wife are significant influences in their three children's lives. Cecilia, newly graduated from Cambridge, is restless and uncertain about the path of her future life. Leon, less well defined as a character, is the older brother. Briony is the youngest child, immersed in a fantasy world of her own making, who through a false and careless accusation destroys the life of Cecilia's lover, Robbie Turner, and her prospects of happiness. In part two, the narrative moves to 1940. Robbie has been released from prison and is one of the thousands of British soldiers serving in France and fleeing to Dunkirk from the German army. Briony and Cecilia, estranged from one another, are suffering in their own purgatory as nurses in London. In the third, shorter (and least successful) section set in 1999 we discover that Briony, now in her seventies and a celebrated novelist, is the author of Atonement reminiscing on the terrible consequences of her youthful mistake. Atonement, McEwan's first novel since the Booker-winning Amsterdam, is an extraordinary achievement and possibly the finest work he has yet published. It is a engrossing book, full of narrative suspense and wonderfully defined characters. It is also a consciously literary novel, with allusions to Jane Austen, Elizabeth Bowen and Henry James, but with none of the ponderous self-importance that label often suggests. Atonement confirms McEwan's great talents and well deserves its place on the Booker shortlist. (Kirkus UK)
Series: Vintage War
For Ages: 15 - 18 years old
For Grades: 11 - 12
Number Of Pages: 384
Published: May 2002
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 20.0 x 13.0 x 2.8
Weight (kg): 0.36
Edition Number: 1