From the back cover:On a summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment's flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant. But Briony's incomplete grasp of adult motives and her precocious imagination bring about a crime that will change all their lives, a crime whose repercussions Atonement follows through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century.
I know there are ambivalent reviews of this book out there. I have read a few of them. But I decided to not care about them. I think Ian McEwan's Atonement was just great. Everything he wrote was important to the story even if it was not to the plot. The first third of the book is a detailed description of a lush afternoon in a big house in the countryside. Although it takes up half the book, the motives out of which the characters act become clear as glass. I could picture the scenery as if I were watching a postcard or something. The language is rich and beautiful. Although I found myself wondering why the characters were so naive, not getting what was going on, I decided that it made sense at last, as they don't get the whole package, not the panorama view as the reader does.
I didn't care as much for the middle part and Robbie's experiences in wwii. But as I got to part three and the present (1999), I was pleased again. I understood Briony's motives to write about the two figures by the fountain.
*beware of spoilers*
Briony is a nurse now, she visits her sister Cecilia, who has cut herself of her family ever since the bad incident. Briony finds out that Cecilia and Robbie are living together now and pursue their happiness. But this is what Briony, who wanted to tell the truth at last, made up. It is indicated that both Cecilia and Robbie died 1940. They never had a happy live together, but Cecilia lets the lovers have it. She has made herself guilty. And this is her Atonement.
I LOVE that there is so much space for interpretation. Often I don't like endings, where I am not presented everything until the last snippet. But with this novel it is completely different. I feel like I understood.
★ ★ ★ ★ and 1/2!
Published by Anchor, February 2003
Paperback, 368 pages