Atonement begins on a hot summer day in 1935, in an English countryside. When Briony Tallis, 13 years old and an aspiring writer,  sees her older sister Cecilia and Robbie Turner at the fountain in front of the family estate she misinterprets what is happening thus setting into motion a series of misunderstandings and a childish pique that will have lasting repercussions for all of them. 

 Robbie is the son of a family servant toward whom the family has always been kind.  They paid for his time at Cambridge and now he plans on going to medical school.  After the fountain incident, Briony reads a letter intended for Cecilia and concludes that Robbie is a deviant.  When her cousin Lola is raped,  she tells the police something that would change all of their lives forever.


Ian McEwan’s prose is lush and deeply layered with images and meaning. It seems to come from another literary age when the act of reading a novel was something one approached both intellectually and emotionally at full attention.

The character “Briony Tallis”…..I loved her (yes, she is the villain, no Iam not mentally sick…).  She vibrates with creative enthusiasm and a hungry imagination that takes her ever into new territory. In the midst of her messy,  slightly odd family she orders her room,  her miniature farm and the dramatic stories she writes with a touching self-confidence.  The youngest of a privileged English family, Briony is  “a quiet, intense little girl who live(s) in her thoughts.”  Her thoughts and stories are peopled with heroes,  villains and romantic adventure.

This is an engaging story and so finely written that the reading is both effortless and seductive.  After I had finished,  I was amazed to realize how complex a plot it is considering how smoothly it is told.   By far,  it is the best book I have read in years.