“Atonement” by Ian McEwan

atonementAtonement by Ian McEwan
372 pages
First published 2001
2/3 contemporary (2013 Book Challenge)



“…stepping contemptuously through the pile, [she] reached for the gown, her green backless post-finals gown.”

Happening to see the film first, I had no trouble imagining Cecilia’s gorgeous emerald dress. Keira Knightley’s Cecilia wore it beautifully well. I adored the film, and that moved me to read the book.cecilia

The story of young Briony Tallis, an aspiring writer, and her lie which wrecked the lives of two lovers, a lie she can never atone for, is a very interesting and fresh story in my opinion. Ian McEwan manages to make me first hate Briony, then lover her; criticize Cecilia, then pity her; despise Robbie, then admire him. Switching narratives composed my favourite kind of novel — one of multiple perspectives, and the WWII setting only increased my enjoyment. I loved how the novel started with The Trials of Arabella, and ended with it, too.


The ending left me in tears. The film did, too, but it is always a different experience with a book. I felt it ironic that Briony, who attempted in vain to forget her deed, was ultimately diagnosed with dementia — memory loss. The novel made me think what obstacles materialize before an author trying to write the “truth”: legal issues, inability to please an audience, guilt… The novel exposes how life can never completely become writing, and writing can never become life. Cecilia and Robbie could not share the same fates as their fictional doppelgangers, nor could Briony give them a happy ending as they deserved…


P.S. May I mention that this is the most wonderfully original description of the words that every lover utters that I have ever read: “Finally, he spoke the three simple words that no amount of bad art or bad faith can ever quite cheapen.” Have a good day!

11 responses to ““Atonement” by Ian McEwan

  1. Reblogged this on Bookbilly and commented:
    I fell in love with this book in undergrad: all because I was required to write an essay. I hope some of my students connect with works I require them to read.

  2. (I tried reading other books by him… it’s most likely just me, but I didn’t find any of his other words as charming a ATONEMENT)

    • Hmm, I will keep that in mind as I give his other works a try. 🙂 I also hope to graduate from U of T with the same education as you! How curious. 🙂

      • HOW is this coincidence possible?! I just ended up on your site through blog-hopping.

        Well, ’tis a pleasure to make your (online) acquaintance. Attending UofT will be a very rewarding experience 🙂 Plus, the campus is beautiful!

Owl Post

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s