There is no denying that novelist Ian McEwan is a master storyteller and nowhere is his skill more evident than in the novel Atonement, an expansive, complex and ambitious novel in three acts.
In 1935, Briony Tallis is the younger 13-year-old daughter of the the wealthy Tallis family that lives in a country estate in England – a budding writer who feels like her talent is not fully appreciated by her family. When she witnesses her older sister Cecilia in a sexually charged moment with the housekeeper’s son Robbie, Briony is convinced something is amiss. Her unfounded suspicion about Robbie’s moral character only increase when she intercepts an explicit note meant for Cecilia. When her twin cousin sisters go missing one day, Briony finds her being sexually assaulted. In the dark she cannot make out who it is, but convinces herself and her family that the assaulter is Robbie, a conclusion that makes sense to her young, imaginative brain.
As Robbie suffers the consequences and is separated from Cecilia, the passing years make Briony realise the immensity of her mistake and the unforgivable act of denying two lovers a future. In a lifetime spent attempting to atone for her error, the only succour she can find is in fiction.
A triumph of narrative, controlled prose and sharp psychological insight, Atonement was shortlisted for the 2001 Man Booker Prize. TIME magazine also named it in its list of the 100 greatest English-language novels since 1923. It was adapted into a feature film starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy in 2007.
Published in 2001.