It’s the summer of 1935, and thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis causes a calamity that would haunt her for a lifetime.

Immature and whimsical, Briony unintentionally transforms her reality and the lives of others into a true Shakespearean tragedy. As the years go on, Briony’s sister Cecilia Tallis and Cecilia’s lover Robbie Turner are forced to live with the repercussions of Briony’s creation. Atonement allows readers to witness the heart-breaking accident, the journey of a WWII British soldier, Briony’s growth and experiences as a nurse, and the sweeping expedition to find atonement. 

A still shot from the movie adaptation of Atonement. Image from FILMGRAB.

After reading this book, I was unsure if I should feel happy, sad, unsatisfied, or fulfilled. A review on GoodReads described the ending as “brilliant, unexpected, and harsh,” and I can totally agree with that. Atonement truly captured the innocence of a young girl and how immaturity can cause a tragedy. I adored how various perspectives were painted throughout this book. I especially loved the portion of the book that followed one of the protagonists, Robbie Turner, as he traversed through France during WWII. The words describing his experiences as a soldier allowed me to witness a first-rate war movie within the sanctuary of my mind. The language and internal dialogue of this book was amazing, and everything was extremely captivating.

Atonement caused me to go from hating a character to actually empathizing with her. I was forced to consider how judgmental I was. McEwan, the author, is incredible. He created an intolerable character, a young and foolish girl, and allowed her to grow, mature, and seek atonement. This arch was incredibly powerful because of how it reflected my reality, leading me to see my own innocence. The selfishness Briony had, I had. The attention she desired, I desired. Realizing how similar I was to a character I couldn’t stand was scary to say the least. But, when Briony grew up and found atonement, I felt like I did too. Overall, I definitely recommend this book for people who are into annotating modern literature (trust me, there’s a lot to annotate), reading periodic stories, or are just simply fans of Keira Knightly and James McAvoy, because they star in the phenomenal movie adaptation.

“It wasn’t the wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was the confusion and misunderstanding; above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you.” –Ian McEwan, Atonement 

A trailer for the movie adaptation of Atonement.

This post is part of a book review blog, titled M & M’s Library. Read the introduction to the blog here.

Other reviews:
M&M’s Library: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
M&M’s Library: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak