AtonementBook - 2002
The novel opens on a sweltering summer day in 1935 at the Tallis family’s mansion in the Surrey countryside. Thirteen-year-old Briony has written a play in honor of the visit of her adored older brother Leon; other guests include her three young cousins -- refugees from their parent’s marital breakup -- Leon’s friend Paul Marshall, the manufacturer of a chocolate bar called “Amo” that soldiers will be able to carry into war, and Robbie Turner, the son of the family charlady whose brilliantly successful college career has been funded by Mr. Tallis. Jack Tallis is absent from the gathering; he spends most of his time in London at the War Ministry and with his mistress. His wife Emily is a semi-invalid, nursing chronic migraine headaches. Their elder daughter Cecilia is also present; she has just graduated from Cambridge and is at home for the summer, restless and yearning for her life to really begin. Rehearsals for Briony’s play aren’t going well; her cousin Lola has stolen the starring role, the twin boys can’t speak the lines properly, and Briony suddenly realizes that her destiny is to be a novelist, not a dramatist.
In the midst of the long hot afternoon, Briony happens to be watching from a window when Cecilia strips off her clothes and plunges into the fountain on the lawn as Robbie looks on. Later that evening, Briony thinks she sees Robbie attacking Cecilia in the library, she reads a note meant for Cecilia, her cousin Lola is sexually assaulted, and she makes an accusation that she will repent for the rest of her life.
The next two parts of Atonement shift to the spring of 1940 as Hitler’s forces are sweeping across the Low Countries and into France. Robbie Turner, wounded, joins the disastrous British retreat to Dunkirk. Instead of going up to Cambridge to begin her studies, Briony has become a nurse in one of London’s military hospitals. The fourth and final section takes place in 1999, as Briony celebrates her 77th birthday with the completion of a book about the events of 1935 and 1940, a novel called Atonement.
In its broad historical framework Atonement is a departure from McEwan’s earlier work, and he loads the story with an emotional intensity and a gripping plot reminiscent of the best nineteenth-century fiction. Brilliant and utterly enthralling in its depiction of childhood, love and war, England and class, the novel is a profoundly moving exploration of shame and forgiveness and the difficulty of absolution.
NATIONAL BESTSELLER Booker Prize Finalist The New York Times Book Review EDITORS’ CHOICE and a Washington Post , Boston Globe , Chicago Tribune , Los Angeles Times , and San Francisco Chronicle BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR “A beautiful and majestic fictional panorama.” —John Updike, The New Yorker The introduction, discussion questions, suggested reading list, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group’s reading of Ian McEwan’s international bestseller Atonement .
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This whole story is based on a misunderstanding that goes horribly wrong. Cecilia, a young woman is home for the summer from school. Robbie, the gardener's son is also at home. Cecilia decides to put some flowers in a very expensive vase to welcome the arrival of her brother and his friend. She sees Robbie in the garden and he volunteers to do this for Cecilia, however she wants to do it herself, as they fight to hold the vase, the handle breaks off and it falls into a fountain. Cecilia must retrieve the handle so she strips down to her underwear to dive into the fountain to retrieve it. As she emerges from the fountain, Briony her younger sister sees this from the window and sees Robbie watching her soaking wet sister in her underwear. Meanwhile, the brother and his friend arrive and he invites Robbie to dinner. Robbie decides to attend, and bring a note for Cecilia as he has fallen for her. He makes up many different drafts including a very vile and sexual note as a joke. He finally decides on a note and as he is getting dressed, he quickly picks up the note and heads out. He sees Briony playing outside on the outskirts of the property and he decides its better for Cecilia to see the note before he arrives so he gives the note to Briony to give to Cecilia. Shortly after, he realizes he gave the wrong note to Briony. Briony out of curiosity reads it before actually giving it to Cecilia. When Robbie arrives, he and Cecilia go into the library and he tries to explain to Cecilia. They both realize they are in love and they make love in the library. At the same time, Briony is looking for Cecilia and sees Robbie and her in the library in way such that Robbie looks like he is in an attacking position. During that night, the friend that was visiting the family with the brother rapes the family's cousin who is living with them. The police come and Briony tells them all she has seen and misunderstood. The cousin that was raped did not see who it was because it happened in the dark outside. The police end up arresting Robbie. Robbie must go to war. Cecilia is enraged, cannot stay with her family any longer decides to become a nurse. Briony does as well. Years later, Briony realizes that the friend is the one who raped her cousin, especially after she learns they are getting married. Briony continually tries to atone for her actions. Alas, Robbie dies at war, Cecilia also dies in a flood. All because of a misunderstanding.
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A person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn and not easily mended.
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