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Atonement

Atonement by Ian McEwan was first published in 2001, and became popular enough to become a major motion picture. What brought around this novels popularity? Was it the setting, the characters, the unique writing style, or a lesson learned throughout the plot? It was a combination of them all.

Ian McEwan's style feels as if it could be linked back to an Old English style, such as Jane Austen's, but it also has a modern feel giving it a lighter tempo. The English setting chosen by the author also supports his style.

The beginning of the novel is set in 1935 in England as World War II begins to stir. The narrator of the novel, Briony, is the youngest daughter in the family and possesses an extreme imagination. She uses her imagination to try to impress those around her; her mother, her sister Cecilia, and her elder brother. Her latest vision has led her to write a play in honor of her brother's homecoming. It is ideal then for Briony when her three cousins come to stay with them. The cousins, Lola, and twins, Pierrot and Jackson, must stay with them until the heat of their parents' scandalous divorce blows over. As they try to be a part of young Briony's play, she becomes disappointed by how unimportant it seems to the twins and disgusted by how Lola claims the lead from her. Because of her distress, Briony flees to her room.

Once there, she views an inappropriate scene between Cecilia and the son of the cleaning lady, Robbie Turner. Robbie was able to attend college thanks to the generosity of their father. From Briony's point of view, Robbie somehow forced Cecilia to undress down to her undergarments, and that's what starts Briony's imagination and will eventually sadden and anger those around them.

For Robbie and Cecilia, the matter was that a part of an irreplaceable vase broke off into the fountain, and Cecilia undressed to retrieve it. It was still inappropriate on Cecilia's behalf, but in no way did Robbie have anything to do with her actions.

Briony's imagination is pushed even farther when later that same night, she reads a private note from Robbie to Cecilia. The note itself isn't even meant to be read by Cecilia herself. Then another sexual scene Briony witnesses before dinner that is to welcome her brother and his friend, allows Briony to grow more suspicious.

Eventually these events lead Briony to make a very large mistake in blaming someone for a crime, and Briony must age with this fact and somehow accept what she's done. Her actions will change someone's life for the worse and must attempt to make atonements for what she's done. This is the story of a young girl's imagination and two lovers who only wish to be together. How it all ends is a lesson in itself.





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