Atonement by Ian McEwan MAG

October 26, 2009
By Janelle Chang BRONZE, Hong Kong, Other
Janelle Chang BRONZE, Hong Kong, Other
3 articles 0 photos 0 comments

The title caught my eye: Atonement. It sounded depressing, probably religious and about sin and stuff. Being in the mood for something sad, I bought it.

I was wrong on some counts. It was sad, yes, and intriguing, but not religious. The book was beautiful. The prose, story line, down to the last word, were beautiful. Ian McEwan wove an intricate web with his words and a plot about the consequences of a 13-year-old fabricating a story.

The tale revolves around three individuals: Cecilia, Robbie, and Briony. Briony is the 13-year-old who sees something she doesn't understand happen between her sister, Cecilia, and the old family friend, Robbie. A sequence of events owing to sheer bad luck lead to Briony telling a lie that changes their futures forever.

Out of guilt, adult Briony attempts to atone for her mistake by writing an autobiographical novel about what happened. In the book, Briony gives Cecilia and Robbie the ending they should have had and the lost time she stole from them. As an author, Briony realizes that she cannot ever be forgiven, even as she tries to change her characters' fates.

This book appealed to me for several reasons. For one, its realistic characters. Briony is the literary manifestation of human cowardice and bad imagination. When we tell lies, why don't we own up and right the wrong? Because we are afraid. We do not have the courage to face those we have wronged. This rarely carries huge consequences, because our lies seldom change our lives or anybody else's. But Briony's lie ruins the love between two individuals and eventually ends their relationship. The message: Do not lie.

Atonement made me cry. A great book should always make the reader feel strong emotions of hate, joy, and sadness. This one made me experience all three. The injustice was so crushing that I could not put the book down. My heart was weighted by the depressing conclusion that mirrored the unfairness and imperfection of human life.

McEwan brutally wrote life as he saw it and made it believable enough to cry over. That, in a book, is the greatest accomplishment. Atonement is, and will remain, one of my favorites.

Similar Articles


This article has 1 comment.

on Nov. 4 2010 at 12:02 am
emmacxoxo PLATINUM, Chelsea, Massachusetts
22 articles 6 photos 26 comments

Favorite Quote:
Okay. Okay.

i loved the book too(: read sum of my stuff?


MacMillan Books

Aspiring Writer? Take Our Online Course!