"... a staggering book — something no American could have published." -- John Updike
Novel of 2001 by Ian McEwan, which was also shortlisted for the Booker Prize in that year.
Arguably McEwan's most accomplished work to date, Atonement is a novel divided into three parts.
The first part tells the events of the summer of 1935 in the Tallis household, focussing on the characters of Briony, Lola, Cecilia and Robbie Turner. What 13-year old Briony thinks she sees take place has devastating results, for which she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone.
The second part of "Atonement" recounts the horrors of the Second World War as seen through the eyes of Robbie Turner. Rather than giving an overly sentimental account of the war, McEwan remains objective, which, I believe, adds to the impact of this phase of the novel.
In the third and final part of this novel, we rejoin Briony. She is now 18 years old and training to be a nurse in London. Once again, McEwan builds a detailed character portrait of the young woman, whilst also indulging in his characteristic psychoanalysis. It is in this section that the novel's title becomes important.
I can recommend this novel as an outstanding work of fiction which is beautifully crafted and thoroughly gripping.