Review: Atonement – Ian McEwan

I have always been a firm believer in the principle of reading the book before seeing the movie.

A film that has been on my radar as of late is the World War I period piece Atonement, starring Kiera Knightley and James McAvoy.

Due to it being a book to movie adaptation, and given my rule, I knew in order to watch it I would first have to pick up Ian McEwan’s novel first.

Did my book to movie adaptation rule work in favour for Atonement? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.

The Book


On a hot summer day in 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives—together with her precocious literary gifts—brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece.

The Review

McEwan has a way with words, I’ll give him that.

The way he’s able to construct a sentence is a gift, one that I felt was otherwise wasted on this book.

The character of Briony was an insufferable viewpoint to read from.


I understand that she was young and was only doing what she thought was ‘right,’ but she then shouldn’t have been so confused as to why the other characters around her acted the way they did.

Also, she didn’t atone for anything, he apology was weak and the way she ‘ends’ her book is even worse.

Other notable drags character wise included big fat lying Lola, Paul Marshall, and have I already mentioned Briony?

The only saving grace was Cecilia, who despite everything chose to believe in Robbie rather than cast him out because a little girl told her so.

While a book doesn’t necessarily have to have a happy ending to be good, the entire premise of this book focused on the love between Cecilia and Robbie, and the way McEwan chose to end it felt like a cop out.

After reading, I’m just not sure whether I’ll be able to watch the movie.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. 

Purchase Links

Vintage CanadaAmazon | Barnes & NobleIndigo


One Comment

  1. Kat

    I’ve only seen parts of the film, and I vaguely remember how it ended, but I’ve had this book on my shelf for some time. I think, despite the ending, this book would still be one difficult to get into. I’m not sure why – I think the style is one of those styles that will take some patience. Either way, good review. I’ll know what to expect going into it, and not having too high expectations at that.


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