Atonement Study Guide

"Atonement" is the eleventh book written by Ian McEwan. It was published in 2001 and won the W.H. Smith Literary Award in 2002, the National Book Critics' Circle Fiction Award in 2003, the L.A. Times Prize for Fiction in 2003, and the Santiago Prize for the European Novel in 2004. It was also made into an award winning film in 2007 directed by Joe Wright and starring James McAvoy and Keira Knightley. "Atonement" is by far McEwan's most recognized piece of fiction.

"Atonement" is a story about love, guilt, shame,forgiveness, war, social class, identity, and loss of innocence. It follows Briony Tallis, who, on a hot summer day in the 1935 upperclass countryside, witnesses events between her holder sister Cecilia and the son of of her father's housemaids Robbie Turner. Briony's innocence gives way to a misinterpretation of what she sees, triggering an imagination to run wild and leading to an unspeakable crime that changes all of their lives.

Briony's search for her own identity, the meaning behind what she has done, and forgiveness in her own heart runs through the chaos and horror of World War Two and all the way up to the close of the twentieth century. Relying heavily on shared narratives and perspectives, Ian McEwan's "Atonement" will leave his reader questioning the ability to overcome guilt as well as the power of storytelling and the literary tradition.