Introduced by Adam Begley
Illustrated by Tina Berning
A series of misunderstandings on a sultry summer’s day have terrible and far-reaching consequences. This is the first illustrated edition of Ian McEwan’s masterpiece.
Ian McEwan’s place in the literary firmament is secure – he is the author of 14 novels, as well as short story collections and screenplays, and has been awarded countless prestigious prizes, fellowships and honorary degrees – but of all his works none has enjoyed the critical acclaim and commercial success of Atonement.
This highly stylised, seductive novel opens with an account of the hottest day of the summer of 1935, when 13-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment of flirtatious tension between her older sister Cecilia and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. As events unfold, Briony, a burgeoning writer, constructs a narrative, one that goes on to have far-reaching consequences, and leads her to commit a crime for which she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone.
Split into three sections and a coda, Atonement is a sweeping and expansive novel, taking in the English countryside, the battlefields of Dunkirk, and London during the Second World War. McEwan is as adept at writing about complicated family relationships as he is the horrors of war, and the realism of both is at once mesmerising and arresting. Carefully paced and expertly crafted, Atonement is a closely observed and psychologically penetrating work. It is also a novel about the act of writing itself – the art, and dangers, inherent in constructing narratives in which everything is both hyperreal and illusive.
This edition is introduced by Adam Begley, a literary critic who describes McEwan as ‘one of the leading novelists of his generation’. In his engrossing introduction he gives an overview of McEwan’s remarkable career, and examines just why Atonement is such an astonishing book – a story about stories that ‘hits the heart, the guts, and the brain’.
Berlin-based illustrator Tina Berning has provided nine colour illustrations, each permeated with the uneasy tensions that run through the novel. From soldiers gathering on a blood-tinged beach to Briony emerging from the shadows in the family library, Berning’s images are linked by a network of red and white lines – threads that represent both the inescapable ramifications of Briony’s actions and the fractured lives that they create.
‘Briony had her first, weak intimation that for her now it could no longer be fairy-tale castles and princesses, but the strangeness of the here and now, of what passed between people, the ordinary people that she knew, and what power one could have over the other, and how easy it was to get everything wrong, completely wrong’
‘McEwan’s best novel so far, his masterpiece’
Ian McEwan is a critically acclaimed author whose works have been translated into over thirty languages. Educated at the University of Sussex and the University of East Anglia, his first published work, the collection of short stories First Love, Last Rites (1975), won the Somerset Maugham Award. As well as Atonement (2001), his novels include The Child in Time, which won the 1987 Whitbread Novel of the Year Award, Enduring Love (1997), Amsterdam, which won the 1998 Booker Prize, Saturday (2005), On Chesil Beach (2007), Sweet Tooth (2012) and The Children Act (2014). His most recent novel is Nutshell (2016).
Adam Begley is a writer and literary critic. He was the books editor of the New York Observer from 1996–2009, and has been a Guggenheim fellow and a fellow at the Leon Levy Center for Biography. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, the Financial Times, the London Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement. He is the author of the biography Updike (2014), and his biography of Nadar, the great French portrait photographer, will be published in 2017.
Tina Berning is a Berlin-based artist and illustrator. Her work has been published in renowned anthologies, including American Illustration and Illustration Now!, and regularly appears in publications such as the New York Times, Architectural Digest and Vogue. She has contributed to advertising campaigns for clients such as Mercedes-Benz, Tiffany and Co. and Shiseido, and her work as a fine artist is shown regularly in solo exhibitions in the United States, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Canada.
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