A novel in four set-pieces, each of which could be a novel in its own right. McEwan writes with uncommon delicacy and tenderness, but his plot is as powerful and remorseless as a walking artillery strike, and it finishes you off with what is, along with the secret of Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, one of the great plot reveals of the decade. Atonementis the story of an unspeakable crime compounded by a terrible error. What McEwan never reveals is whether the atonement of the title is ever truly possible.
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