A magnificent deception. Briony Tallis, the intricate English girl at the center of Atonement, is a budding writer. At the age of 13 she believes that through her powers of invention and language, “an unruly world could be made just so.” In a complicated way, she turns out to be right, but only after she turns out to be catastrophically wrong. In the first half of the book, she passionately misunderstands a series of events she witnesses on a summer day in 1935, which leads her to formulate a lie that ruins the lives of her older sister Cecilia and Cecilia’s lover Robbie. So much for the virtues of the imagination. But McEwan is crafty. Even as he shows us the deadly force of storytelling, he demonstrates its beguilements on every page. Then he leads us to a surprise ending in which the power of fiction, which has been used to undo lives, is used again to make heartbroken amends.