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by Ian McEwan

Atonement Questions

  1. How is Briony similar to Ian McEwan, the author of the novel? How would the book be different if Briony were a boy (and later a man) rather than a girl (and later a woman)?
  2. Is Atonement a war novel? Why or why not? Does the book suggest that war is "the enemy of creative activity," as Briony's editor writes (3.227)?
  3. How does the last section of the novel, titled "London, 1999," change your understanding of the earlier parts of the book? Is the last section more true than the rest of the novel? And what would it mean to say it was "more true"?
  4. Ian McEwan has sometimes been nicknamed Ian Macabre—macabre meaning horrifying, disturbing, or weird. McEwan dislikes the nickname—but are there parts of Atonement that are macabre? What are they, and do you think they're necessary to the novel?
  5. Towards the end of the novel, Briony talks about the satisfaction of realistic details in novels (4.15-18). Why is realism important to Atonement? Would the novel work if it included, say, superheroes or vampires?
  6. Atonement shows you the world from many different characters' point of view. How would the novel be different if it was all from Cecilia's perspective? Robbie's? Briony's? Lola's?

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