Study Guide

Atonement Chapter 12

By Ian McEwan

Chapter 12

  • Emily wonders whether to call the police, but doesn't really want to talk to the local constable's wife, or the constable himself for that matter.
  • She remembers how much she'd disliked her prima donna sister Hermione, and thinks that Lola is just like her mother. This seems kind of harsh to poor Lola, considering that she's fifteen and her parents are getting divorced. But anyway.
  • While waiting for her husband to call, Emily reveals that she knows he's having an affair. It bothers her only moderately, and she appreciates his attentiveness to pretending he isn't cheating on her.
  • She then muses about whether Paul Marshall would be a good husband for Cecilia. Emily likes the idea that he'll be super rich someday, and thinks he might get better looking as he ages. That he is intensely boring doesn't seem to register for her.
  • Finally Jack Tallis calls. Jack and Emily recount their days a bit to each other before Emily mentions the disappearance of the twins. Jack says he's going to call the police.
  • Before he can get off the phone, though, Leon comes in with Cecilia, Lola, and Briony. All are visibly upset.
  • Leon speaks briefly to his father, asking him to come home as quickly as possible. He then guides Emily into the drawing room to tell her what she senses will be terrible news.