The Pequod Review:
Atonement was Ian McEwan's breakthrough novel, one that is structured as a four-part epic. The narrative begins as an English country estate drama (the longest and best section), shifts into a World War II story set in a French battlefield, then becomes a fascinating character study of a London trainee nurse, and finally ends with a resolution that upends everything that came before. Each of the four set pieces is first-rate, and they are linked by a common story line involving a betrayal. Meanwhile, the book's resolution (which I will not reveal) is ingenious — it isn't just a cheap plot trick, but is one with real depth as it considers the value of literature and the human imagination. If perhaps the overall novel does not add up to the sum of its parts, it is nonetheless one of McEwan’s most thrilling and satisfying books, and one which rightfully earned him the success and reputation he deserves.