I’ve really been in love with all of the books for adults I’ve read lately. Ian McEwan’s Atonement is no exception. I’ve still never seen the movie, and even though by now word of mouth has revealed a lot of the secrets of this book there is still a lot to be savored here.

I listened to this audio book during the cold, cold winter. Which was kind of perfect for the tone, actually. It is so sumptuous, so engrossing, that I was transported from a snowy New Jersey winter to the heat wave in Surrey between the wars. This is the first of McEwan’s novels I’ve read, but he is the kind of writer that makes you wish you were in his settings, no matter how bleak and unhappy the plot developments. Everything in his novel is well-mannered and articulate, from the landscaping to the tragedies. It’s all so elegant and heartbreaking.

Thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis is a writer, and to celebrate all her family gathering at the family home she writes a play. When the production of this play, starring her visiting cousins and herself, doesn’t go according to her plan, Briony’s imagination turns to everyone else in the house. She begins mettling in the lives of her older sister Cecilia and Robbie, the son of the housekeeper. Something is happening between Cecilia and Robbie, and Briony becomes jealous, misinterprets a series of events at the house, and tells a lie that leads to the heartbreaking events of the rest of the novel. Many lives are destroyed, and Briony spends her adult life trying to atone for her childhood actions.

But I found this novel to be so much more than the plot. It’s about the characters, and without the well-drawn lives of everyone in this story it’s impossible to be invested in the plot. All that happens hinges on what we understand about the characters. I thought that was brilliantly done, and despite the emotional roller coaster I felt while this book unfolded I was sad to see it end. A really great read.