On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her sister, Cecilia, strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching her is Robbie Turner, her childhood friend who, like Cecilia, has recently come down from Cambridge. By the end of that day, the lives of all three will have been changed forever. Robbie and Cecilia will have crossed a boundary they had not even imagined at its start, and will have become victims of the younger girl's imagination. Briony will have witnessed mysteries and committed a crime that creates in her a sense of guilt that will color her entire life. Ian McEwan has in each of his novels drawn the reader brilliantly into the intimate lives and situationsof his characters. But never before has he written on a canvas so large: taking the reader from a manor house in England in 1935, to the retreat to Dunkirk in 1941, to a London hospital soon after where the maimed, broken, and dying soldiers are shipped from the evacuation, to a reunion of the Tallis clan in 1999. Atonement is Ian McEwan's finest achievement. Brilliant and utterly enthralling in its depiction of childhood, love and war. England and class, it is at its center a profound-and profoundly moving-exploration of shame and forgiveness, of atonement and the difficulty of absolution.