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Can anyone explain the ending of Atonement to me?

(35 Posts)
Boyswillbeboys Sun 12-Oct-08 14:11:26

I've finally got round to reading the book, and haven't seen the film so not sure if it ends the same. I am a bit confused though ..
Did Briony tell her parents in the end? Did Robbie and Cecilia really survive the war? If they did, why didn't they come to her birthday party? And if she DID tell the truth, why was Pierrot there - surely he would have been loyal to Lola?

LIZS Sun 12-Oct-08 14:14:20

It is deliberately ambiguous ! If you see the film you get a more categoric ending

MrsMattie Sun 12-Oct-08 14:18:06

Thought it was a cop out

Boyswillbeboys Sun 12-Oct-08 14:21:49

I loved the book but the ending was such a disappointment! I must see the film now .. I think Kiera Knightley is good casting for Cecilia, in terms of the description at least, I hope she lives up to my expectations on screen. I like to hope they did get together in the end but in real life it would be more likely that he died in the war and she could quite easily have died in the bombings.

kt14 Sun 12-Oct-08 19:53:02

I've only read the book, keep meaning to get the film out. I personally don't think they did survive the war, I think Briony was giving them a better ending by rewriting history in her account of what happened. We discussed it in our book group and everyone had a different opinion though, that's just mine!

CorpseBrideOfJohnCusack Sun 12-Oct-08 20:25:04

I completely agree with KT14 but didn't think there was any ambiguity about it!

Anna8888 Sun 12-Oct-08 20:26:18

No ambiguity in either the book or the film - Robbie and Cecilia did not survive the war.

janeite Sun 12-Oct-08 20:29:17

I thought it was a rubbish book but I didn't think that the ending was ambiguous - they were both dead.

Boyswillbeboys Sun 12-Oct-08 20:31:16

Do you mean they never even managed to meet up again at Cecilia's lodgings or did they both die after that? I definitely think it is unclear.

Anna8888 Sun 12-Oct-08 20:32:46

The story about Robbie and Cecilia surviving the war is a literary device to prolong the story and tell it as it might have happened. The reader gets much more involved with the characters and is therefore all the more distressed when they die.

There wouldn't have been much of a novel if that bit hadn't been included.

Anna8888 Sun 12-Oct-08 20:33:11

They never managed to meet up at Cecilia's lodgings.

summerdressesandlacyboots Sun 12-Oct-08 20:35:58

The meet up is all in the author's head in the film (not read the book) as a way of getting over her feeling so guilty for lying about him. So she gives them a happy ending

MrsBumblebee Sun 12-Oct-08 20:37:35

Agree that there's no ambiguity - they don't survive the war, and Briony wrote the happy version to atone for what she did. My memory is a bit more hazy about the rest - but I seem to remember thinking that she didn't tell her parents or anyone else the truth (sort of no point because Robbie and Cecilia are both dead, so it won't achieve anything). But I can't remember whether she told the truth eventually, or whether/why Pierrot was at the party.

poissonfou Sun 12-Oct-08 20:38:21

briony created a fantasy situation of a happy ending due to her guilt-atonement

MrsHappy Sun 12-Oct-08 20:44:05

I don't think it is clear in the book that Robbie and Cecelia never met at her lodgings. What is clear is that Briony never made it there - she went to Lola's wedding in Clapham and then chickened out of walking to Balham to see Cecelia. As we're not given a date for Lola's wedding we don't know whether it is possible that Briony could have visited them even if she'd had the courage to do so; they may already have been dead.

At some point in 1940 Robbie dies in France (Dunkirk - May 1940) and Cecelia in the bomb that hit Balham tube station (I think that was towards the end of the year). The book does not say whether there was any point before that when Cecelia and Robbie were together other than the meeting in the tea house. I rather thought they would have been for a bit, but that's my interpretation.

TheDuchessOfCorpseBride Sun 12-Oct-08 20:44:49

A rather selfish 'atonement' I thought! Briony lands Cecilia & Robbie in a crap place which results in their deaths, has a lovely career herself as a writer and gets a final bestseller by re-writing the misery she caused. So that's all OK then. hmm I think she's only saying sorry on the off-chance that there is a God and she doesn't want to mess up her Judgement Day. The spoilt brat.

<hefts up bosom and purses lips>

slayerette Sun 12-Oct-08 20:59:42

Robbie never makes it back to England - he dies in France - and Cecelia dies when she's caught in an underground station that floods when bombed.

Everything from the meeting at the lodgings onwards in Briony's atonement for her childhood crime; she writes them a happy ending but they do not have one, I'm afraid.

expatinscotland Sun 12-Oct-08 21:01:26

i never got to the end.

i gave up because i couldn't be arsed reading about an utterly selfish beeotch of a person, and vapid and stupid into the bargain, like Briony.

googgly Sun 12-Oct-08 21:03:49

For me the whole point of the book is the brilliant, and ambiguous, ending. As summerdresses says, she is commenting on how as a writer of fiction you can make things up the way you would have liked them to have been. It's about the beauty of being a writer.

mollymawk Sun 12-Oct-08 21:09:53

But I think it's fascinating that we all (me included) desperately want them to have survived and are hugely disappointed that they only have done in Briony's imagination, but would be quite happy if they had done "really" - but that would just be in the author's imagination. I can't quite get my head round that.

janeite Sun 12-Oct-08 21:28:08

Lol Expat - it's all pretty excrutiating, isn't it?

I finished it but hated it; normally I wouldn't have bothered going on until the end but I must have been bookless at the time.

ScottishMummy Sun 12-Oct-08 21:32:15

hats off to anyone who finished this self indulgent badly written dross. i hated it

expatinscotland Sun 12-Oct-08 21:33:46

it was a library checkout for me, jane.

actually, briony reminded me of that little brat cartoon character, Lola.

i just truly couldn't be bothered.

mabanana Sun 12-Oct-08 21:36:42

I think writing books about writing books is such wank, I really do.
Now, Birdsong, that's a fantastic book about love and wartime.

expatinscotland Sun 12-Oct-08 21:37:24

Birdsong is brilliant.

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