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Atonement Summary


Here you will find a Atonement summary (Ian McEwan's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

Atonement Summary Overview

On a warm day in 1935, young Briony Tallis is disappointed by the performance of her play by her cousins, pushing her to abandon playwriting and move towards adulthood. Her sister, Cecilia, returns home from her graduation, experiencing a strained interaction with Robbie, their charlady's son, leading Briony to misunderstand the situation. As Robbie realizes his feelings for Cecilia, he accidentally entrusts Briony with an inappropriate letter for Cecilia, which she reads and misunderstands further. When Cecilia and Robbie admit their feelings for each other, Briony walks in on them, misinterpreting their passion as violence. During dinner, when the twin cousins disappear, Briony stumbles upon Lola, one of the cousins, being assaulted. She impulsively accuses Robbie, leading to his arrest. After serving three years in jail, Robbie enlists in the army in exchange for his early release. He and Cecilia maintain their relationship through letters, with Cecilia cutting off her family for their part in his wrongful conviction. Robbie clings to a hopeful future while facing the horrors of war. Meanwhile, Briony trains to become a nurse, grappling with guilt over her false accusation. Years later, Briony, now a nurse, is overwhelmed with guilt over the injustice she perpetrated. She's further shamed when she realizes that Paul Marshall, now married to Lola, was the real perpetrator of the assault. Briony attempts to right her wrong by promising to revise her testimony, but unfortunate circumstances prevent her from doing so. As an old woman, Briony is faced with the realization that her attempts at atonement have been in vain. She writes a novel in an attempt to provide the happy ending that Cecilia and Robbie were denied in real life, knowing it can only be published posthumously. In her final moments, she imagines a joyous gathering, with Cecilia and Robbie present, signifying her yearning for the peace she deprived them of.

part 1 chapter 1

Briony Tallis, at thirteen, has penned her first play titled 'The Trials of Arabella' for brother Leon's homecoming. The drama tells the story of Arabella, a lady who elopes with a foreign count but suffers cholera as a divine retribution. Even though abandoned by her lover and family, she finds love in her attending physician and the tale concludes with their matrimony and her family's acceptance. For Briony, who took to writing at eleven to escape a dreary life, the play offers a chance to showcase her talent, especially to her brother Leon. Her cousins, Lola and twins Jackson and Pierrot, are to enact the play and they are staying with her due to their parents' bitter divorce. The cousins' arrival introduces a wave of disappointment for Briony as their red hair and freckles don't match her characters. The rehearsal doesn't go smoothly either, with the twins being difficult and Lola appearing condescending. Briony feels belittled when Lola expresses a desire to play Arabella, a role Briony had reserved for herself. However, she doesn't deny Lola, feeling compelled to agree due to her age. The mental image of Lola basking in the accolades meant for Briony leaves her humiliated and she resents her own frailty in letting Lola overpower her. Briony tries to reassert her authority by instigating the rehearsal, but the lack of alignment between her cousins' performances and her vision exacerbates her frustration.

part 1 chapter 2

Cecilia Tallis, who is a decade older than her sister Briony, spends her morning gathering flowers for a guest's room as per her mother's request. She encounters Robbie Turner, son of their housemaid, while he works in the garden. Despite their shared childhood, Cecilia and Robbie have drifted apart over the years. Despite both having attended Cambridge, they rarely interacted. Robbie, a literature graduate and aspiring medical student, is sponsored by Cecilia's father, a fact that Cecilia finds both pretentious and presumptuous. Cecilia, also a Cambridge graduate, is currently aimless and staying at home. Cecilia comes across a valuable vase that once belonged to her Uncle Clem, who received it as a token of gratitude during World War I. Despite its worth, the family has chosen to keep it instead of selling it to a museum. As Cecilia arranges the flowers in the vase, she contemplates whether their intended recipient, her brother's friend Paul Marshall, will appreciate her efforts. When the kitchen is occupied by an irritable cook, Cecilia decides to fill the vase using the outdoor fountain. She interacts awkwardly with Robbie while asking him for a cigarette, recalling a previous encounter where Robbie's request to borrow a book left her feeling mocked and estranged. While trying to fill the vase from the fountain, a brief tug-of-war with Robbie results in the vase's lip breaking, and fragments falling into the fountain. Cecilia reprimands Robbie, who accepts blame and starts to strip to retrieve the pieces. However, Cecilia refuses his assistance, undresses to her undergarments, and dives into the fountain herself to retrieve the broken pieces. After resurfacing, she silently dresses and reenters the house.

part 1 chapter 3

Briony's plans for another rehearsal of The Trials of Arabella hit a snag once more when one of the twins, Jackson, is made to clean his soiled sheets and pajamas by the housekeeper, Betty. This takes a chunk of his day, leaving Briony with just Lola and Pierrot. However, she struggles with Lola's dismissive attitude towards the play and Pierrot's awkward line delivery. Amidst this, Briony finds herself contemplating her attire, wondering if she should dress more maturely like Lola. She also ponders about the complexity of human consciousness, questioning if her fingers act independently or are controlled by her and imagining the complexity of the world if everyone's thoughts are as layered as hers. She reflects how her play rehearsals have been unpredictable and muses that a written story for her brother, Leon, would have been easier since it doesn't require any external elements. As she gazes out the window, she spots Robbie and Cecilia by the fountain. Briony perceives Robbie's formal stance as a marriage proposal to Cecilia, aligning with her understanding of cross-class love stories. But then she sees Cecilia undress and enter the fountain, expecting Robbie to save her. Intrigued, Briony decides to just observe as she can't comprehend the scene. After Cecilia collects fragments of the vase and heads back inside, Briony marvels at the incident, realizing its uniqueness and complexity. This inspires her to write about the profundity of individual thoughts and emotions and the confounding scenarios that emerge from them. But for the time being, she must return to her play rehearsal.

part 1 chapter 4

Cecilia encounters her younger sister Briony, who looks upset, after fixing the broken vase. As Cecilia prepares to comfort Briony, driven by nostalgia, she realizes Briony wants to handle things herself. Briony, distraught, exclaims her play belongs to the wrong genre and hastily leaves, leaving Cecilia puzzled about her sister's distress. Cecilia places the mended vase with flowers in the guest room for Paul Marshall, and from the window, she spots Briony crossing the bridge to an artificial island on their lake, and their family's servant, Hardman, bringing guests Leon and Paul towards the house, with Robbie returning to his mom's place. She greets Leon and Paul and tells them about their parents’ whereabouts. During this, she observes changes in Hardman's son, Danny, who has grown up, and wonders if Lola has caught his attention. She takes Leon and Paul to the pool, where Paul monopolizes the conversation with tales of his chocolate company. Cecilia, who initially wondered if she could be attracted to Paul, now finds him dull. She tries to engage with Leon, and they share a private joke, reminiscent of their childhood bond. On learning that Leon has invited Robbie for dinner, Cecilia gets upset and suggests they retract the invite. Leon denies, making Cecilia ponder over the changing dynamics of sibling relationships. Resigned to the situation, she proposes they head inside for cocktails.

part 1 chapter 5

During a rehearsal, Briony abruptly leaves Lola and the twins, leading to their confusion. The twins get impatient, and Lola stumbles upon an abandoned bedroom where she sees Briony in the distance on an island temple. She comes across a man’s luggage in the room and exits. With no engaging activity and the twins refusing to swim with Cecilia, Leon, and Paul around, they play as Lola fixes her hair. Eventually, the twins break down due to missing home. Lola tries to comfort them by promising a return home soon, but Jackson retorts they have no genuine home because of the divorce. Lola is shocked to hear the word "divorce" from Jackson, chastising him for it and insisting he never use it again. Once the twins settle, Paul Marshall enters the room and introduces himself. Lola finds him cruel-looking but charming, an unusual mix that she finds appealing. Paul brings up reading about their parents in the newspapers, which shocks the twins. Lola dares Paul to reveal what he knows about them, and warns him not to bring up their parents to the twins again. Paul acknowledges Lola's mature appearance and commends her outfit. When Pierrot mentions he's hungry, Paul presents an Amo chocolate bar from his family’s business, explaining its durability even in war conditions. The twins argue their father's belief that there won't be a war, but Paul suggests otherwise. When the twins question why adults would desire chocolate, Paul hands it to Lola and insists on watching her eat it.

part 1 chapter 6

Emily Tallis retreats to her dim room, anticipating a migraine and hoping to recover before the evening meal. She contemplates her son Leon's career choice, wishing he had accepted a post in public service instead of a bank job. Emily's anxieties shift to her daughter Cecilia, whose introverted nature, unusual comrades from Cambridge, and smoking habit might deter potential suitors. Emily ponders over her youngest, Briony, who she fears would struggle with failure. She likens her niece Lola to Lola's attention-seeking mother Hermione, Emily's sister. Emily attributes her chronic migraines to her constant worrying over her family, which hinders her motherly duties and makes her children overly protective of her. Emily listens to the afternoon's commotion from her bed. Hearing Betty cater to the twins, Emily reflects on Briony's development from a dependent infant to a prolific storyteller and problem-creator. Mourning her age and inability to conceive again, Emily criticizes her sister's selfishness in leaving her children behind on the grounds of a mental health crisis. As her migraine subsides, Emily overhears Paul conversing with Lola and contemplates whether he could be a suitable match for Cecilia, given his apparent fondness for children. Realizing the tasks left to complete before dinner, Emily rises and searches for her sunglasses.

part 1 chapter 7

Briony spends her time at the neglected island temple, swiping at nettles with a stick. She imagines each nettle as Lola, the twins, and even her interest in playwriting, all of which she sees as annoyances. Once she's done, she decides it's time to sever ties with her childhood, as she finds it useless. Each of the 13 nettles she slashes at symbolizes a year of her life. In her mind, she's an Olympic participant, showcasing this unique sport. She hears a carriage near the house and envisions her brother Leon admiring her new prowess. Yet, she resists acknowledging him, demonstrating her indifference to others' views. Her daydream shatters, leaving her dissatisfied with the reality that she's not in a world she created. She retreats to the bridge connecting the house and island, resolving to stay until a significant event relieves her sense of unimportance.

part 1 chapter 8

Following his return from the Tallis residence to his bungalow, Robbie bathes while reminiscing about Cecilia's striking display by the fountain. Despite their longstanding friendship, he realizes he never really acknowledged her beauty before. Puzzled by her dramatic fountain display, he wonders if her intent was to demonstrate her beauty rather than show anger towards him. After contemplating his attendance at the Tallis' dinner, he commences a letter draft to Cecilia. A glance at a photograph of his parents, Grace and Ernest, during their honeymoon triggers a memory of his father, the Tallis’ former gardener, who vanished when Robbie was six. He also recalls a recent incident when he felt uncomfortable around Cecilia for the first time, which led to the unexpected growth of his affection for her. Robbie starts to pen an apology to Cecilia, initially joking about the heat causing his clumsiness, then changing his narrative. Unexpectedly, he writes a detailed and explicit account of his desire for Cecilia, which he instantly regrets and discards. He then rewrites the letter, only including the apology. He reflects on his humble upbringing, acknowledging that in spite of his background, Cecilia has always seen him as her equal. The anticipation of dinner with Cecilia and his upcoming medical school adventure surprises and excites Robbie. Robbie feels optimistic about his future as he strolls to the Tallis house. Spotting Briony on the bridge, he entrusts her with delivering his letter to Cecilia. After she dashes off with the letter, Robbie pauses for a smoke before following her. Suddenly, he realizes his original explicit letter was in the envelope he handed Briony, while the revised one remains on his desk. Despite his attempts to alert Briony, she had already disappeared into the house.

part 1 chapter 9

Cecilia swaps her attire thrice prior to supper, first snubbing a black dress for being too mournful, then a pink one for making her seem childish. She finally opts for a green silk backless gown, satisfied with her look. Opening her door, she finds Jackson and Pierrot without socks for dinner. She escorts them to their chaotic room and starts to tidy it. Seeing their embarrassment, she stops and tries to reassure them. The boys express their wish to return home and complain about Briony's absence as they wanted to partake in her play. Cecilia mulls over her sister's disappearance, yearning for a carefree summer evening rather than playing the responsible adult. With a sigh, she takes the boys to Briony's room to find them socks and after tidying their hair, she accompanies them downstairs. Pausing on the staircase, Cecilia is reminded of Leon's lack of familial obligations. She wishes her family realized how much she matured at Cambridge and reproaches herself for coming back home instead of seeking an adventure. She decides to relocate to London and secure employment, believing she’d appreciate her family more from a distance. In the kitchen, she stumbles upon her mother and Betty in a dispute over dinner which she resolves. She then joins Leon for a drink on the terrace while Emily hunts for Briony. Strolling in the garden, she marvels at Leon's simple view of the world and his unwavering trust in people. Leon proposes that she join him in London, and despite her internal resistance, she agrees. On their return to the terrace, they encounter Briony who hands Cecilia a folded note before acknowledging Leon. Reading Robbie's letter, Cecilia pieces together the puzzle of her earlier argument with Robbie and her costume changes. However, the missing envelope puzzles her; Robbie wouldn’t send a private letter unsealed. When she confronts Briony about reading it, Briony simply ignores her.

part 1 chapter 10

After interpreting Robbie's letter, Briony feels as if she has uncovered a new realm of mature emotions. Despite not comprehending some terms in the letter, she is certain about Robbie's intentions. She is convinced that Robbie poses a threat to Cecilia and their family. As she writes down her thoughts, Lola enters with injuries from an altercation with the twins. Briony comforts Lola and feels empowered by the situation. She tells Lola about Robbie's letter, who labels Robbie a “maniac” and urges Briony to inform the authorities. Feeling nervous about meeting Robbie at dinner, Briony attempts to be brave for Cecilia's sake. She notices the library door is shut, which puzzles her since her father isn't home. She hears noises from inside and opens the door to find Robbie and Cecilia in a compromising situation. Briony is taken aback that Cecilia doesn't seem relieved at her interruption. She prepares for a confrontation with Robbie, but when he doesn't react, she leaves to find Cecilia.

part 1 chapter 11

During a tense dinner, Robbie and Cecilia exchange awkward glances. Robbie notes a scratch on Paul's face and tries to use the heat as a topic of casual conversation, startling Pierrot and earning a reprimand from Briony. Leon contributes his thoughts about how a heat wave can alter social behaviors and loosen inhibitions. Robbie's mind drifts back to his time alone with Cecilia. He remembers her answering the door with his letter, then their private moment in the library where he explained the mix-up with the letters. Cecilia confessed her growing attraction for him, and they found themselves passionately drawn to each other. Their intimate moment was interrupted when Briony walked in, a moment Robbie found deeply frustrating. Jackson and Pierrot request to leave the dinner table, and Briony gets upset when she notices them wearing her socks. Cecilia berates Briony for her childish behavior. Robbie compliments Lola's brothers, but Briony accuses them of hurting Lola. As Emily tends to Lola, Paul explains that his scratch was due to intervening in Lola's dispute with the twins. Robbie finds it strange that Paul didn't mention it earlier. Briony finds a note from the twins revealing their plan to run away. Paul proposes organising search parties, with Cecilia and Leon paired together, and Briony, Paul, and Robbie each searching on their own.

part 1 chapter 12

Emily, left behind, is hesitant to reach out to the local police officer, not just because she's confident the twins will return shortly, but also because she'd rather not interact with his chatty wife. She finds herself harboring resentment towards Lola due to her injuries, which to Emily, signal Lola's flair for theatrics. Emily predicts that even after the twins are located, they'll still have to find and comfort Lola. She also contemplates about her husband's forthcoming call from London, disguising his stay as work-related, which she knows isn't true. As she gazes out the window, she reflects on Briony being her last child and envisions no significant event until her own demise. After a considerable waiting period, the telephone rings, and Emily finds her husband, Jack, on the line. She informs him about the twins' disappearance, and Jack, alarmed, insists on notifying the constable. Emily attempts to dissuade him, but when Leon, Cecilia, Briony, and Lola show up at the doorstep, Emily senses that something else is amiss. Leon seizes the phone and urges his father to return home immediately.

part 1 chapter 13

Briony decides to join in the search for the missing twins and heads towards the pool, her first guess for their whereabouts. As she races in the dark, she ponders about how her actions to protect her sister from Robbie have matured her. She's taken aback by Robbie's heinous act despite the kindness her family has always shown him. She now sees him as an intriguing, real-life villain, anticipating how her siblings and parents would turn against him once they learn the truth. Discovering the twins aren't near the pool, Briony affirms Cecilia and the twins are safe. She realizes her innocence has been lost due to the day's events. As she roams the estate, she spots her mother in the drawing room, contemplating about her mother's inevitable death. However, she pushes this thought aside and continues the search. Overcoming her fear of the darkness, she heads towards the temple on an island, suspecting the twins might be there. Upon arriving, she spots two figures, one of which she soon realizes is Lola. After watching the larger figure vanish into the dark, Briony approaches Lola. She prompts Lola to identify her attacker, but before Lola could answer, Briony concludes it was Robbie. Lola doesn't confirm Briony's accusation, but she doesn't refute it either, saying the attacker had covered her eyes. Briony's preconception about Robbie and the glimpse of the broad figure in the darkness convinces her that Robbie was the attacker, even though she didn't actually see the man. Despite not having visual proof, Briony is certain that her understanding of the situation is enough. She fears her explanation being dismissed as a child's mistake, so she sticks to her narrative of clearly seeing Robbie. Eventually, Lola and Briony are found by Leon, who carries Lola back to the house, while Briony shares her version of events.

part 1 chapter 14

Post Lola's return to the residence, Briony is the initial interlocutor with the police, pointing out Robbie as Lola's attacker. The police and doctor's movement around the house doesn't bring Robbie or the twins to the scene, whereas Paul has returned and is updated on the situation. Cecilia stays out of the discussions. Briony then recalls another evidence, Robbie's letter, which she believes, could corroborate her claim. She retrieves the letter from Cecilia’s room, shows it to Leon, who in turn hands it to the police. Everyone's unresponsiveness surprises Briony. Emily reads the letter and chides Cecilia for not sharing it earlier to possibly prevent Lola's ordeal. Angered, Cecilia retreats to her room as the letter is accepted as evidence by the police. Later, Briony recounts her accusations against Robbie in a formal police interview in the library. Other individuals, including Leon, Paul, Hardman, and Danny Hardman, are also questioned except Cecilia who initially declines. Eventually, Cecilia consents for an interview where she states her interaction with Robbie as being consensual, but Robbie's image has by then been tarnished. She also indicates Danny Hardman as a person of interest, however, his alibi leads the police to believe that she is trying to shield her old friend. In the early dawn hours, Robbie is sighted approaching the house with the twins. Briony is appalled by Robbie's apparent attempt to redeem himself by bringing the twins back safely. Despite Emily's directive for Briony to retire to bed, Briony fears Robbie's action might make her accusations appear unfounded. A car's noise prompts Briony to peer out of the window where she sees Robbie being handcuffed and led to the police car – a sight that reinforces her belief in his guilt. Cecilia seen running to Robbie is interpreted by Briony as Cecilia admonishing him for his wrongdoings. Briony is awestruck by Cecilia’s easy forgiveness and feels that this unfortunate event could help mend their relationship. As Robbie is guided into the car, Cecilia watches it drive away, clearly upset. Before the rest of the police cars depart, Robbie’s mother arrives, shouting accusations of lies at the house.

part 2

Three years on, Robbie Turner is a British soldier in France, suffering from a shrapnel injury. He's journeying with two other officers, Corporals Nettle and Mace, towards the coast. They stumble upon a barn for shelter, despite the owner's warnings about her sons. However, the sons, Henri and Jean-Marie, bring them food and wine. Henri and Jean-Marie share that they found their cousin's village in ruins. Turner reveals he got separated from his unit and they're en route to Dunkirk. Despite his doubts, Turner reassures them the British army will return. He learns their mother dislikes soldiers due to a loss in the First World War. That night, Turner recalls his prison term and Cecilia's words: “I’ll wait for you. Come back.” They maintained contact via letters, weaving in literary references to evade censorship. They met once, after his early release in return for military service. During the passionate reunion, they planned a future together but war interrupted their plans. Cecilia's refusal to reunite with her family and Briony's nursing career weigh on Turner. Next day, they head towards Dunkirk, encountering war-devastated scenes and a zealous major rallying people to fight. Despite the major's persistent requests and an incoming German bomber, they refuse and continue their journey. Deep into their journey, Turner's wound worsens. He clings to Cecilia's promise and potential redemption if Briony changes her statement. He grapples with the possibility of forgiving Briony, recalling an incident in their childhood when he saved her from drowning. He speculates her false accusation was borne out of jealousy. Upon entering a village, they see German aircrafts attacking. Turner tries to help a mother and child, but in vain. He reflects on his uncertain past and his desire to be a better father. They finally reach Dunkirk and find the beach crowded with soldiers. In a nearby bar, they witness a fight against an RAF clerk, whom they cunningly save from the mob. As they seek shelter in a ruined house, Turner ponders over his exoneration and the collective guilt of war. He contemplates staying in France to help, but is shaken awake by Nettle who tells him about the incoming rescue boats. Reassured, he remembers Cecilia's promise and asks Nettle to wake him when the boats arrive, only to find Nettle gone.

part 3

Briony, now a nurse-in-training at a London hospital, senses a change in the air. She has noticed that the head nurse, Sister Drummond, has been too distracted to enforce her usual strict discipline. Briony has chosen this life of nursing over attending Cambridge like her sister Cecilia. She enjoys the distraction it provides and the independence it gives her from her family. Briony has not stopped writing. She keeps a journal and even sent a short story to a magazine for publication. However, she hasn't heard back from them or Cecilia, to whom she also wrote. Briony realizes that the hospital's heightened tension is due to the British retreat from France. Briony gets a letter from her father revealing that Lola Quincey and Paul Marshall are engaged. She finally understands that Paul was Lola's attacker on that summer night in 1935. This realization intensifies her guilt over falsely accusing Robbie. She wonders if her father has also uncovered the truth. During an afternoon off, Briony and her friend Fiona enjoy a band playing at St. James’s Park. With the grim news of the war invading her thoughts, Briony can't help but wonder about Robbie's fate. She feels her personal guilt is intensified by the global conflict. Later, the sight of wounded men brought to the hospital by ambulances jolts her back to reality. She assists in tending to a man’s leg wound and can't help but imagine if Robbie might be among the injured. In the chaos of treating many wounded men, Briony ends up comforting a young French soldier named Luc Cornet, who mistakes her for his girlfriend. Before dying, he asks if she loves him and she says yes. After the night's ordeal, Briony finds a letter from Horizon magazine. The magazine praises her talent and offers feedback on her novella, a retelling of what she saw between Cecilia and Robbie before his arrest. As days pass, Briony's pessimism about the war deepens. She arranges to have a Saturday off and heads to a church where Lola and Paul are getting married. Briony considers objecting to the marriage but realizes it's futile. She makes eye contact with Lola, who dismisses her with a frown. Next, Briony visits Cecilia’s apartment. She shares some family updates with Cecilia, who seems surprised about some, while already aware of others. Robbie emerges from the bedroom and is angry at Briony's presence. Briony tells them that she wants to correct her past mistake and admits that she now knows Robbie is innocent. Cecilia outlines her plan: Briony must tell their parents the truth, give a statement retracting her original testimony to a solicitor, and write a letter to Robbie explaining her actions. During this meeting, Briony reveals that Paul, not Danny Hardman, attacked Lola, and that she has just attended Paul and Lola’s wedding. This news shocks Robbie and Cecilia, as they realize Lola will never accuse her husband. As Briony leaves, she watches Cecilia and Robbie together, grateful that their love survived her lie and the war. She plans to rewrite her novella as an act of atonement. The section concludes with Briony's initials, BT, and the year 1999.

london 1999

On her seventy-seventh birthday, Briony visits the Imperial War Museum's library. Recently diagnosed with vascular dementia, she wants to ensure the archives are organized before her memory fades. As she arrives, she crosses paths with philanthropist couple, Paul and Lola Marshall. Briony notes their good health and fears Lola will outlive her, affecting her upcoming book's release. In the reading room, she gives the keeper a bundle of letters from Corporal Nettle about Dunkirk to be archived with her other documents. An amateur historian provides her with notes to correct inaccuracies in her recent manuscript. Returning to her apartment, Briony prepares for her birthday dinner, reminiscing about her late husband, Thierry. She is driven to her former family estate, now a hotel. The transformation of the property made her glad, believing it to be a happier place now. Among the guests are her relatives Leon and Pierrot, along with their families, who commend her on her books. As a pleasant surprise, the youngsters perform "The Trials of Arabella." Lying awake post-dinner, Briony contemplates about her latest novel, a decade-long project. It details the crime she, Lola, and Paul committed in 1935 without any disguise. Her editors warned against publishing it until Lola and Paul's deaths to avoid lawsuits. Given Lola's health, Briony realizes the book will only be published posthumously. In the final version of her novel, lovers Robbie and Cecilia reunite in London, a departure from the tragic truth. Briony hopes her novel brings kindness to Robbie and Cecilia's memories and imagines them in love at her birthday party.

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