Discussion Questions; Windsor Book Club: Atonement, Part Three/London, 1999.

Briony/Nurse Tallis and her struggle with the realization of the truth of her crime.

Part Three

1. Briony is now working on a hospital ward in London. The same as her sister Cecelia had in the past. What impact did her sister’s chosen profession have on her decision to become a nurse?  Do you think Briony was cut out to be a wartime nurse? (keep in mind her particularity about details as well as her fanciful and creative view of the world.)

2. Briony’s talk with the young French soldier who turned out to be fatally wounded was an important event for Briony. Why? Why was she asked to spend time with him? How did you feel about this scene? A soldier confessing his love on what turns out to be his deathbed, how would this register with Briony? Do you think she would have compared him to Robbie?

3. After hearing of Lola and Paul’s marriage and working a unimaginably stressful day working on the ward, something in Briony changed. What was this change? (Remember at this time she receives the detailed rejection letter from the magazine). How much of an impact did you think this news had on Briony’s ‘choice’ to confront her sister, seek forgiveness, or at least amends? Why did it influence her?

4. What did you originally think of the meeting in Cecelia’s flat in Balham? Did you feel anything for Briony, relief? guilt? discomfort? nothing?  Were you shocked upon Robbie’s entrance and reaction to her presence?

London, 1999.

1.  When a Seventy-seven year old Briony encounters Lola and Paul Marshall on her way into the Imperial War Museum, she realizes something important about the eventual publication of her novel. What is this?

2. At Briony’s birthday party at the old Tallis house, how did your return, as a reader, to the old house make you feel? Did you have visions of the events that took place as you followed old Briony throughout the manor, up the stairs, into the  bedroom and into the library? Were you curious why Cecelia or Robbie wasn’t there at this time before reading about their ultimate fate?

3. The long awaited presentation of ‘The Trials of Arabella’ finally takes place in the library, Briony is overwhelmed and Pierrot breaks down. Were you satisfied by the inclusion of this happening in the novel. Did it fill the void and curiosity that the original presentation’s failure left in Part One?

4. At the end when McEwan reveals to us that the entirety of the book was ‘written’ by Briony and the result of several reviews. How did this make you feel about everything you just read? Did you agree with her decision to create a fictionally tangible relationship between Robbie and Cecelia for her own sake and for her own conscience?

5. Do you agree with the title of the novel?  And is Atonement ever really achieved for Briony Tallis?

-Miss Hailey Jane


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