Ian McEwan’s 2003 novel, Atonement, opens with the following quote from Northanger Abbey:
“If I understand you rightly, you had formed a surmise of such horror as I have hardly words to—Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you. Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive at them? Could they be perpetrated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing, where every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay everything open? Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?”
In the summer of 1935, 13 year old Briony Tallis is a budding writer with a vivid imagination. A vivid imagination that works for her writing, but does not work in real life. She witnesses an act between her elder sister Cecilia and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant who was also childhood friends with Cecilia. Not understanding what has transpired between Cecilia and Robbie, she accuses him of rape.
Flashing forward to World War II, Briony is now a young woman. She has begun to comprehend the mistake of accusing Robbie of rape and the effect it has on everyone around her. A third flash forward reveals Briony as an older woman, using her literary gifts to give Cecilia and Robbie the life that she stole from them.
In 2007, this book was turned into a movie with Saoirse Ronan as Briony at age 13, Romola Garai as Briony at age 18 and Vanessa Redgrave as the elderly Briony. Keira Knightley and James McAvoy played the separated lovers, Cecilia and Robbie.
I recommend both the book and the movie. The book is well written. The movie keeps close to the plot of the book and has a very nice cast.