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Last Updated:  Thursday, 27 February, 2003, 09:32 GMT
McEwan wins US fiction award
Ian McEwan
Ian McEwan also won the 1998 Booker Prize for Amsterdam
British author Ian McEwan's best-selling novel Atonement has won one of the top prizes for fiction in the US.

The National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) chose McEwan's book, previously shortlisted for the Booker prize and a Whitbread award in the UK, in New York on Wednesday.

In other categories, Samantha Power's A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide won the general non-fiction prize and BH Fairchild's Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest took the poetry award.

The critics group is made up of about 750 of America's leading book editors and critics.

More than 250,000 copies of Atonement are in print in the US alone, which industry analysts consider remarkable for a literary novel published during difficult economic times.

Rave reviews

Hearing of his novel's NBCC success, McEwan said in a statement that he thought "Atonement would be pretty much an acquired taste".

McEwan has long been known for complex, disturbing novels such as The Innocent and Black Dogs.

Atonement however has proved a big hit with the general public in both the UK and the US and brought the author some of his best reviews.

It tells the story of 13-year-old Briony, growing up in-between the wars in the English countryside.

She witnesses a series of highly charged encounters, which she completely misinterprets.

Before long she is accusing a family friend of a crime he did not commit.

It is something for which he, the innocent and she, the false accuser, atones for the rest of the novel and their lives.

The NBCC also named Janet Browne's Charles Darwin: The Power of Place as winner of the biography/autobiography category.

And William Gass won the criticism category for Tests of Time.

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