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The Innocent: A Novel by Ian McEwan

The Innocent: A Novel (original 1990; edition 1998)

by Ian McEwan

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1,607254,523 (3.67)34
Title:The Innocent: A Novel
Authors:Ian McEwan
Info:Anchor (1998), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:audiobook, fiction, Germany

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The Innocent by Ian McEwan (1990)


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English (21)  Spanish (3)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (25)
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Riveting story, masterful writing (as usual)... but icky, icky corpse disposal scene. Ugh. ( )
  joecanas | Jan 12, 2014 |
Not as good as the other McEwan that I've read (though possibly better than Endless Love), but nice all the same. A must if you want some literate cold war espionage.
  BrianFannin | May 31, 2013 |
I didn't really get into this story of a young Englishman sent to Berlin for some technical spying work, but the first half or so was OK. After that, it seemed to go downhill chapter by chapter: unlikely plot developments, contrived relationships, and annoying characters seemed to abound. ( )
  mari_reads | Mar 2, 2013 |
this is probably not the best Ian McEwan book to start with - I hope ( )
  rosies | Aug 8, 2012 |
This may look like a very harsh rating, but if you equate two stars with "it was okay" and one star with "didn't like it", my rating falls somewhere between those two. The Innocent was okay in places but unlikeable (at least for me) in others. I have the feeling that this was a book that just didn't work for me personally.

The setting was the main draw for me: I am very favourably disposed toward stories set during the Cold War, particularly Cold War Berlin when the intelligence services are involved, and Leonard made a promising protagonist in his shy, withdrawn, technically minded way. I enjoyed reading the technical bits, not so much the love story bits because they provided rather more detail than I needed (I prefer the author to imply things and then tiptoe out and close the door). Still, it was easy enough to skim those parts for a while.

What stopped me in my tracks was one love-story bit I was in the process of skimming through, where Leonard suddenly started developing what were, to put not too fine a point on it, rape fantasies. Since he was an Englishman and his lover was German, he started having these appalling "I am a conquering English soldier and I am forcing this conquered German woman to have sex with me" thoughts running through his head during the act. It quite honestly made my skin crawl to read that. And then he wanted to tell her these fantasies! Insensitive, to say the least. I didn't stick around to see whether he did. Also I'd lost interest in the main plot, so there wasn't even that to help me keep going.

McEwan did have some nice pockets of description here and there (I was particularly taken with his description of a "Sunday silence"), but overall I don't think this book and I were really meant to be. I probably wouldn't have read it had it not been for the recommendation or at least favourable mention by a co-worker who has often given me good recommendations before, so perhaps that is part of it too. I wanted to like it, but didn't. Alas. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Dec 20, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Ian McEwan has concentrated too much of his artistic energy on the surface of his story, has burnished it to such a high finish that not only the eye but the mind slides over and, ultimately, off the page.

Despite all that, I have to say that The Innocent is marvelously entertaining, filled with dark irony, with horror and regret.
added by jburlinson | editNew York Review of Books, John Banville (pay site) (Dec 6, 1990)
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It was Lieutenant Lofting who dominated the meeting. "Look here, Marnham. You've only just arrived, so there's no reason why you should know the situation. It's not the Germans or the Russians who are the problem here. It isn't even the French. It's the Americans. They don't know a thing. What's worse, they won't learn, they won't be told. It's just how they are."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385494335, Paperback)

Leonard Marnham is assigned to a British-American surveillance team in Cold War Berlin. His intelligence work—tunneling under a Russian communications center to tap the phone lines to Moscow—offers him a welcome opportunity to begin shedding his own unwanted innocence, even if he is only a bit player in a grim international comedy of errors. Leonard's relationship with Maria Eckdorf, an enigmatic and beautiful West Berliner, likewise promises to loosen the bonds of his ordinary life. But the promise turns to horror in the course of one terrible evening—a night when Leonard Marnham learns just how much of his innocence he's willing to shed.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:54 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

McEwan acknowledges his debt to the historian David Martin for the true story of the Berlin Tunnel or Operation Gold. To this truth, McEwan has wedded a fiction of tragedy and a love story of a sort.

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