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Description - The Innocent by Ian McEwan

The setting is Berlin. Into this divided city, wrenched between East and West, between past and present; comes twenty-five-year-old Leonard Marnham, assigned to a British-American surveillance team. Though only a pawn in an international plot that is never fully revealed to him, Leonard uses his secret work to escape the bonds of his ordinary life - and to lose his unwanted innocence. The promise of his new life begins to be fulfilled as Leonard becomes a crucial part of the surveillance team, while simultaneously being initiated into a new world of love and sex by Maria, a beautiful young German woman. It is a promise that 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.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099277095
ISBN-10: 0099277093
Format: Paperback
(200mm x 130mm x 18mm)
Pages: 240
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 29-Aug-1998
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - The Innocent by Ian McEwan

UK Kirkus Review » In part a thriller, in which the machinations of a top-secret Cold War telephone-tapping operation (the real-life 1955 Operation Gold in Berlin) are investigated and explained, and in part a murder/romance - boy meets girl, boy meets girl's ex-husband, ex-husband meets a graphically sticky end. Concise and controlled; a masterly, evocative page-turner. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » McEwan's latest - his best shot at a popular novel - is something of a departure from his previous work (The Child in Time, The Comfort of Strangers, etc.), but no less skillful in design or execution. Part romance, part murder mystery, and part spy intrigue, this cool tale of postwar Berlin relies on a number of historical and dramatic ironies for its punch. As the Cold War begins to freeze, Leonard Marnham, a shy and dithering young electrician from England, is assigned to work on a top-secret, Anglo-American project in West Berlin. With no experience in intelligence, the "clumsy, reticent" Brit is soon engulfed in a world of secrecy. Bob Glass, Leonard's gruff Yank superior, considers the English inept and sloppy, incapable of seeing secrecy as the essence of individuality. For over a year, they have to work together on a massive piece of spying - the creation of an underground tunnel into the Russian sector that will allow the CIA and MI6 to tap master phonelines. As Leonard and Glass develop an improbable friendship, neither knows that the Russians have been on to them since the beginning. Meanwhile, Leonard - the most obvious "innocent" here - loses his virginity to a 30-year-old German woman, Maria Eckdorf, and begins a relationship that must also be shrouded in secrecy. Just as they settle into the miserable ordinariness of living together, they're visited by Maria's ex-husband, a violent drank, whom Leonard kills in self. defense. Fearing disbelief, the young couple attempt to cover up their crime, of which they're technically innocent. But the difficulties of dumping a hacked-up body lead Leonard back to his workplace, and also cause him to betray the project. When the Russians crash through the tunnel - for reasons unrelated to Leonard's conscious treason - he's eventually called home, but his once-pure love for Maria has been irreparably defiled. A coda, set 30 years later, solves many of the remaining mysteries, and suggests the depth of innocence and false knowledge at play back in the days of high-spying. McEwan's clinical account of dismemberment reminds us of the dark imagination displayed in his other work - it's also bound to turn off the wider audience who would otherwise enjoy this clean and clever fiction. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan is the author of two collections of stories and twelve previous novels, including Enduring Love, Amsterdam, for which he won the Booker Prize in 1998, Atonement and, most recently, Solar.

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