The Innocent
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The Innocent

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  4,459 ratings  ·  387 reviews
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 unwante...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published December 22nd 2010 by Anchor (first published January 1st 1990)
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Dec 03, 2013 Mark rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mark by: My bookshop guardian angel
This is an odd book which I thoroughly enjoyed. Set in mid 1950's Berlin it is the story of a young Englishman assigned to a joint British-American surveillance team. The mistrust and dislike of allies and comrades in arms is quietly stated but undeniable and there were tongue in cheek descriptions by McEwan of the wonderfully contorted levels of security which purportedly existed so as to preserve the safety and secrecy of the work and yet seemed just to encourage people to seek desperately to...more
'To innocence. And to Anglo-German co-operation.'

This is what Leonard, a stuffy English engineer who has been sent to post-war, pre-wall Berlin to assist in an attempt to tap Soviet landlines, and Maria, a mysterious German divorcee who initiates him in the art of love, say to each other at their engagement party. Just a few pages later, they lose their innocence in the most gruesome fashion imaginable, after which Anglo-German co-operation takes a back seat and confusion and paranoia take over....more
With Ian McEwan. Atonement remains one of my favorite books, but when I tried Saturday I just couldn't connect with the book. When I saw his book the Innocent, set in one of my favorite periods, the mid-Cold War, I just had to try it. The setting turns out to be relatively unimportant. This isn't really a Cold War thriller, but is a classic McEwan exploration of the inner life of a few people.

In this case, we have the inexperienced British civil servant, Leonard , who is sent to work on a joint...more
I wish I knew what this 1990 novel was trying to be, because as well written as the prose is, The Innocent feels all over the place. It’s a post-WWII Berlin spy novel, but it’s mostly about politics – not so much between the Russians and the west, but between Germany, the Americans, and the British. It’s also a coming-of-age story, in a way; though the protagonist is 30, he’s still a bit naïve. Finally, there are small turns in the plot that seem unlikely and then seriously improbable, and fille...more
When you're in love, you do strange things, but they don't seem strange at the time. Last night we watched Deep End, a 1970 movie starring Jane Asher which explored this theme well. The main character is a shy 15 year old boy, who becomes obsessed with the lovely Ms Asher. His actions all seem more or less logical in the context of the story; but somehow they lead to a brilliant and disquieting final scene where they're standing in a disused swimming pool, boiling snow in an electric kettle that...more
I love-love-love Ian McEwan, and I'm going to remember this holiday season as the time I "rediscovered" Ian McEwan. I read a lot of books by him a few years ago, but not ALL of his books. And I read everything new he publishes. But I ended up reading this book rather inadvertently. It just came out on the Kindle in December, and I stumbled across it and "preordered" it thinking that it was a new publication -- only to later discover that he had written it in '89 and it was only the Kindle versio...more
depalma should direct the film version. that terrific fucking final set piece all slowed down and stretched out over 60 pages, all gory and demented... shit yeah! i'd also like to dig up hitchcock's grave and have depalma cockslap him a few times across his pale jowly cheek. the fat bastard deserves it.
The Innocent by Ian McEwan is a psychological thriller set in West Berlin, 1954, during the cold war. Leonard Marnham, a 25-year-old British post office technician, was employed by the Americans on a joint British-American surveillance project to install signals in the tunnel they were building to tap the phone lines of the Soviet High Command.

Leonard was well brought up and shy but quickly lost both his physical and political innocence. His love interest was a blond German divorcee, Maria Eckd...more
Come una vecchia pubblicità di una grappa, un romanzo dal cuore molto bello, ma con una testa ed una coda non del tutto convincenti. All’inizio, la puntigliosa descrizione del progetto di spionaggio antisovietico risulta in molti tratti macchinosa: poi Leonard incontra Maria ed iniziano duecento pagine travolgenti come la storia d’amore tra i due personaggi. Il loro rapporto cresce pagina per pagina, contrappuntato dal lavoro di lui per il progetto suddetto, senza che ci sia alcuno scadimento di...more
The book you think you're starting is utterly different from the book you finish. That is a compliment. First half is a Cold War thriller written by a more reserved John le Carre, second half is a black comedy of the most high-macabre, queasily tense variety. The Innocent doesn't quite reach the (ridiculously high) bar set by Amsterdam, and part of me misses the sustained sensitivity of books like Saturday (what? I liked it.), but there is plenty of the fine-grained observation we know and love...more
I think someone else said it first, but this book is not for the faint of heart. Several chapters are almost disgustingly grisly. Make that totally. And I want to warn you right up front because I was too far in to get out at that point. But ultimately, this is another solid read from Ian McEwan with its plot twists and turns as well as incisive characterizations tossed out in a character's observations, revealing depths of human frailty in a single remark. The protagonist's sexual awakening in...more
McEwan does the Cold War thriller. An excellent read by one of the best living English language authors. And for the record, I had sufficient testosterone to get through, in one go, the gut-wrenching scene located amidships. It was graphic, but don't let the namby-pamby reviewers telling you they had to set down the book, overcome by revulsion and fear as they were, steer you in the wrong direction. To them I say, there's always Maeve Binchy.
An emotionally stirring novel of a British agent, an Anglo-American spy project in Western Berlin, his first true love with a beautiful German divorcee, and an accident that turns into a nightmare. Ian McEwan does a wonderful job of describing the life, times and sentiments of the people in post WWII Berlin, the tensions between Allies and Soviets, and developing a wonderful love story that runs head into the chaos and vagaries of fortune, misfortune, misunderstandings, and pride. A wonderful re...more
First, this is a terrific audio / reader performance by John Franklyn-Robbins, who is called upon to use British, American, and German accents in this novel, which takes place in mid-50's, post-war Berlin. His reading held me gripped. That said, I'm not as taken with the actual story - a young, naive man (the apparent "Innocent" of the novel) arrives in Berlin to take a civilian job related to a joint espionage project of the West versus the Soviet Union. This is before the wall was built, and s...more
Ian McEwan nails human nature better than any writer I've ever read. It's simultaneously comforting and unnerving to read this author, because he is just right on the mark with our weaknesses, our fears and our dilemmas. McEwan also seldom writes a happy story. It's tough being his protagonist, because he'll put you through the reamer and leave you a shell by the end. And since McEwan writes so realistically, it feels like you the reader go through the same ordeal. "The Innocent" is a man named...more
Slávek Rydval
Jméno Ian McEwan jsem již párkrát zaslechl, ale protože dávám přednost irským autorům před těmi ostrovními, nechával jsem jej bez povšimnutí. Až náhoda způsobila, že chtěv si pořídit nějaké mapy, zakoupil jsem i čerstvě vydaný překlad románu Nevinný (The Innocent, orig. 1989).

Asi nejvíc mě na knize lákal popis poválečného Berlína ještě před postavením proslavené zdi. To ostatní, tedy vyhloubení tunelu do sovětské okupační zóny kvůli odposlouchávání telefonních hovorů a šifrovaných zpráv, tomu dá...more
I get (the dubious) experience of exploring the McEwan back catalog. surrounded by my betters? mmm maybe this is a goodreads only experience.

rather thought John Fowles is the apposite of Ian McEwan. i.e., start deep and then fill up your legacy with more filler-ish work; McEwan peaking, peaking baby age 50-60, still going strong, by some accounts peaking age 60.


~ creative writers have it good compared to punk rockers? i.e., you can fail for forty years and then suddenly be ice cream?

Nov 07, 2007 Bart rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Literary fiction fans
This novel is exceptional.

It is rare that a sentimental novel can make a contemporary reader feel covetous of the experience he has had with it, but The Innocent does just that.

As a reader, one knows what McEwan is doing and what he is going to do. When he wishes to work a reader over, he puts the novel deep in the modern past, makes his transitions abrupt and then finishes the story with reminiscences from a present-day character.

In this way, The Innocent is very similar to the formula McEwan f...more
Jed L
While not up to the same level of intensity or despair as Atonement, The Innocent conveys many of the same feelings. Coming of age, intense passion and love turned into intense loathing and disgust. Both books are in a way coming of age novels shrouded in the context of global warfare--Atonement has the main plot pivot occur during the war, The Innocent has it occur during the aftermath of war. I felt that this book was lighter and simplier than Atonement until suddently it wasn't. The book quic...more
Leonard Marnham, a young British electronics technician, is sent to Berlin in the mid-fifties to work on an elaborate Soviet spy operation. A virgin, he meets a German lover, Maria; their affair leads to a gruesome and graphically described murder. There is a coda set in 1987 Berlin where the horrors of the past are laid to rest.

The atmosphere of post-war Berlin is described perfectly. The atmosphere of impending doom throughout the novel is palpable. Although Leonard starts out innocent and en...more
This one is hard to rate: I loved the setting - Berlin in the 1950s - but the narrator's German pronunciation was just so atrocious that I almost couldn't stand it and wanted to drop it ("reading" the book would have been better). There's just too much German spoken and too many German place names in the story that some German language skills would have been essential you would have thought.

The story was engaging in parts but somehow left me cold and wanting for more. The language is beautiful b...more
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A young virginal Englishman is sent to cold war Berlin to work on a top secret operation. There is layer after layer of security so he is never sure how far his task goes, but he takes solace in the arms of a German lady he meets – until one night something dreadful happens.

At first I thought this was an unsatisfying concoction, a literary novel which wanted to be a thriller but was too literary to really thrill. However the tension slowly builds until you are turning the pages in-between biting...more
Far from a perfect book, and perhaps not the most original thing I've ever read, but Ian McEwan's grasp of language and ability to put you fully inside a character's mind elevate the somewhat pedestrian story. most of my complaints revolve around the ending.
Karen Mills
Not my favorite Ian McEwan, but still good. Contained all the usual elements. Well written good characters, and a clever and suspensful plot that keeps you guessing.
Marion Husband
Very enjoyable, as ever with McEwan....just a very very accomplished and clever writer

One of my 2014 challenge categories is Berlin. I wanted to read books set in Berlin, but not set during WWII. I was especially interested in Cold War Berlin, reconstruction, that sort of thing. The Innocent started off as a book about British/American collaboration on a project - essentially spying on the Russians. The main character, Leonard, is a young British man who has come to Berlin to help with the electronics part of the project and the entire story is told from his point of...more
E' un libro molto ben strutturato che mette in risalto diverse caratteristiche che uno scrittore dovrebbe avere e che indubbiamente McEwan dimostra di avere</p><p>Questa storia �� verosimile, l'autore ha saputo documentarsi bene su fatti e luoghi ha saputo consegnarmi una fotografia di una Berlino in grado di farmi percepire l'elettricit�� della rinascita e quell'atmosfera tutta particolare della convivenza tra due ideologie politico-culturali agli antipodi (per dire questo �� necess...more
This is not a thriller or a spy novel, although those are elements of the story. It is, like McEwan's other books, a tightly woven portrait - this time of a young naive Englishman in Berlin in 1955. Sometimes McEwan is just too perfectly contrived - like "Saturday" was - but here I had no idea how everything would turn out. There is tension and menace right from the start, but it is nothing like you would expect, and the ending is entirely appropriate. I couldn't put it down - read it in two nig...more
Heidi Liu
This.. was just a really disgusting book, on so many levels. There's a lot to be said (and very little of it good) for a novel in which every character is genuinely dis likable. Leonard is self-obsessed and pathetically ignorant as opposed to innocent. McEwan tries to make the point that he transforms throughout the book but he really doesn't. He is the same selfish and irresponsible little man thrown amidst matters that are much bigger than him, yet he handles them with regards only to his own...more
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Ian McEwan was born on 21 June 1948 in Aldershot, England. He studied at the University of Sussex, where he received a BA degree in English Literature in 1970. He received his MA degree in English Literature at the University of East Anglia.

McEwan's works have earned him worldwide critical acclaim. He won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976 for his first collection of short stories First Love, Last...more
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