The Innocent

The Innocent

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781428135987
Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date: 07/26/2007

About the Author

One of the most celebrated writers of our time, British author Ian McEwan is a bestselling novelist, short-story writer, and screenwriter. He is known for emotionally complex stories, often presenting the same experience from multiple perspectives. The recipient of a number of awards, his novel Atonement was adapted into an Oscar-winning film starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed Saturday, Amsterdam, and Enduring Love, among others.


Oxford, England

Date of Birth:

June 21, 1948

Place of Birth:

Aldershot, England


B.A., University of Sussex, 1970; M.A., University of East Anglia, 1971

What People are Saying About This

Joseph Wambaugh

A gripping, absolutely unique story of love and suspense that you won't forget.

Reading Group Guide

1. Who are the innocents in this novel? Countries? Individuals?

2. In many ways, innocence is a state to be much desired. As such, do people and countries always pay a price for their innocence? Put another way, is loss of innocence, by its very nature, always painful?

3. At one point, Leonard describes Americans, noting, "He had seen grown men drinking chocolate milk... they were innocent.... They had these secrets and they had their chocolate milk" (page 187). Talk about the difference between the British and the Americans in this novel.

4. Glass tells Leonard, "[E]verybody thinks he has the final story. You only hear of a higher level at the moment you're being told about it" (page 16). Discuss this as a key to the novel.

5. Early in the novel, Glass says that it is secrets that make us conscious, that make us individuals, summing up, "Secrecy made us possible" (page 44). Talk about this as a theme in the novel.

6. Leonard helps kill a man, but it is in his near rape of Maria that his state of mind is truly malevolent. Is state of mind, more than actions, a barometer of guilt?

7. Discuss the logic in Maria's statement, after she and Leonard have killed Otto, "[I]f we are going to lie, if we are going to pretend things, then we must do it right" (page 186). Is morality an absolute?

8. Near the end, Leonard longs to tell his story, confess his guilt, and explain the step-by-step progression that led to dismembering Otto. Maria does do this and in not telling Leonard of her confession, she is loyal to Glass, not Leonard. Is it this betrayal that keeps them apart?

9. Talk about the end of thenovel, and about Leonard's wish to come back to Berlin with Maria before the Wall is torn down. Will he get to Cedar Rapids, Iowa? Will they return to Berlin together?

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The Innocent 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
SirRoger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow. I love how McEwan's novels lull you in and take you by surprise. It's kind of like watching an intelligent 'horror' movie, like The Talented Mr. Ripley or something. Excellent writing.
maxim.wilson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this july 2009 on flight home from Rio de Janiero. I loved his struggle with his bi-racial identity, something missing from The Color of Water . I admired his way with words, often lyrical passages. His desire/imperative to "be a community organiser" spoke volumes not in the text. This tied in nicely with a TV doco " Made in Chicago, the making of Barak Obama".
LARA335 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Startling in its detail, character study, and clammy, claustrophobic atmosphere. And for this very reason -its impressive qualities - I have unfairly only given it three stars. It's only 245 pages long but took me an age to read as I didn't want to return to its relentless bleakness..
co_coyote on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There is no question Ian McEwan is a talented (and often funny) writer. Any writer who can make you feel sympathy for a womanizer (Solar) is well ahead of the game. But, this story is just too outlandish for me. I'll try him again, but I'm hoping for a more believable scenario.
laurscartelli on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After my recent visit with a more fantastical and less gritty Ian McEwan in The Daydreamer, I was all too glad to pick up The Innocent and return to what one generally expects from him: beautiful prose, a scientific naturalism and grisly horror treated poetically.The Innocent takes place in West Berlin during the Cold War, prior to the construction of the Berlin Wall. Much like other McEwan novels there is an element of fact that makes his historical fiction seem more realistic. In this case, protagonist Leonard Marnham is an engineer secured by British Intelligence to work with the joint CIA-MI6 forces on Operation Gold, a real project that focused on tapping KGB phone lines underground - you can read about that here.But while the realism is present in the history, some of the fictional characters tossed in seem little more than stereotypes. Leonard, whose character arc is certainly the largest, begins as a stereotypical uptight British male who is initially offended by Bob Glass's even more stereotypical American mindset, though Leonard eventually adapts to certain Americanizations. Glass's character is framed by the two Americans Leonard spots from the car on his first visit to the warehouse, tossing a football back and forth, who generate more stereotypical thinking on Leonard's part. Glass remains pretty consistent for most of it. Even his deus-ex-machinesque actions towards the end are somewhat American-comic-book-hero-ish.While Leonard's stick-figure-ness may be an error of judgement on McEwan's part, the Americans seem to be drawn as such on purpose. About three-quarters of the way through the book, Leonard observes this innocent American quality in the things around him:They think of everything, he thought, the Americans. They wanted to make things possible, and easy. They wanted to look after you. This pleasant lightweight staircase with the nonslip treads and chain-link banisters, the Coke machines in the corridors, steak and chocolate milk in the canteen. He had seen grown men drinking chocolate milk. More stylistic in character is Maria, the german divorcee with whom Leonard finds himself in love. Her approach to life is markedly refreshing and allows Leonard to grow out of his pre-constructed shell, into something a little more interesting, a little more daring, and certainly more dangerous.Generally, with McEwan, there's a naturalistic vein that pulses throughout the narrative and hemorrhages at the climax,spending the rest of the novel trying to repair itself. In Enduring Love, the break comes early, muddling the facts and confusing the main character for most of what follows. In Atonement, it's a continuous, hemophiliac flow that breaks like a cold sweat and a chill at the end. Here, though, McEwan is a bit more economical and somewhat more Shakespearean in his formula - you could almost mark out the five acts with their building, subsiding and ultimate third act climax.While the formula works, it's a little slow-going; it becomes weighed down by the author trying to inseminate it (sorry) with as many sexual innuendos and metaphors as possible, seemingly in an attempt to get his point across - defying any assertion that anyone is completely innocent. Perhaps in 1990 (just after the fall of the Berlin wall, when land lines were the rule and were easily enough tapped, when DNA evidence was still a new thing, before the internet could tell everyone's secrets), this was a more poignant story, but today its historical relativism isn't very significant and only the baser details* remain truly relevant.
gbill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
McEwan is a good writer and "The Innocent" is a solid book. It has a couple of the themes that McEwan has returned to successfully in his other works: how men and women might misinterpret each other's behavior at critical moments and thus forever change their lives, and the sense of "what might have been".The characters and their relationships are what held my interest; the backdrop of espionage during the Cold War in Berlin and the technical details did not. I knocked my rating down a half star because of chapter 18. I won't spoil it by providing details; perhaps it was needed to explain the characters actions in subsequent chapters, but it was a bit much for me.Hard to pick a favorite quote but...."He was fumbling with the unfamiliar lock and Maria was right at his back. Though it still surprised her, she was to some extent familiar with the delicacy of masculine pride. Despite a surface assurance, men were easily offended. Their moods could swing wildly. Caught in the turbulence of unacknowledged emotions, they tended to mask their uncertainty with aggression. She was thirty; her experience was not vast, and she was thinking mostly of her husband and one or two violent soldiers she had known. The man scrabbling to leave by her front door was less like the men she had known and more like herself. She knew just how it felt. When you felt sorry for yourself, you wanted to make things worse."
mudslideslim on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This story is a journey back in time to a period that most of our parents lived through and are still living with as the impresions of such a vivid experience as a world war do not just simply fade away but become part of your life and continue to influence your life as time goes by, the characters in this story were as real to me as anyone I've ever met.
siafl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
8 years before McEwan's Booker-winning Amsterdam was The Innocent, set in another continental European capital. Already there are signs that McEwan by then has entered the brilliant stage of his career. This book has very good plot construction, and once again, becase I hardly knew anything about the story, I was in for a surprise. Parts that seem unconnected at the beginning at the end come together nicely and appropriately. And so as I was reading deeper and deeper I found myself enjoying it increasingly.This book for me is in many ways similar to Amsterdam and On Chesil Beach (At least that's my impression based on my memories of these two works.) An affair/relationship in memory which, because of fortune or misfortune, happening at a wrong time, ended a little differently than originally desired. My thoughts were that McEwan got better as he passed the decade with his prose. So I found the writing (skills) in his latter works even more sharpened and honed. But this is not to say that The Innocent didn't appeal to me. I think it's just that the poetry in this one is less pronounced.There's a bit of an Anti-American thing going on at the beginning, but then I think the author has every intention to conclude that that starting impression has no basis. The American character that was unfavourably portrayed turned out to be a fantastic man. And with just this little fact it can be revealed that this book is every bit a spy novel with an incredible twist among all its turns.And that's why I love McEwan's work. It has everything for anyone who enjoys the work of a real writer. A writer's writer.
lindawwilson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good book, very suspensful, better thn a "Child in Time", almost as good as "Atonement"
NocturnalBlue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
McEwan's most suspenseful (even more so than Enduring Love which is also excellent). Fair warning, there are certain scenes (around chapter 18 or so) that are not meant to be read in the middle of the night. Let's just say no one can write gore quite the way McEwan can.
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Grasiela More than 1 year ago
very well written i really enjoyed reading it.
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