The Innocent: A Novel

by Ian Mcewan

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group | December 29, 1998 | Trade Paperback

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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.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 288 pages, 8.01 × 5.22 × 0.75 in

Published: December 29, 1998

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385494335

ISBN - 13: 9780385494335

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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– More About This Product –

The Innocent: A Novel

by Ian Mcewan

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 288 pages, 8.01 × 5.22 × 0.75 in

Published: December 29, 1998

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385494335

ISBN - 13: 9780385494335

About the Book

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.

From the Publisher

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.

From the Jacket

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.

"From the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Ian McEwan is the bestselling author of more than ten books, including the novels The Comfort of Strangers and Black Dogs, both shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Amsterdam, winner of the Booker Prize, and The Child in Time, winner of the Whitbread Award, as well as the story collections First Love, Last Rites, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award, and In Between the Sheets. He has also written screenplays, plays, television scripts, a children’s book, and the libretto for an oratorio. He lives in London.

Editorial Reviews

"Never less than wholly entertaining." —The Wall Street Journal

"Deft, taut fiction. . . . Many English writers have been compared to Evelyn Waugh, often wrongly, but this book can stand with the master''s best." —Time

"So exhaustively suspenseful that it should be devoured at one sitting. . . . McEwan fuses a spy-novel plot with themes as venerable as the myth of Adam and Eve." —Newsweek

"Has the spooky, crooked-angled, danger-around-every-corner feeling of a Carol Reid film. It reminded me often of The Third Man and that is no mean feat." —Jonathan Carroll, The Washington Post Book World

"Powerful and disturbing . . . a tour de force." —The New York Times

Bookclub Guide

US

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 the novel, 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?