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4.0 out of 5 stars83
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on 26 June 2008
Having read Atonement and not got on with The child in Time, i decided to read a book of Ian McEwan's that was more off the beaten track. What i found was The Innocent. I throughly enjoyed it and i would recommend that for anyone who didn't get on too well with Ian McEwan's other books to read the Innocent.

It is a gripping tale about how an English man in cold war Berlin gradually losses his innocence. It is a light and short read which i thoroughly enjoyed.
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A spy story set in Berlin shortly after the end of the second world war - a romantic love story - a gruesome and revolting horror story (don't read whilst eating) - then the circle continues on back through spy to love story again. It was only after starting the book that I noticed another review recommended "don't read this as your first Ian McEwan". Probably wise advice; but I enjoyed it anyway and will certainly read more of his.
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on 20 January 1999
The Innocent is a surprising book, combining the fascination of secret work in post war Berlin with a captivating story of love and sexual exploration The string of events which emanate from this background are all the more shocking because of the complete plausibility of the tale. The book reminded me of the Puzo novel Dark Arena in the setting of the backdrop, (although it cannot match the rawness and brutality of that story) and Hurry on Down for the frailty of the human emotion. Thoroughly enjoyable!
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on 9 April 2000
This is vintage McEwan. He describes the love affair with feeling and, I guess, from some experience. I liked the sharp contrast between the mechanics and bizarre logic of the Cold War and the unpredictability of human behaviour when it is allowed free reign. 50s Berlin is also beautifully evoked - Harry Lime's Vienna moved north. The novel has a neat and typically weird McEwan twist before its moving, sentimental denouement. Great reading - thoroughly recommended to fans and sceptics alike.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 26 September 2011
Set in the mid-fifties and based on real events this unusual story centres around Leonard Marnham, a rather naïve twenty-five-year old Englishman who comes to the divided city of Berlin to work as part of a British-American undercover surveillance team. Whilst working on a top secret underground tunnelling project to tap the phone lines of the Russians, Leonard meets a beautiful German divorcee, Maria, in a night club and he quickly falls in love and loses his virginity. Leonard has never met anyone like Maria before and after a few months they become engaged. However, Leonard does not get the happy ending he planned as Maria's ex-husband is a violent, jealous man and one who is not fully prepared to let her go. In one evening, Leonard loses what is left of his innocence after he commits a violent act that turns his whole life upside down. Both Leonard and Maria struggle to cope with the aftermath of this tragic event - but it is what they subsequently decide to do to cover up their crime that is truly horrific and this dreadful act not only affects their immediate future, but has consequences that reverberate throughout the following years. I can't really add more to this without spoiling the story, but I should mention that there is a very gruesome section in this book where the author is exceptionally graphic in his description of the act committed by Leonard and Maria. I found this part of the book difficult to read - but that said, I could not put it down until I had finished it.

This is a cleverly written and intriguing novel which works on more than one level - it's part East-West spy thriller, part love story and part coming of age novel, deftly packaged into one. I have read several of Ian McEwan's novels in the past, enjoying some more than others, however this book is a bit different - it's certainly not for the faint-hearted, and if you do read it, I think you will understand exactly what I mean.

4 stars.
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on 3 January 2006
The first time I read this I had to put it down unfinished as I could not bear to discover the foreshadowed doom of the main character. It took me a year before I could gather the courage to start again and read the whole thing. Exaggerating? If you found Enduring Love moving, it's nothing compared to The Innocent!
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on 16 August 2008
Yes wow what a book. I saw Atonement which was rubbish in my opinion and thought no not ever will I read one of his books and yet on the way to Hong Kong at LHR-T5 i was captivated by the book's cover and the basic story line which interests me anyway. Berlin post war is a sumptuous backdrop and this book delivers magnificently. I could hardly put it down and apart from the dismemberment pages was an absolute thill. So much so that I then bought Black Dogs which isn't half as good but after On Chesil Beach and Innocent I am raring to go with more of his work. Well done Ian.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 24 January 2014
Leonard, the titular "innocent", is a telephone technician who travels to Berlin in 1955 to work a secret project to intercept communications from the Russian embassy. (While Leonard is a fictional character, the project was real). He acquires a German girlfriend, Maria - his first ever girlfriend - and settles into life in Berlin. However there are indications that things might be about to go wrong for him. His girlfriend's ex is a violent thug who shows up every now and then to beat her up. He has a mysterious neighbour who is showing too much interest in what Leonard is up to. And his boss is also all too interested in what is going on in Leonard's life.

I spent the first half of this book wondering where the book was going and why I was reading about such unpleasant characters. Then, around the halfway mark there is a major event which dramatically shifts the direction of events. The second half is much more of a thriller and the ending comes together in a very pleasing way. A cleverly crafted story, albeit with some descriptions of graphic violence.
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on 22 November 2007
What a great read! Splendid in both form and content. A well constructed plot which starts with an easy read, but then it takes an interesting and unexpected turn. I bought it after reading "On Chesil Beach" which is only a short story, but which has got me hooked on the author. Recommeded. Dr Michael Rowlands
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on 1 March 2016
This thriller is set in Berlin during the Cold War where we follow Leonard Marnham who is newly assigned to a British-American surveillance team. Leonard is an innocent in all things in life from his work of which he is never fully allowed to know the truth and in his personal life. Until he meets Maria, a divorced German woman who is five years his senior. They begin a relationship and Leonard is no longer an innocent in his personal life, they fall in love leading to catastrophic consequences and McEwan builds up to one night of drama when Leonard must decide how innocent he is and how far he will go to protect himself, a night that has consequences for many many years.
I really enjoyed 'The Innocent', as usual this is a beautifully crafted novel from McEwan and reads sublimely. This is a little different to what I thought it would be about, I assumed it would be more about Leonard's work than it is, his work features heavily but the dramatic night is not to do with his work. Instead this is a beautiful yet dramatic love story set amongst the Cold War. Throughout the book it is clear there is going to be a dramatic confrontation but who the characters will be that are involved is left unclear until the moment which added to the suspense.
'The Innocent' is also a study of a character, Leonard, we get to understand him in tremendous depths and see his flaws laid bare which made him a very realistic character. McEwan takes us on a journey of him losing his innocence which made for novel reading. Maria as a character is the one character I could never get a full grasp of and I believe this is intentional from McEwan. As a character she is believable but complex and even after finishing I am not entirely sure of her motives during the novel, which is only another delight as it means I am still thinking about the novel.
Overall this is possible one of my favourite McEwan novels, although nothing will beat 'Enduring Love', this is exquisitely written with a complex, entertaining plot set amongst a very tense atmosphere.
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