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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 October 2016
Most of the reviews for this book contain spoilers. If you read them you will deduce exactly what is going to happen and in one case even which chapter it happens in.

All I will say is that it is a spy story with a focus on the characters and their relationships, set in Berlin in 1955-56. I found it realistic enough and interesting enough to keep me entertained up to the end. Many of the reviews complained about one specific aspect which I found surprising. I won't say more about it but if you have read those reviews, I wouldn't be put off.

I almost gave it 4 stars but ultimately it was rather forgettable and it doesn't have the sparkling intelligence of Saturday and Enduring Love. The writing is full of clunky short sentences as if, in this early novel, he hasn't yet found the assured, elegant prose of his later books.
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on 17 July 2017
I really enjoyed this book, which I read on a trip to Berlin. One could argue it's got a lot of traditional Cold War stereotypes, but then so has LeCarre, and McEwan is such a fine storyteller, it doesn't matter. So if you're after a well-crafted Berlin thriller, this fits the bill.
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on 5 February 2017
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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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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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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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TOP 50 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 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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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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on 21 February 2017
Extremely well written but the characters were rather stereotypical and the lengthy description of the dismemberment of a body, whilst necessary to the plot, was a little too difficult to believe. Can't imagine how they managed to clean up all the blood and gore without leaving a trace!
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