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  • Written by Ian McEwan
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  • The Innocent
  • Written by Ian McEwan
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A Novel

Written by Ian McEwanAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Ian McEwan


List Price: $11.99


On Sale: December 22, 2010
Pages: 288 | ISBN: 978-0-307-76102-6
Published by : Anchor Knopf
The Innocent Cover

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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.
Ian McEwan

About Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan - The Innocent

Photo © Annalena McAfee

Ian McEwan is the bestselling author of fifteen previous books, including the novels Sweet Tooth; Solar, winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize; On Chesil Beach; Saturday; Atonement, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the W. H. Smith Literary Award; The Comfort of Strangers and Black Dogs, both short-listed 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



"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
Reader's Guide|About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions

About the Book

Ian McEwan's novel The Innocent showcases the author's range and skill as he delivers unlikely, and welcome, combinations of suspense, ethics, philosophy, and political and religious ideology. In lesser hands, such a mix might be lethal. In McEwan's, it's intoxicating.

About the Guide

"He was not certain whether this time spent traveling between his two secret worlds was when he was truly himself, when he was able to hold the two in balance and know them to be separate from himself; or whether this was the one time he was nothing at all, a void traveling between two points."

Perhaps there is a time in everyone's life when he or she is completely engaged in love and work and feels the warm and welcome weight of all things good. Perhaps it is less a "time" and more a fleeting moment. For some the moment occurs in an unlikely setting--in a war-ravaged city, on a top-secret project. For Leonard Marnham in 1955 Berlin, one of McEwan's innocents, this is so. Twenty-five-year-old Leonard, a British citizen, has his time when he's sent to Berlin to work on a top-secret project, a joint effort between the British and the Americans. Once there, he finds himself caught between Americans and Germans, between the need for secrecy and the freedom and joy that his first love affair brings. He finds himself capable of killing a man and committing treason. In this suspenseful novel, McEwan shows us a man coming into existence, with all the contradiction and upheaval such an awakening can bring.

About the Author

In a 1987 interview in Publishers Weekly, Ian McEwan said, "[W]hen you love someone, it's not uncommon to measure that love by fantasizing about his absence. You gauge things by their opposite." In McEwan's works, the opposite is a theme. His characters may take action that seems opposite to all sorts of things, their best interests, their lovers, their friends, their morals, or their political, religious, or rationalist beliefs. This is the tension and the story. And it is this, along with his acute and beautifully written observations about the opposites that infuse our lives, that keep readers waiting for the next McEwan novel.

McEwan is the author of two short-story collections, First Love, Last Rites and In Between the Sheets, and eight novels: The Cement Garden; The Comfort of Strangers, short-listed for the 1981 Booker Prize; The Child in Time, winner of the 1987 Whitbread Novel of the Year Award; The Innocent; Black Dogs; The Daydreamer; Enduring Love; and Amsterdam, winner of the 1998 Booker Prize.

Discussion Guides

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?

  • The Innocent by Ian McEwan
  • December 29, 1998
  • Fiction - Literary
  • Anchor
  • $15.00
  • 9780385494335

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