Free Shipping on Orders of $40 or More
The Innocent

The Innocent

by Ian McEwan
The Innocent

The Innocent

by Ian McEwan


Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for delivery by Thursday, October 6


Notes From Your Bookseller

A naïve young man finds himself on a British-American surveillance team in Cold War Berlin in this startling psychological thriller. Based on real events in which a joint force dug tunnels under West Berlin to intercept Russian communications, this riveting tale of espionage and loss of innocence is as intense as it is impressive.

A member of a British-American surveillance team in Cold War Berlin finds himself in too deep in this "wholly entertaining" work (The Wall Street Journal) from the Booker Prize winner and bestselling author of Atonement.

Twenty-five-year-old Leonard Marnham’s 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. His 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 Marnham learns just how much of his innocence he's willing to shed.

Don’t miss Ian McEwan’s new novel, Lessons, coming in September!

Related collections and offers

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385494335
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/29/1998
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 171,093
Product dimensions: 5.24(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.73(d)

About the Author

IAN MCEWAN is the critically acclaimed author of seventeen novels and two short story collections. His first published work, a collection of short stories, First Love, Last Rites, won the Somerset Maugham Award. His novels include The Child in Time, which won the 1987 Whitbread Novel of the Year Award; The Cement Garden; Enduring Love; Amsterdam, which won the 1998 Booker Prize; Atonement; Saturday; On Chesil Beach; Solar; Sweet Tooth; The Children Act; Nutshell; and Machines Like Me, which was a number-one bestseller. Atonement, Enduring Love, The Children Act and On Chesil Beach have all been adapted for the big screen.


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

Reading Group Guide

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.

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?

Customer Reviews

Explore More Items