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.
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!
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|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.24(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.73(d)|
About the Author
Date of Birth:June 21, 1948
Place of Birth:Aldershot, England
Education: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?