The Innocent

Ian McEwan, Author
Ian McEwan, Author Doubleday Books $18.95 (270p) ISBN 978-0-385-41370-1
Reviewed on: 05/01/1990
Release date: 05/01/1990
McEwan's name will be on everyone's lips with his startling new novel, an impeccably constructed psychological thriller set in Berlin during the Cold War. Basing his story on an actual (but little known) incident, he tells of the secret tunnel under the Soviet sector which the British and Americans built in 1954 to gain access to the Russians' communication system. The protagonist, Leonard Marnham, is a 25-year-old, naive, unsophisticated English post office technician who is astonished and alarmed to find himself involved in a top-secret operation. At the same time that he loses his political innocence, Leonard experiences his sexual initiation in a clandestine affair with a German divorcee five years his senior. As his two secret worlds come together, events develop into a gruesome nightmare, far more macabre than anything McEwan ( The Child in Time ) has previously written, building to a searing, unforgettable scene of surrealist intensity in which Leonard and his lover try to conceal evidence of a murder. Acting to save himself from a prison sentence, Leonard desperately performs an act of espionage whose ironic consequences resonate down the years to a twister of an ending. Though its plot rivals any thriller in narrative tension, this novel is also a character study--of a young man coming of age in bizarre circumstances, and of differences in national character: the gentlemanly Brits, all decorum and civility; the brash, impatient Americans; the cynical Germans. McEwan's neat, tensile prose raises this book to the highest level of the genre. Film rights to Paramount; BOMC and QPB featured alternates. (June)
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