Photo by Martin Biskoping used under a Creative Commons license.

Ian McEwan, The Innocent (Anchor, 1998).
A thriller set in the 1950s.  The protagonist, Leonard Marnham, is a young English technician detailed to assist with an American operation to tunnel under East Berlin to intercept Warsaw Pact communictions.  On his own time, he finds himself seeing a rather more experienced German divorcee. In time, these two parts of his life begin to interfere with each other, though it would be a shame to say much more about it.

Here are McEwan’s site and Wikipedia’s page on him. Bob Corbett recommends it as a quick and fairly interesting story, better than the run-of-the-mill popular novel. Orrin Judd calls it an adequate spy novel, with some interesting true background and some entertaining psychological twists and turns. Paul says that if you want an intelligent cold war thriller, and you want it about Berlin, then you could do much, much worse; he also recommends a Berlin bookstore. L.S. Kiepp (EW) calls it a haunting black comedy with a silver lining, charged with psychological complexity, sex, and suspense, full of narrative cunning and precise, darkly witty prose. Roger Boylan (Boston Review) says the novel’s Berlin is scented with the real thing, the diesel fumes and beery scents and the Wurstwagens and the bracing Berliner Luft, the air of Berlin. Michiko Kakutani (The New York Times) calls it a powerful and disturbing novel, a tour de force of horror and philosophical suspense. Shane describes it as a coming-of-age story wrapped up in an espionage novel. Madhvi Ramani calls a thrilling tale about lost innocence and loyalties that plays out in pre-wall Berlin, and says it’s one of her top 10 Berlin novels. Karen read it desperately to the end. Nathan Hobby (n.b. – spoilers) sees it as a precursor to later McEwan novels. Anne (spoilers) couldn’t suspend disbelief. Larry says beware: it’s not a Hollywood love story. Shuggie is becoming a McEwan fan. Devora calls it a bleak portrait of post-war and mid-Wall Berlin. P. says it captures the sense of the era. Don Swaim interviewed McEwan in 1990 about the book. Patrick McGrath interviewed him in for BOMB in 1990. Adam Begley interviewed him in 2002 for The Paris Review. Dan Zalewski profiled McEwan for The New Yorker in 2009. Caryn James (The New York Times) called the 1993 film a slowly satisfying thriller.

Buy it at Half.com.

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