The Innocent - Ian McEwan

One fire-alarmed extended lunchtime I was looking around a bookshop, and realised that despite how much gushing praise this Mr. McEwan gets, I'd not read any of his work, so perhaps I should get some and see what good literature apparently is.

The Innocent is a spy novel like Vonnegut's work is sci-fi. Well, perhaps Ian McEwan is less snidely above the genre, but it's really not trying to be Le Carré. The main character works in intelligence, certainly, but it's kind of background really, a way for the author to show off how he can conjur up Cold War Berlin. Well, really it's another way for our protagonist to lose his innocence. The real thrust of this book is how green he starts, and how he loses different forms of innocence, yet fundamentally remains innocent. Oh, and the mixture of innocence and innocence lost in the people around him.

The start is slow. Plodding, even, but the characters are introduced well. They're understandable and likeable, so that when things finally start to happen you care. And when things get going, McEwan's writing can be unrelentless. There's grim stuff in there. The ending clicks together like a well-oiled puzzle. Rather too conveniently if you ask me, but very well executed.

Posted 2007-05-08.