I first read Ian McEwan many years ago (in the 80’s I think) when he wrote grim and macabre novels and short stories, full of strange dark humor. I found him somewhat interesting but not enough to seek out his books. And then, years later, this past fall I read Atonement, and it just blew me away. In quick succession I finished Saturday and now The Innocent.
The Innocent is one of McEwan’s first commercial successes and it contains some of the old McEwan in descriptions of genuine horror, but it also reveals the new McEwan, a sensitive, truthful writer, with an immense and deep understanding of human psyche and the skills to capture and convey that understanding. Set in a post world war, and very much in the cold-war, Berlin, the Innocent is both a spy story and a love story rendered in an objective and yet sensitive prose.
The Innocent is not a great novel by any stretch of the imagination. It does, however, point to McEwan’s immense talents that would culminate in the writing of Atonement. (Atonement deserves a posting on its own.)