The Innocent

By Ian McEwan,

Book cover of The Innocent

Book description

The setting is Berlin. Into this divided city, wrenched between East and West, between past and present; comes twenty-five-year-old Leonard Marnham, assigned to a British-American surveillance team. Though only a pawn in an international plot that is never fully revealed to him, Leonard uses his secret work to escape the…

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. (learn more)

Why read it?

3 authors picked The Innocent as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Though not thought of as an espionage writer, McEwan uncorks a fine, suspenseful novel based on two true stories of Cold War intrigue. Set in mid-1950s Berlin, it speaks, as the title implies, of a loss of innocence, both professionally and personally, of a British engineer caught up in a dangerous web of uncertain loyalties and unexpected violence. (Why are the best espionage novels set in WWII or the Cold War? Most spying is done now through satellites and electronic eavesdropping. It’s hard to write a good book with a satellite as the main character.)

From Stephen's list on spies and intrigue.

Set in Cold War Berlin, The Innocent is the story of a British post office engineer who becomes embroiled in a secret operation to help the Western Allies tap into Soviet phone lines.

In West Berlin Leonard Marnham, assigned to a British-American surveillance team, is the innocent of the book title, an ordinary man who uses this secret work he’s been given to escape the boredom of his everyday life. Operation Gold is a scheme created jointly by the CIA and MI6 and involves digging a tunnel from West to East Berlin so they can listen in to the KGB’s…

From Tom's list on British spies.

This novel is set in Germany during the Cold War and is based partly on an actual event: a tunnel that was built by the British and Americans to gain access to the Soviets’ communications system. However, it focuses on a fictional character who is an innocent in several senses. I loved the setting, but I also loved the turn in the book where innocence becomes experience in a shocking way. This was a book I couldn’t put down.

Want books like The Innocent?

Our community of 7,000+ authors has personally recommended 10 books like The Innocent.

Browse books like The Innocent

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in romantic love, Germany, and Berlin?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about romantic love, Germany, and Berlin.

Romantic Love Explore 543 books about romantic love
Germany Explore 343 books about Germany
Berlin Explore 81 books about Berlin