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…

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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.

The Road from Belhaven

By Margot Livesey,

Book cover of The Road from Belhaven

Margot Livesey Author Of The Road from Belhaven

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Reader Secret orphan Professor Scottish Novelist

Margot's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

The Road from Belhaven is set in 1880s Scotland. Growing up in the care of her grandparents on Belhaven Farm, Lizzie Craig discovers as a small girl that she can see the future. But she soon realises that she must keep her gift a secret. While she can sometimes glimpse the future, she can never change it.

Nor can Lizzie change the feelings that come when a young man named Louis, visiting Belhaven for the harvest, begins to court her. Why have the adults around her never told her that the touch of a hand can change everything? When she follows Louis to Glasgow, she begins to learn the limits of his devotion and the complexities of her own affections.

The Road from Belhaven

By Margot Livesey,

What is this book about?

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy, a novel about a young woman whose gift of second sight complicates her coming of age in late-nineteenth-century Scotland

Growing up in the care of her grandparents on Belhaven Farm, Lizzie Craig discovers as a small child that she can see into the future. But her gift is selective—she doesn’t, for instance, see that she has an older sister who will come to join the family. As her “pictures” foretell various incidents and accidents, she begins to realize a painful truth: she may glimpse the future, but…


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