Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Innocent (1989)

Ian McEwan's deceptively straightforward novel of love and intrigue in 1950s Cold War Berlin brilliantly drops chunks and slices of various genres into the blender and purees. As romance, its core, it's most effective, although that may be because its turn to horror is so surprising, unsettling, and ferociously unrelenting that the shock leaves one softened for human qualities—indeed, pathetically yearning for them. The appurtenances of spy novel, and rock 'n' roll coming of age tale, are there purely for the decoration, or the blessed distraction. Maybe because they're both Brits playing along the borders of cruelty and sexuality, McEwan here reminds me some of John Fowles. But underneath all the crisp pluck and cheeky diffidence, I get the sense there's more of a heart here than in anything from Fowles, and honestly, I don't have a single excuse for why I don't know more about McEwan's much more celebrated work. I'll have to get on that right away.

In case it's not at the library.

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