TRIGGER WARNING: sexual violence- and other terrible things
What started out as a fairly mild story of a man who is a:not good at his job and b: not a terribly interesting person lurched suddenly downhill into a dirge of rape fantasy, sexual violence, murder, and dismemberment. “Eeeugh” was putting it lightly.
I’m not one to tell you, dear reader, what to do- but I strongly suggest avoiding this garbage fire. I am normally drawn to post-war drama- especially involving espionage and intrigue- but I was led astray on this adventure. I have also sought out McEwan in the past; I have long listed Atonement as my favorite novel, but now I think I need to re-read it and re-evaluate with fresher eyes and a more mature outlook (I came to love it as a teenager; it has been a at least a decade since I have picked through it again).
There is nothing innocent about The Innocent, despite how often McEwan labels people, places, things, and ideas as such. I have to harp specifically on the main character. Leonard, a 20-something English man-child, is dropped into the hustle and mystery of post-war Berlin. He meets an older woman who is ALMOST CONSTANTLY described to be child-like in both appearance and personality by both Leonard and the author. We learn that this woman, Maria, survived horrors during and after the war, and Leonard gets so turned-on by this that he has to act it out himself.
After learning of her rape(s) at the hands of her ex-husband, he gets all hot and bothered over raping her as well. He fantasizes constantly about being the “conquering victor” and “claiming his spoils”. He proceeds to follow-through with his fantasies, and is absolutely baffled when she is rightfully horrified by him and his actions.
OF COURSE they make up later and get back together- don’t you worry! Then they engage in light manslaughter (don’t worry- she lives) before working together to dismember a body in a grueling chapter-long passage! Oh the details are horrendous.
I can’t focus on the story- I can only focus on the nasty bits and pieces that make this novel wholly unappealing.