My, my! What a feisty and varied book club discussion we had this month! It seemed nothing was off limits. You know those topics of conversation you’re always told to avoid? Damn convention, we talked about them anyway! Religion (and special underwear), politics, sex (and cucumbers), psychology, cell structure (possibly), Scotland and historical hotties (you’re welcome), and the latest AP guidelines: we covered it all!
This month we were discussing Ian McEwan’s The Innocent. We welcomed two new members (both of whom are, I think, the only readers of this blog, and therefore automatically in my good books) in Emily and Emma. Both of them brought new perspectives and experiences to our little group, readily joining in the conversation, voicing opinions, regaling us with stories, and generally fitting right in. I hope we were all you expected and that you come back again soon!
The book. Yes, we did actually find time to talk about it. Generally… underwhelming. While two of the group liked the novel, the rest of us may have been happier starting at about 75% and just reading the end. There was a little bit of confusion on the genre – promoted as a spy thriller, one of the group noted that “it wasn’t all that thrilling”.
It was, however, a book of contrasts. There was the intrigue of the need-to-know world the Leonard found himself in juxtaposed with the realities of life after a war. There was the gentle love story which strangely diverted into something more grotesque and brutal (with added sexual assault!)
The group discussed Maria at length. Why did she go back to Leonard? Was she an opportunist? Was she manipulative? Was she just a woman who wanted the bad boy? It was felt that Maria was a slightly odd character – she initiated everything in the plot: the relationship, the sex, the murder. Why?
One of the group had an interesting perspective on the characters in the book and whether they represented the world politics of the time through their personalities and actions. Maria was the new Germany whereas Otto represented old Germany. Glass was obviously America, and Leonard was a repressed, scared little England. Certainly something to think about – maybe on a reread?
It was agreed that there were moments of some real levity in the book – the farce of Leonard traipsing ’round Berlin with a body in two suitcases was particularly enjoyed. Some felt Leonard’s salvation was also a nice touch.
All in all, would I read Ian McEwan again: probably not. Did I hate the book: no. Am I looking forward to not having to read it anymore: yes.