The 150-word Review: The Bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story, is a tried and true literary genre. Huckleberry Finn. Siddhartha. Harry Potter! Classic bildungsroman heroes. The genre has also been overdone to the point of cliché, particularly the sexual coming-of-age story. Anyone seen “Risky Business?” Ian McEwan has the rare talent to take both extremes-the classic and the cliché-and eviscerate their tropes with stunning precision.
“The Innocent,” is a coming-of-age story wrapped up in an espionage novel. Leonard is a British post office technician, plucked from his small existence in Tottenham, in over his head in occupied Berlin. Recruited into an audacious clandestine operation, Leonard descends into the intricacies of surveillance and the frontline of the Cold War. When he meets Maria, an English-speaking Berliner of “Shakespearean beauty,” Leonard revels that his initiation into the world of men is complete, until a horrific incident reminds Leonard that his true coming-of-age has only begun.
Having this book on your shelf will impress: William Harvey, the German Enlightenment, ex-husbands, eavesdroppers, the Department of Homeland Security, and a Metzger.
This book will go great with: a jelly doughnut.
Set the mood with: Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis Presley
Clavinism (stuff that will not make you look cool in a bar): Actually Norm, the Berlin Tunnel, or Operation Gold, was a joint CIA-MI6 venture that operated for just under a year, until April 1956.