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Spies (original 2002; edition 2003)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0571212964, Paperback)In Michael Frayn's novel Spies an old man returns to the scene of his seemingly ordinary suburban childhood. Stephen Wheatley is unsure of what he is seeking, but as he walks once-familiar streets he hasn't seen in 50 years, he unfolds a story of childish games colliding cruelly with adult realities. It is wartime and Stephen's friend Keith makes the momentous announcement that his mother is a German spy. The two boys begin to spy on the supposed spy, following her on her trips to the shops and to the post office, and reading her diary. Keith's mother does have secrets to conceal but they are not the ones the boys suspect. Frayn skillfully manipulates his plot so that the reader's growing awareness of the truth remains just a few steps beyond young Stephen's dawning realization that he is trespassing on painful and dangerous territory. The only false notes occur in the final chapter when the central revelation is too swiftly followed by further disclosures about Stephen and his family that seem somehow unnecessary and make the denouement less satisfyingly conclusive. This is a much sparer and less expansive book than Frayn's 1999 novel Headlong, which was short-listed for the Booker Prize. --Nick Rennison, Amazon.co.uk
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:23:51 -0400)
"The sudden trace of a troubling, familiar smell takes Stephen Wheatley back to a dimly remembered yet disturbing childhood summer in wartime London. As he pieces together the scattered images, we are transported to a quiet street, where two boys - Keith and his sidekick Stephen - are engaged in their own version of the war effort: spying on the neighbors, recording their movements, ferreting out their secrets.". "In the peaceful Close, the only visible signs of war are the nightly blackout and a single random bombsite. To the boys, though, the whole district is riddled with secret passages, underground laboratories, and hideaways for secret agents that must be monitored. And then, with six shocking words, Keith reveals that the Germans have infiltrated his family; from that point, the espionage game takes a sinister and unintended turn. A wife's simple errands and a family's ordinary rituals, the unremarkable geography of post office and railway tracks, are no longer the objects of childish speculation but the tragic elements of adult catastrophe."--BOOK JACKET.
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