Michael Frayn’s ‘Spies’

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥Michael Frayn Spies

Three word review: Cleverly-woven drama

My review:

I genuinely really enjoyed reading ‘Spies’. I suspect I would have raced through it if it wasn’t for it being my work lunch-break book. As it is, I’m glad that I ended up reading it over a few weeks. I think living with it over a longer period was actually more absorbing and atmospheric.

The novel is the retelling of a remembered childhood summer during WWII, by the now old man as he visits the close he grew up on. As he looks at each of the houses on the close he tries to call to mind the summer that his best friend Keith declared that his mother was a German spy… so begins a story of childhood let’s-pretend games, intrigue and fears, and adult secrets.

The quote on the front of the book says that the novel is “deeply satisfying”, and I’d have to agree. It is a well told, and very satisfying story. Frayn manages to somehow recreate the very distinctive feeling of being a child in a confusing adult world: it feels authentic. His characters are well written, and believable, and all the more interesting from being seen through a child’s eyes.

Frayn also builds the tension really well, and makes brilliant use of the two perspectives – the old man and young Stephen. It was a delightfully written, tense and mysterious, but ultimately satisfying drama. I definitely recommend it.

If anyone else has read it, I’d love to hear what you thought of it.


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