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The sudden trace of a disturbing, forgotten aroma compels Stephen Wheatley to return to the site of a dimly remembered but troubling childhood summer in wartime London. As he pieces together his scattered memories, we are brought back to a quiet, suburban 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, and ferreting out their secrets. But when Keith utters six shocking words, the boys game of espionage takes a sinister and unintended turn. Childhood and innocence, secrecy, lies and repressed violence are all gently laid bare as once again Michael Frayn.


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I only came across this book because I taught an extract of it at school. Always good to find a new author.

One day Keith reveals his mother is a German spy, he and his friend Steven set out to spy on her and discover the truth. What starts off a simple childhood game has more sinister consequences. This is told from Steven, now an old man, memory as he tries to remember that one summer in WW2.

This was a cosy, quiet mystery where you understand more as a reader than the child characters. It has that lovely sense of an English summer, and English small town living about it and really reminded me of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep. My only complaint would be that I found the beginning slow, but after 20 pages I raced through this one. I look forward to reading more by this author.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
2.5* Im confused about this one. On the one hand, wonderful insight into a childs mind, on the other, I had this strange feeling the whole time I was reading it that something was off, something was missing.( It must be just me, because everyone else seems to be fine with it.) This is going to sound weird, but it didnt feel like England or war-time. Maybe that was intentional, maybe we were supposed to be so sucked into the boys world that those things were on the periphery. Whatever it was, it threw me off.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
Great book about the hardships of growing up. I could really relate to a lot of the points made and agreed with them. It is mysterious and interesting!

مشاهده لینک اصلی
I noted that this book is now on A-level English Literature reading list yet I had never heard of it which rather piqued my interest so decided to give it a go.

Stephen Wheatley is an old man living in a foreign country when a smell rekindles some long buried memories so he decides to revisit his old childhood home back in the UK. During WWII Stephen and his best friend Keith decide to spy on Keiths mother whom they believe is a German spy. It is pretty obvious that she is not an enemy agent but does have secrets which she does not want revealed and it is also obvious,despite another a neighbouring child who is spying on Stephen and Keith that it is not a case of simple marital infidelity.

In many respects this is a simple tale of childhood reminiscences but it is also a coming of age story that peoples private and public personas are not always the same. The author uses smells and senses as triggers as these are more reliable than emotions alone.

The boys ages are not even hinted at until very near the end and the first and third person are often used in the same sentence so that the memories belong to the young Stephen rather than the old one which is well conceived. However on the whole the book failed to really grab me and I found it rather ponderous at times. A good read but nothing special for me.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
I saw Michael Frayn in conversation with Jonathan Lethem at last years Sydney Writers Festival – I went along because I was a huge fab of Frayns scripts, including @Copenhagen@ and @Democracy@, and I came straight out to buy a copy of @Spies@. In part, this was because of a wonderful section of their exchange where Michael Frayn was talking about two older men remembering their childhoods at the same time @as if an alarm clock had gone off, and these events needed to be re-experienced@.
Collective memory – and the different memories we have ourselves of one event, let alone in comparison to other peoples memories of them: these things make for fascinating stories.
One of the things thats so wonderful about @Spies@ is the way it captures that tightrope, that knife-edge, between all the things you dont have to know about as a child, and all the messes you might make acting with all that innocence in an adult world. Its the story of a small sliver of one boys life during WWII – and its one of those books that builds and loops and grows to a breath-taing ending, as so many pieces fly in to create one powerful whole.
Accidental consequence: that most blistering of things.

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