I think we have hit a new bar in evaluating books. It used to be that if a book held my attention it was a great book. But now with all the drama going on in the White House and in the world that low bar is not enough. Now a book must hold my attention and keep me interested despite all the latest Twitter wars and other “Breaking News” that keep vying for my attention and outrage. So it takes a great plot, fascinating characters and some very fine writing to keep me interested and this book by Helen Dunmore really excels in all categories!
It is a late evening in 1960 London. Giles Holloway, recruited by Moscow as a spy many years ago, is trying to complete his latest communication in the small secret office he has in his apartment. He is photographing a top secret file from the government agency where he works that not only is not supposed to leave the office, but he is not cleared to see. Things are going well, until on his way down the stairs he falls and hurts himself very badly. Now he has a real dilemma. He needs to go to the hospital but he needs to get the file back to the office before it is missed. Completely out of options, Giles does the only thing his pain filled brain can come up with-he calls Simon Callington, a man he knew quite well many years ago and asks him to help him.
When Simon finally arrives at the hospital and hears Giles’ request he is reluctant to help, but in the end he finds himself in Giles’ apartment and takes the file. But as soon as he sees that the file is highly classified, Simon gets suspicious and instead of taking it to the office he decides to buy some time and takes it home. There he stashes a briefcase with the file in the front hall closet behind the boots and galoshes thinking it will be safe there while he figures out what to do.
Several days later Simon’s wife, Lilly finds the strange briefcase with the classified file while cleaning out the hall closet. Knowing that this has something to do with the trouble that Simon is in at work and wanting to remove it from their lives, she takes it out to the garden in the dead of night and buries it under the compost heap.
Told from varying points of view and with a interweaving plot that connects these disparate characters, Dunmore takes the spy novel genre to a new level and tells it from the point of view of regular people whose lives are torn apart by suspicion. Lilly is a wonderful character, who bears the brunt of the tragedy as it unfolds, trying to be strong for the children as the family is torn apart. Dunmore is a gifted writer, attune to the flaws and nuances in her characters and leaving us both surprised and satisfied in the end.
Brenda’s Rating: *****(5 Out of 5 Stars)
Recommend this book to: Keith, Sharon, Marian and Ken
Book Study Worthy? Yes!
Read in ebook format.