Saturday, September 24, 2011
...good writing, interesting characters and great plot.
Restless is a different type of spy story. It is historical fiction rather than a shoot ‘em up international thriller. William Boyd, the author has a great track record of writing elegant fiction with varied settings (Any Human Heart, An Ice Cream War). This story, set in the years leading up to WWII is a good one. The main character, Eva Delectorskaya is a Russian émigré living in Paris in the 1930s. Thirty years later she reluctantly tells her up until then secret life story to her daughter Ruth.
Spoilers Ahead Her story -after her brother is killed working for a British spy agency she is recruited into a special branch of the same service. Her boss, Lucas Romer soon becomes her lover. Their group is charged with manipulating stories in the media that will give the UK an advantage in the war against the Nazis. In New York, the group cleverly plants media stories that will encourage the US to enter the war on Britain’s side. These British efforts at propaganda aimed at manipulating US public opinion were not anything that I had previously read about and I found quite interesting. The story setting moves from Paris, to Brussels, to London and finally New York. The author gives quite a bit of period detail that greatly enriches the telling. After an encounter in New Mexico with German agents, Eva realizes that she had been betrayed. When a colleague is murdered, she flees the US and goes into hiding assuming a new identity.
Interspersed with the WWII tale are scenes from the daughter’s life as an Oxford PhD candidate and single mother. These sections add nothing to the story. The daughter’s life is boring in contrast to her mother’s narrative and actually just plain boring.
The denouement was excellent. The author manages to keep this tale exciting right up until the end. I strongly recommend this historical spy tale – good writing, interesting characters and great plot.
I listened to an audio version (borrowed) narrated by Rosamund Pike who was outstanding.