|About the Book|
i just about stayed with this to the end but for a good writer like william boyd , i found it underwhelming .the characters are very thin and a lot of them pointless , the plot creaks like a House of Horror film door , and most of the writing is cliched . most of what Boyd seems to know about spying seems to have come from the Mail on Sundayhere are some gems that i noticedhere is Romer , supposedly a big cheese spy ,explaining the rules of spying dont trust anyone he said ..........god im glad i was not a spy . i just could not keep up with the pace of it at that levelhere is Eva the herione being advised by a woman a little world weary , she said there is nothing easier in this world , than getting a man to kiss you .. how do you do that ? just stand close to a man ..blah blah blah it was always going to be a dirty war . yes that really is there in black and white on page 173 and it was not said in a WW11 spoof but in this book by one of our most celebrated contemporary novelists . thats what the sunday times thinks anyway .theres more does the name mr x help you identify anyone ? thats on page 192 just in case you think im making it up . funnily the answer was negativethe heroine is always looking shrewdly at people . thats because she was a spy you see .A lot of the setting is Oxford and Oxfordshire based . a spy thriller with a whiff of the upperclass and priviledged now where have i heard that before . ah yes Burgess , Blunt etc . this is just lazy on Boyds part .pointless characters in no particular order - some german bloke who was in porno films and walks around naked and had something to do with 70s radicalism , the son Jochen who talks like a forty year old , Hamid an iranian engineer who proposes marriage to the daughter , the daughter who we are led to believe is brilliant but seems to twig on pretty slowly , the german father of jochen and his languid wife . i must have forgotten the other ones perhaps because they were yup pointless .cliches abound particularly in the description of a london gentlemans club whose members and staff look down on our plucky daughter because she is , gasp , a woman . she inevitably is upset by this . i forgot to mention that she is a single mother which seems to be a sort of short hand for being interesting , different and so clever . she is not working class i hasten to add , perish the thought . the other great cliche is the University academic who features strongly . make that up yourself , you know part Evelyn Waugh , part Patrick Moore .the plot device where the mother explains her past to the daughter in written in installments and is a totally unbelievable in method apart from being boring .i think the reason that this book irritated me so much was that apart from being poor , there are dozens of better thriller and spy writers around whose books get ignored because their name is not William Boyd and they are not thought of as literary . its all so unfair . Robert Wilsons a small death in lisbon knocks the spots off ( oops ive caught the cliche bug ) this novel , not too mention Le Carre . so i wont .