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Restless: TV tie-in Paperback – November 27, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
When Ruth Gilmartin learns the true identityâand the WWII professionâof her aging mother, Sally Gilmartin, at the start of Boyd's elegant ninth novel (after Any Human Heart), Ruth is understandably surprised. Sally, nÃ©e Eva Delectorskaya, a Russian Ã©migrÃ© living in Paris in 1939, was recruited as a spy by Lucas Romer, the head of a secretive propaganda group called British Security Coordination, to help get America into the war. This fascinating story is well told, but slightly undercut by Ruth's less-than-dramatic life as a single mother teaching English at Oxford while pursuing a graduate degree in history. Ruth's more pedestrian existence can't really compete with her mother's dramatic revelations. The contemporary narrative achieves a good deal more urgency when Ruth's mother recruits her to hunt down the reclusive, elusive Romer. But the real story is Eva/Sally's, a vividly drawn portrait of a minor figure in spydom caught up in the epic events leading up to WWII. (Oct.)
Copyright Â© Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From The New Yorker
Boyd's ninth novel, an absorbing historical thriller, is loosely based on the history of a covert branch of British intelligence created to coax America into the Second World War. The story unfolds on parallel tracks as Sally Gilmartin, born Eva Delectorskaya, a Russian emigree recruited into the British Secret Service in 1939, reveals her clandestine past in an autobiography that she gives to her daughter, Ruth, a graduate student and single mother living a dull civilian life in Oxford in 1976. These installments give the narrative momentum (the accounts of Ruth's daily life drag, by contrast) as Eva describes the taciturn spy who recruited and trained her before becoming her lover; her secret propaganda work in New York; and the act of duplicity, almost deadly, that forced her to flee to England and live under an assumed identity. Ruth barely has time to process the shock of her mother's secret before she is swept into a dangerous game: finding her mother's betrayer before it's too late.
Copyright © 2006 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
Boyd's story is one that's been written quite often. An obscure branch of British intelligence recruits a young woman as an agent. This one - Eva Delectorskaya - is the half-English/half Russian woman, living in Paris with her family. After her beloved younger brother is found murdered, the leader of the group he has been working for persuades Eva to take his place in fighting the up-coming German menace. She accepts and goes through training in Scotland. If you've read Simon Mawer's books on the female British agent, "Trapeze" and "Tightrope", then you've already read Boyd's work on agent-training. The only difference is that Mawer's Marion Sutro is being trained for covert operations in Nazi-occupied France, while Boyd's Eva Delectorskaya is working in the United States, trying to gin-up reasons for an American entry into the war.
Boyd's spies and spiettes are an interesting crew, trained in lying, how to catch bad guys, lying, how to tell if someone's following you, and more lying. In fact, everyone routinely lies so much that the reader is left with "what the hell" when trying to make sense of the story. As the second story - which is interspersed with the first - concerns Eva's daughter and grandson and how they come to realise that "Granny Sally" seems to have a far more interesting past than they had any idea of. And the secrets and sins of one generation are carried on to the second.
William Boyd's book isn't bad, in fact it's quite entertaining, but as you read it, you'll find yourself thinking about other WW2 books you've read. Boyd includes a little-known bit of history when he has Eva witness the real German capture of two British agents in a set up at Venlo, Holland. But, I'm not sure you'll remember the book in a couple of months.
"Of course, there's little in daughter Ruth's life of comparable danger and magnitude. But this doesn't mean that the alternating chapters about her are dull. For one thing, Ruth is an engaging and nicely realized presence. She has her own full existence: a young son, a messy romantic life, unwanted houseguests, a PhD dissertation to finish, a job teaching English as a second language that brings an interesting array of foreign nationals into her Oxford apartment. All these facets are rendered succinctly and skillfully. Perhaps more important, we recognize in Ruth a stubbornness and strength handed down from Eva, who, because of the veiled nature of her spy career, hasn't always been as tender or forthcoming a mother as Ruth would have liked."
What this critic misses is the fact that Ruth's life is full of people who might plausibly be considered spies or terrorists. Her primary suitor is an Iranian who might or might not be a member of the Iranian secret police. A scruffy visitor -- a friend of a friend -- might be a member of an underground German terrorist organization. These are not exactly routine occurrences in the life of a grad student. Yet danger and betrayal arise from an entirely unexpected source: her mother. Ruth's not-so-quotidian life is intended to illustrate that trouble comes at you from any quarter it chooses.
William Boyd has a number of prizes to his credit for his incredible range or work. While the subject matter changes radically from novel to novel, what unites them is the style and readability evident on each page. Boyd is a writer in complete command of his craft. For anyone fascinated by World War II, the added bonus is that you will learn a great deal about the machinations of individuals and countries jockeying for supremacy more than 70 years ago.
Most recent customer reviews
William Boyd,has done his homework with enough factual History,along with well defined characters & intrigue.Read more