In the quiet cul-de-sac where Keith and Stephen live there is very little evidence of the Second World War. But the two friends suspect that the inhabitants of the Close are not what they seem. As Keith authoritatively informs the trusting Stephen, the whole district is riddled with secret passages and underground laboratories - hideaways for any ...
In the quiet cul-de-sac where Keith and Stephen live there is very little evidence of the Second World War. But the two friends suspect that the inhabitants of the Close are not what they seem. As Keith authoritatively informs the trusting Stephen, the whole district is riddled with secret passages and underground laboratories - hideaways for any number of murderers, unsung war heroes and secret agents. Then one day Keith announces an even more disconcerting discovery: the Germans have infiltrated his own family. And when the secret underground world they have postulated emerges from the shadows they find themselves engulfed in mysteries far deeper and more painful than they had bargained for. In this beautiful new novel Michael Frayn evokes a time and characters which are as vivid now as if they had appeared before us today.
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This novel starts out slowly, but builds layers of mystery. An old man returns to his old neighbourhood in England and recalls war-time exploits of spying on neighbours. His friend believes his own mother is a German spy and they set out to follow her and catalogue her suspicious behaviour. You try to imagine different scenarios to explain her actions and wonder who's up to what. It was a gripping story and I wasn't sure how it would end. It portrayed how children view the adult world, and the conflicting feelings of adolescence well. There was one unanswered question, though. Why was the man hiding out? Can someone tell me.
Publishers Weekly, 2002-02-04 By the author of the bestselling Booker Prize finalist Headlong, this dark, nostalgic and bittersweet parable evokes the childhood escapades of an isolated and hapless young boy caught up in the uncertainties of wartime London in the early 1940s, just after the horrors of the Luftwaffe blitz. Stephen Wheatley, now a grandfather living abroad, is drawn back to London to revisit his boyhood home, to deal with the complexities and eventual tragedy engendered by what seemed a harmless game of spy when he was just a schoolboy during WWII. His best friend at the time was Keith Hayward, the bright son of rather standoffish parents; Keith and Stephen embark on a childish adventure after Keith announces that his British mother is a German spy. The murky plot follows their frustrations as they try to shadow Keith's mum as she goes through the mundane ritual of stopping by her sister's house with letters and a shopping basket, only to disappear into the neighboring streets. Discovering at last that she takes a route through the culvert beneath the railroad and leaves letters in a box hidden on the other side, they eventually learn that she sometimes meets a tattered, bearded tramp hiding in a bombed-out cellar. When Keith's mum finally realizes they have found her out, she secretly seeks Stephen's loyalty, making him complicit. Thrust into a role far beyond his years, but helpless to refuse, he is overwhelmed. As it plays out to a surprising denouement, this enigmatic melodrama will keep readers' attention firmly in hand. (Apr. 3) Forecast: Fans of Headlong may miss that novel's dark comedy, but those who appreciate Frayn for the rigorous intelligence of his fiction will find him in fine form here. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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