The Spy Game, by Georgina Harding

Anna, by now a grandmother, recalls the time when she and her brother tried to come to terms with the death of her mother, who vanished from their lives in the early 60's, at a time when the news was full of stories about double-agents and Russian spies. The exact details of her mother's life were never really clear, and now that she has time on her hands, she returns to Eastern Europe in an attempt to fill in some of the gaps.

I found this book really hard to get into. There were frequent, unheralded (at least in the audiobook) switches of perspective between past and present, and the writing attempted to concentrate on style rather than substance, which meant that there wasn't much story to get hold of.

I say attempted to concentrate on style because I think it failed in this. There were long descriptive passages which didn't really have anything to do with the "story", and I guess could and ought to have been evocative of the 60s, but they just weren't that well written. It felt like someone was trying to write like Maggie O'Farrell but wasn't up to it.

The audiobook version perhaps didn't do it any favours. It was read by Eleanor Bron, who you could imagine reading with a sort of delicately pained expression on her face - everything was described sort of at a distance, so there was no drama from that direction either.

I hoped that as it went on, I'd get drawn in, but all through the book I frequently found that my attention had wandered, and when I snapped back to attention, I couldn't tell whether I was listening to a bit about the children, or about Anna's current thoughts and musings.

It's got some good reviews on Amazon but I just found it disappointing.

Completed : 09-Nov-2011 (audiobook)

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