Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Spy Game by Georgina Harding

Reviewed for Penguin Books

An unusual plot line, a little disconcerting at first until you really get into it. Georgina Harding demonstrates how non-verbal family relations can create false imagery to young children. The novel centers around the mysterious disappearance of the mother of two children and how they try to cope. They are told nothing about the disappearance, simply that she has died in an accident. There is no funeral, the last sight to them was of their mother driving off on a foggy, frosty morning as she has so many times before. However, with lack of knowledge comes lack of closure for these youngsters. No one will talk to them about it. To them, she has simply disappeared.

The parents met in Germany in the aftermath of WWII. The father is English and the mother is thought to be German, or is she really Russian? The book covers past, present, and later jumps to the children as adults. In the present, the Cold War has a firm grip on reality and nobody trusts anybody yet they all keep silent. This story becomes quite fascinating, with glimpses of what life was like in the Cold War, glimpses of what life was like at the end of WWII, the hunger, the desolation, and the trauma of putting lives back together. The children demonstrate how their minds fill in the blanks when their father won’t talk about their mother, and how they interpret what the Cold War is about. This is a good read of a strange time in history. It’s even comical sometimes to see where their minds take them and what they learn in the process. Children are adaptable, but they need to know what to adapt from.

This review is based on an advance reading copy and so I am not commenting necessarily on the finished product, but I did note in this copy that although the book is in five parts, no chapters are marked and sometimes the reader finds him/herself suddenly in a different time period with no warning. This confused me at first, but I did get the hang of it. Perhaps in the finished book this won’t be a problem. If the reader is looking for a thriller or a book on fighting in a war, this is not necessarily the book for you. For imagery, imagination, and coping, for a story about people, then definitely I would recommend it. This novel is suitable for young adults and older.

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