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The sudden trace of a disturbing, forgotten aroma compels Stephen Wheatley to return to the site of a dimly remembered but troubling childhood summer in wartime London. As he pieces together his scattered memories, we are brought back to a quiet, suburban street where two boys—Keith and his sidekick, Stephen—are engaged in their own version of the war effort: spying on the neighbors, recording their movements, and ferreting out their secrets. But when Keith utters six shocking words, the boys game of espionage takes a sinister and unintended turn. Childhood and innocence, secrecy, lies and repressed violence are all gently laid bare as once again Michael Frayn.

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Returning to the location where you have spent your childhood you always find out that the place is full of melancholy and a turbulent torrent of the recollections is inevitable…
“Things start as a game, and then they turn into a test, which I fail.”
When two boyfriends begin a silly investigation and try to penetrate the world of grownups, their life changes in quite an unexpected way. What starts as an innocent game turns into a real psychological crucible…
“You start playing some game, and you’re the brave one, you’re the great hero. But the game goes on and on, and it gets more and more frightening, and you get tired, because you can’t go on being brave for ever. And then one night it happens. You’re up there in the darkness five hundred miles from home and suddenly the darkness is inside you as well. In your head, in your stomach.”
Is one intrepid enough to play a frightening game to the end and become a man?
Spies is a very powerful and extraordinary coming-of-age novel.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
Spies is one of my favourites. Admittedly, I only read it because it was part of my English Literature A level studies, and most of my class would disagree with me in my affections for this book since it was definitely a challenge to analyse! However, I found that this only deepened my affections and admiration for Frayns masterpiece.
There are so many levels to Spies. It is complex, as Frayn chooses to narrate this story almost as a stream of consciousness, where events are disjointed and half remembered, then returned to later and expanded upon. It follows his train of thought, rather than a chronological sequence of events. This can make it difficult to read at times, however it captures the essence of a person revisiting old memories. It mimics how our thoughts and memories work - each triggered by stimuli, such as a scent, a place, a feeling, and how they do not always follow a logical direction but may in turn, trigger other memories which may be linked in some way. Frayn captures this exceptionally well.
Spies is a fitting title for the book, as it is a major theme throughout the novel where everyone appears to be spying on everyone else. It is a touching and charming story, told through the perspective of an older man who revisits the neighborhood he grew up in, recalling his childhood memories. One of my favorite quotations is:
@Everything is as it was, and everything has changed.@
This phrase seemed to resonate with me and summarise the feelings aroused when revisiting the past.
An enchanting read, despite its complexities, and a must for all readers.
This is a book I wouldnt mind reading again and again. And each time I have, it is easier to piece together the events and different things take on a different importance. This story has so many hidden complexities, it is a joy to read over and over to gain a deeper understanding of the characters, the events and Frayns unusual written style.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
I don’t think I’ve ever read a more suspenseful novel than The Spies. Michael Frayn has crafted a remarkable story of WWII intrigue told through the eyes of a young boy living in a tight family neighborhood in London.

Following the lead of his only friend Keith, young Stephen embarks on a spying game, tracking Keith’s charming mother whom they have convinced themselves is a German spy. The plot then takes many twists and turns as Stephen becomes embroiled in an intrigue he never anticipated, all the while having little knowledge of what is actually going on. The character of Stephen, small, shy and tongue-tied, is beautifully written, as he gets involved in a childish game and then makes a tortuous transition into manhood. Other characters, Keith, Keith’s parents, and an annoying neighborhood girl, Barbara, are also outstanding. The prose is full of powerful sensory images and a load of atmosphere.

The book starts and ends with Stephen as an old man; he has entered that murky territory know as memory and, looking back, tries to come to terms with how things played out in his childhood. He speaks of his younger self in the third person, unable to believe what an impressionable, naïve youngster he once was.

The Spies is about the power of a young boy’s imagination, the trouble it can cause or enlightenment it can offer. There are mystery and suspense in this book and more than a few stunning plot twists. That Frayn is also the author of the play Noises Off, one of the funniest British comedies of all time, amazes me.

I highly recommend The Spies for those who enjoy literary WWII novels with brilliant characters, mystery and suspense.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
Очень душная книга про то, как страшно иногда быть ребенком. Как страшно, когда весь мир - это огромная географическая карта, на которой сплошные белые пятна, и никто не собирается тебе пояснять, что к чему, никто не снабдит компасом, чтобы великая экспедиция и поиски новых земель не обернулись вселенским разочарованием и шлейфом, который тянется и тянется из детства во взрослую жизнь, проникая под кожу по глупости совершенными ошибками.

Стивен и Кит, как все мальчишки, любят приключения. Они живут в огромном мире, полном неразгаданных тайн и терпеливо поджидающих их за углом приключений, в волнующих декорациях идущей где-то там Войны, которая так неправдоподобно близко, что очень даже легко поверить, что на самом деле - она очень далеко. Огромный мир Стивена и Кита отлично умещается в небольшой райончик, в котором, как это водится, как по заказу, когда друзья выбираются на улицу, творятся чудные дела. Например, мама Кита - немецкая шпионка. Почему бы, в конце концов, и нет? Ведь взрослые такие странные. К тому же, у мамы Кита есть секреты. А взрослым иметь секретов не положено. Постаревший Стивен описывает все эти чудеса и весь этот ускользнувший мир дивным выражением. Он допускает, что и воображение постарело вместе с ним. Смыло со старого райончика все пестрые краски, которые в детстве так охотно окрашивали все их приключения и забавы. На самом деле, у взрослых, конечно же, есть секреты. И, если смыть с их секретов разноцветье детского воображения, остаются сплошные скелеты в шкафу, и вот они, в отличие от детских игр, в декорациях войны, которая на самом деле всегда так близко, что можно сказать - на пороге, практически невыносимы. В первую очередь тем, что норовят вот-вот из шкафов выпасть.

К сожалению, вот с этими взрослыми секретами у Фрейна и начинаются проблемы. Он рассказывает историю голосами двух Стивенов - маленького и взволнованного и взрослого и сожалеющего. Некоторая одномерность и картонность мира маленького Стивена при этом совершенно понятна. Вот примерно так мы все и видели взрослых, когда были маленькими, не особо задумываясь о том, что они могут быть не только хорошими и плохими, но и почти всем, что находится на шкале добродетели между этими крайностями. А вот сумбурный, и тоже почему-то картонный мир взрослого Стивена вызывает гораздо больше подозрений. Как и некоторые взрослые тайны, которые благополучно можно было бы выпилить из текста так, что текст не только ничего не потерял бы, но, вполне возможно, даже приобрел. Потому что нельзя играть с читателями в эту игру без правил @а дайте-ка я запихну в эпилог еще один роман@. При всем том, что финал мне кажется гораздо слабее, чем начало, и во время прочтения меня не покидала мысль, что что-то там за кулисами текста происходит, что, может быть, гораздо интереснее самого текста (скандалыинтриги), @Шпионы@ - все-таки очень даже годная книжка. Определенно не лучшая о скелетах в шкафу и маленьких английских городках во время Второй мировой, но вполне достойная того, чтобы потратить на нее время.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
As the novel opens, the narrator, Stephen, returns in his old age to the neighborhood where he grew up during WWII England. Wandering around the old streets, certain sights, sounds and smells (especially the sweet smell of the flowers on the privet hedge) conjure up Stephen the boy, and what happened to him many years ago during his childhood. While the memories are slowly unfurled, Stephen the man often adds in his own questions about what Stephen the boy could and should have understood (or not) about what was happening at the time.

What Stephen the man looks back on is a certain episode of his youth, when his friend Keith Hayward made the announcement that his mother was a German spy. He based his claim on observations he made about his mothers movements around the neighborhood. His bright idea was to set up surveillance so that he and Stephen could come up with proof of this allegation, and Stephen, who wanted so desperately to fit into Keiths world, went along with the plan. Yet, so many times what children see and think is actually a misinterpretation of whats really going on in the often-incomprehensible world of adults, and Keith and Stephen start down a path which leads to some tragic consequences.

This book has been criticized by some readers for being too slow, but dont believe it. The author spends a lot of time placing the reader into Stephen the boys neighborhood, complete with smells and other memory triggers, and this basis of place and time is very important. What really makes this book, though, are the characters. Theres Stephen, of course, who is of @inferior@ class to his friend Keith. Stephen understands that to remain Keiths friend, there are certain unwritten and unspoken rules that he has to follow. Keith is an odd boy, a bullying type who lives with his unemotional, stiff upper-lip, everything-in-its-place kind of father and a mother who is outwardly very charming but whose inner life is a question mark. Spies is not a passive read, meaning that a great deal of reader involvement is necessary, but when youve finished it, youll want to read it again.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
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