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The Spy Game Hardcover – 6 Apr 2009

20 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (6 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747597081
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747597087
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 22.5 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 798,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


`Harding skilfully weaves together history, memory and imagination in this haunting and beautifully written novel' -- Daily Mail

`In her finely composed second novel, Harding conjures up the enigmatic home life of eight-year-old Anna Wyatt and her older brother Peter. An aching, delicate and affecting interpretation of loss and acceptance'
-- Kirkus


`Harding skilfully weaves together history, memory and imagination in this haunting and beautifully written novel'

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Keen Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER on 13 April 2013
Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed The Solitude of Thomas Cave by this same author, so was keen to read this book, the premise of which sounded extremely interesting.

In January 1961, Anna's mother drives out of the driveway to head to an appointment in Oxford, and never comes home. Anna, only eight years old, accepts that her mother has died, and life goes on, in the quiet house with her father and brother who is often away at school. She has music lessons, from a woman who has escaped from the horrors of Europe in the War, and who lost all her family. She too has a sadness that Anna feels. Anna's brother, older than her, believes that their mother didn't die at all; but that there was something more sinister.

And so we read of Anna's childhood, her brother's growing into a sullen and suspicious young man, and her father, sad and somewhat distantly going through his life. And overlaid with this is Anna as an adult, jogged by her father's death into investigating further where her mother may have come from, and what the war may have meant to her and her life before meeting her husband in 1947.

This is a very introspective book, where we learn of life from the perspective only of Anna; her eight year old self and the few years following, and then her quest as an adult. We glimpse Peter, her brother who has grown up to have a life far away and who seems, as we read through the novel to have been the most like their mother. Anna's sensitiveness is more that of her father, and they both feel things deeply.

This is a wonderful story; a story of what was, what might have been, and what we could find if only we knew the right questions.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Purpleheart TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 8 July 2009
Format: Hardcover
`Fog that morning, a freezing fog; the flagstones dark and slippery outside the door.'

Anna, the narrator, remembers a `Monday in January during the Cold War'. She remembers `a sting in the air that touched closer than the kiss she gave me, which was no more than a brush of breath and powdered cheek' as she says good bye to her mother for the last time.

Georgina Harding's writing is perfect in its evocation of the feeling of the cold war years. The first section settles into the time after their mother's death; others are damaged in the post war years. Anna's best friend Susan has parents who were interned in a Japanese POW camp. Her music teacher escaped from Germany and the concentration camps. In the midst of the family tragedy Peter is sent off to boarding school. The children are considered too young to go to the funeral and Peter becomes convinced that his mother was a spy, bound up in the Portland affair which surfaced at the same time.

We recently had William Boyd's Restless where the narrator finds that her mother was in intelligence during the war. In this novel Peter and Anna play the 'Spy Game' as children, collecting evidence on their mother, fueled by the wish for her to be alive somewhere, even if not with them.

And then in the last section Anna, now past fifty investigates the mystery about their mother and finds all is not straightforward...

I thought Georgina Harding has done a masterly job with this novel. It is poignant in its exploration of loss, of a child's view of complex events and of the family's relationships. I found the story of Mrs Cahn, the piano teacher particularly moving.

A fine and gripping novel.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Annabel Gaskell VINE VOICE on 23 May 2009
Format: Hardcover
The direct gaze of the woman sipping a cup of tea on the dustjacket of the UK hardback, really caught my eye - a spendid cover and evocative title too. Reading the blurb, expected an espionage story straight out of John Le Carre, but this thoughtful and slow-burning novel is something completely different.

Set in the post-war years of the Cold War, Anna's mother goes out in the car in the fog, and she never sees her again. The same day, a spy case breaks in the news, and this leads Anna's brother Peter to wonder if she was a sleeper, a spy in deep-cover waiting to be called into action. He can't believe she died in a car accident - he's sure she's alive somewhere with a different identity.

Their mother was a refugee from eastern Germany - with no family left - that's all they know about her; their rather distant father prefers to disappear into his garden. This allows Peter to obsess about an alter ego for her - who she may have been meeting, what she may have been involved in. Anna is confused and feels her mother's loss strongly, but goes along with her brother's game. Eventually Peter goes off to boarding school, but he's still haunted by his imaginings. The children grow up, grow apart and start families of their own. When Anna's father dies, she feels a need for closure with her mother too, and plans to visit Konigsberg where she was born ...

This profound and subtle novel explores loss and letting go. You feel a little of what it was like to be a 'German' or Eastern European in England after the war, that slight strangeness and not quite fitting in, that led Peter's imagination into overload. Beautifully written, it takes its time getting to its conclusion, concentrating on the motherless siblings and how it affects their lives.
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