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Spies Paperback – 20 Jan 2003

3.8 out of 5 stars 174 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; New edition edition (20 Jan. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571212964
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571212965
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (174 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 92,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Amazon Review

In Michael Frayn's novel Spies an old man returns to the scene of his seemingly ordinary suburban childhood. Stephen Wheatley is unsure of what he is seeking but, as he walks once-familiar streets he hasn't seen in 50 years, he unfolds a story of childish games colliding cruelly with adult realities. It is wartime and Stephen's friend Keith makes the momentous announcement that his mother is a German spy. The two boys begin to spy on the supposed spy, following her on her trips to the shops and to the post, and reading her diary. Keith's mother does have secrets to conceal but they are not the ones the boys suspect. Frayn skilfully manipulates his plot so that the reader's growing awareness of the truth remains just a few steps beyond Stephen's dawning realisation that he is trespassing on painful and dangerous territory. The only false notes occur in the final chapter when the central revelation (already cleverly signposted) is too swiftly followed by further disclosures about Stephen and his family that seem somehow unnecessary and make the denouement less satisfyingly conclusive. This is a much sparer and less expansive book than Headlong, Frayn's Booker Prize-shortlisted 1999 novel, more understated in its wit, but it is, in many ways, more compelling.--Nick Rennison --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Review

''Spies' is a cleverly conceived and intricately executed novel in which different layers of irony are nested like Russian dolls.' -- London Review of Books

''Spies' is too good for the Booker Prize - can there be higher praise?' -- Daily Express

'Beautifully accomplished, richly nostalgic novel about supposed Second World War espionage seen through the eyes of a young boy.' -- Sunday Times

'Frayn has never written more seductively and surely than in this book.' -- Peter Kemp, Sunday Times

'In a recent interview, Frayn, a former journalist, said it was very difficult to explain what a story is. 'Spies' is a near-perfect exemplar.' -- Glasgow Herald

'This is a deeply satisfying account of the everyday torments and confusions experienced by a not especially bright boy at a time of international madness. Frayn has written nothing better.' -- Independent

'This is a lovingly conceived, handsomely detailed novel . . . never less than witty, ingenious and a pleasure to read.' -- Guardian

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I teach this to GCSE and A-level students, hence buying this version. I first read it a couple of years ago and instantly liked it. If you are of a certain age, Frayn's novel will take you back to your own childhood in gorgeously evocative, often nostalgic ways. The characters of Stephen and Keith are well 'drawn' and their world is finely created as they explore the presumed existence of a German spy in their twelve year old world of excessive imagination.
I find Stephen an excellent protagonist - not the usual 'hero', but one who draws sympathy and through whom the adult world, with its cruelty and deceptiveness is revealed most convincingly.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a story for people who remember dried egg and the War. Worth reading just to reminisce. But strange.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
School text
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All OK
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Perfect and speedy delivery.
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Format: Kindle Edition
In 'My Father's Fortune', Michael Frayn recalls his childhood and youth through the medium of a memoir of his father. This is a novel, but it evoked the past for me as well as a piece of biscuit did for Proust. Frayn's childhood was spent over a decade before mine; but he is so skilful a writer that it makes no difference. The story, though largely fiction, brought my own memories flooding back; but this is also a highly amusing and entertaining work of fiction. I cannot praise it too highly.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I found this novel hard work. I didn't engage with the intrigue and found it rather tiresome. I did find it well written, and the wartime historical context was interesting, but definitely not on my best loved list.
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Format: Paperback
Set mostly during the Second World War, Michael Frayn's 'Spies' centres on schoolboy Stephen Wheatley, who lives with his mother, father and older brother in the Close, a quiet cul-de-sac, where most of the houses sit in their tidy front gardens, behind neatly trimmed hedges. Stephen's family, we soon learn, is not considered entirely 'acceptable' to the more affluent and respectable residents of the Close, and Stephen, with his scruffy school uniform and old tennis shoes, is surprised when Keith Hayward, with his smart private school uniform and polished tan sandals, seems keen for Stephen to be his friend. During the summer holidays, Stephen and Keith play together at Keith's immaculate home, watched over by Keith's elegant and attractive mother who, freed from housework by her cleaning lady, spends her days reading books, resting in her room and visiting her younger sister who lives a few doors down the street. However, although Stephen may be in awe of Mr and Mrs Hayward, often wondering why they allow Keith to be friendly with him, deep down he instinctively knows that the reason Keith's parents tolerate him is because Keith is an only child who doesn't make friends easily - and he also knows that the reason Keith wants Stephen as a friend is because he is happy to let Keith take the lead in all their games together and never challenges him. And this arrangement works well, until the day that Keith makes the shocking announcement that the Germans have infiltrated his family and his mother is actually a German agent, and Stephen makes the decision to help Keith to spy on his mother's movements in and around the Close.Read more ›
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