Day 880: Exposure

Cover for ExposureIt’s the early 1960’s, the height of the Cold War, and Giles Holloway is a spy for the Russians, employed by the British Admiralty. He has been slipped a file to copy by his superior, Julian Clowde, and he takes it up to his secret attic room to photograph it.

But Giles has become an unreliable drunk. He falls down the stairs, breaking bones. He knows he must do something about returning the file by the next day, so he calls Simon Callington from the hospital and asks him to pick up the file and give it to Julian Clowde’s secretary.

Simon is not a spy. He’s an unambitious coworker who is more interested in his family than his job. Long ago, when Simon was at university, he was Giles’s lover, and Giles thinks he will do as he’s told. But when Simon sees the folder, he knows it should not be in Giles’s possession and realizes the truth. Instead of taking it back to work, he hides it in a briefcase in the closet. But someone has seen Simon in Giles’s apartment.

Simon’s wife Lily finds the briefcase with the file behind Simon’s shoes while she is cleaning. She knows Simon isn’t guilty of espionage and can guess what happened, as she is aware that Simon went out the night before in response to a call from Giles. Lily buries the briefcase in the garden.

Suddenly, policemen arrive to arrest Simon and search the house. They find nothing, but somehow a small camera for microfilm has been found in Simon’s office.

link to NetgalleyDunmore does an excellent job of invoking the Cold War era and of creating suspense in this novel. The authorities are misguided, as it becomes clear that the real spies are trying to frame the innocent Simon. Lily, a German Jewish refugee during World War II, is questioned as if she were a Nazi. The newspapers break the news, and Lily loses her job as a French teacher and is treated like a pariah. After a while, the novel moves its focus to the struggles of Lily and her children, who go to a small village to live.

Although it took me a while to warm up to Lily and Simon, I was gripped, wondering what was going to happen to them and their three children. I liked this novel much more than I did The Greatcoat, the only other book by Dunmore I have read.

Related Posts

The Greatcoat

Sweet Tooth

A Perfect Spy


13 thoughts on “Day 880: Exposure

  1. Carolyn O April 7, 2016 / 3:11 pm

    Sounds exciting! I’d like to read more Cold War fiction, but you know how books do tend to pile up . . .

  2. whatmeread April 7, 2016 / 3:35 pm

    It’s exciting in parts, but toward the end it’s about the family trying to survive and adjust to a new way of life.

  3. Naomi April 7, 2016 / 7:25 pm

    I really would like to read one of Dunmore’s books sometime. I keep hearing about how good she is! This sounds like a good one to start with.

    • whatmeread April 8, 2016 / 7:26 am

      I have only read two, but so far, I think that she sounds a little over-rated. But maybe I just haven’t read her best books. In one book blurb, for heaven’s sake, they were comparing her to Tolstoy!

      • Naomi April 8, 2016 / 12:14 pm

        I guess I will just have to try her out and see what I think!

      • whatmeread April 8, 2016 / 12:17 pm

        I think she is good, but I think the people who have been raving about her are over-rating her. I think I already said that, but I wanted to be clear that I wasn’t really knocking her, just the hype.

  4. Helen April 8, 2016 / 4:41 am

    I have a copy of this which I’m looking forward to reading, so I’m glad you liked it. The only Helen Dunmore book I’ve read was The Lie, which was set during World War I, but this one sounds more interesting to me as I haven’t read much about the Cold War.

    • whatmeread April 8, 2016 / 7:27 am

      I still have to read The Lie. That’s the one on the Walter Scott short list, isn’t it?

      • Helen April 8, 2016 / 8:02 am

        Yes, it was on last year’s shortlist.

      • whatmeread April 8, 2016 / 8:07 am

        I guess I may have to order it. Her books don’t seem to show up very often in bookstores here, at least not in the used ones where I usually shop.

      • whatmeread April 8, 2016 / 8:44 am

        Helen, are you familiar with E. M. Powell? I just saw a book on Netgalley that looked interesting, but it was the third in a series. It is about the future King John, called Lord of Ireland. Have you heard about this series?

  5. Helen April 8, 2016 / 2:24 pm

    No, I haven’t read anything by E.M. Powell, but I did see that book on Netgalley myself and thought it sounded good. I already have a lot of unread Netgalley books so I’m trying not to be tempted by any more, but if you decide to read it I’ll be interested to know what you think.

    • whatmeread April 8, 2016 / 2:27 pm

      Yes, I am very careful about how many books I ask for from them, particularly as I am more comfortable reading paper books and feel I am more attentive to them. In any case, they wouldn’t have the first two, and I’d hate to start a series in the middle.

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