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Spies

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Spies Cover

ISBN13: 9780312421175
ISBN10: 0312421176
Condition: Standard
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Awards

Winner of the 2002 Whitbread Novel Award

Staff Pick

This is a story that takes you in like a dream. A man revisits a chapter in his childhood so steeped in intrigue that it continues to haunt him over the course of the rest of his life. Told in a very spare but psychologically pinned style.
Recommended by Mark, Powell's Books at Cedar Hills Crossing

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The National Bestseller

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, transforming a wifes simple errands and the ordinary rituals of family life into the elements of adult catastrophe.

Childhood and innocence, secrecy, lies and repressed violence are all gently laid bare as once again Michael Frayn powerfully demonstrates that what appears to be happening in front of our eyes often turns out to be something we cannot see at all.

Michael Frayn is the author of ten novels, including the bestselling Headlong, a New York Times Editors Choice selection and a Booker Prize finalist, and Spies, which won Britains Whitbread Fiction Award. He has written fourteen plays, among them Noises Off and Copenhagen, which won three Tony Awards in 1999. He lives in London.
A New York Times Notable Book

From the celebrated British novelist and playwright Michael Frayn comes this rich novel of childhood, deceit, desire, guilt, innocence, the past, and other universal mysteries. In Spies, one Stephen Wheatley revisits the sidewalks, shops, houses, and fragrant shrubs and flowers of his childhood neighborhood, and in doing so returns to vivid memories and life-changing secrets of growing up in wartime London. As Stephen pieces together his scattered recollections, we are brought back to a quiet, suburban street where two boysKeith and his sidekick, Stephenare engaged in their own version of the war effort: spying on their neighbors, recording their movements, and ferreting out their secrets. But when Keith reveals a shocking facet of his home life, the boys' game of espionage takes a sinister and unexpected turn, transforming a wife and mother's simple errands into the elements of adult deception, irreversible catastrophe, and domestic violence.

In his sharp yet tender depiction of the boundless imagination and incessant game-playing of childhood, Frayn offers us an exciting world of suspense and intriguebut it also a world that is human, familiar, ordinary, and real. Lyrically written and sensitively imagined, Spies powerfully demonstrates that what appears to be happening in front of our very eyes often turns out to be something we cannot see at all.

"A master of intellectual mystery masquerading as ripping popular entertainment . . . A gorgeous melancholy that shivers the mind."The New York Times Book Review

"Marvelously effective . . . A novel of extraordinary power and wisdom, a tour de force of humane insight."The Baltimore Sun

"Bernard Shaw couldn't do it, Henry James couldn't do it, but the ingenious English author Michael Frayn does do it: write novels and plays with equal success. [He] has extended his reach and seriousness while keeping a sprightly intellectuality."John Updike, The New Yorker

"In Spies, recollections of actual thingsthe 'disconcerting perfume' of privet hedges in bloom and the flavor of lemon barley watermake Frayn's story so real you can taste it."Boston Herald

"[Spies] convinces American readers that Frayn, author of some thirteen novels and sixteen plays, is a literary double threat."The Boston Globe

"In this very English novel, secrets assume an unexpected power and excitement as Frayn reveals that a little of the fascist is buried in every clever child, and that spying can be a soul-destroying game."Chicago Sun-Times

Review:

"As it plays out to a surprising denouement, this enigmatic melodrama will keep readers' attention firmly in hand." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"Frayn builds quite a bit of suspense, and the reader is always one step ahead of Stephen in discerning the nature of the secret. What is truly remarkable about this novel, though, is the way Frayn perfectly captures the dynamics of childhood friendships." Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist

Review:

"Frayn holds our attention with sharp economical characterizations of the frail and beautiful Mrs. Hayward, Stephen's annoyingly ordinary own family, and Keith's supremely self?confident father....Only a curious overabundance of climactic surprise?twists vitiates the skill with which Stephen's ordeal of subterfuge and guilt is portrayed." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Michael Frayn is a master of the intellectual mystery masquerading as ripping popular entertainment." Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times Book Review

Review:

"Finely wrought and highly comical....Frayn is a writer who likes to pull the rug out from under your feet while offering you the most seductive of smiles." Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times

Review:

"Bernard Shaw couldn't do it, Henry James couldn't do it, but the ingenious English author Michael Frayn does do it: write novels and plays with equal success. [He] has extended his reach and seriousness while keeping a sprightly intellectuality." John Updike, The New Yorker

Review:

"In Spies, recollections of actual things — the 'disconcerting perfume' of privet hedges in bloom and the flavor of lemon barley water — make Frayn's story so real you can taste it." Boston Herald

Review:

"In this very English novel, secrets assume an unexpected power and excitement as Frayn reveals that a little of the fascist is buried in every clever child, and that spying can be a soul-destroying game." Chicago Sun-Times

Synopsis:

The National Bestseller

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, transforming a wifes simple errands and the ordinary rituals of family life into the elements of adult catastrophe.

Childhood and innocence, secrecy, lies and repressed violence are all gently laid bare as once again Michael Frayn powerfully demonstrates that what appears to be happening in front of our eyes often turns out to be something we cannot see at all.

Synopsis:

From the bestselling author of Headlong, a mesmerizing novel about secrecy, imagination, and a child's game turned deadly earnest 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 images, we are brought back to a quiet, suburan 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, ferreting out their secrets. But when Keith utters six shocking words, the boys' game of espionage takes a sinister and unintended turn. A wife's simple errands and a family's ordinary rituals-once the focus of childish speculation-become the tragic elements of adult catastrophe. In gripping prose, charged with emotional intensity, Spies reaches into the moral confusion of youth to reveal a reality filled with deceptions and betrayals, where the bonds of friendship, marriage, and family are unravelled by cowardice and erotic desire. Master illusionist Michael Frayn powerfully demonstrates, yet again, that what appears to be happening in front of our eyes often turns out to be something we can't see at all.

About the Author

Michael Frayn is the author of ten novels, including the bestselling Headlong, which was a New York Times Editor's Choice selection and a Booker Prize finalist. He has also written thirteen plays, among them Noises Off and Copenhagen, which won three Tony Awards in l999. He lives in London.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

lucy25taylor, May 25, 2006 (view all comments by lucy25taylor)
I also sitting my English exam on Spies tomorrow morning and it is certainly my least favourite of the texts studied. Although it is clevery crafted and very evocative I thought most of the tension and constant questioning by the older Stephen seemed pretty lazy and superficial. I didn't find Spies to be a very fulfilling read.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(17 of 33 readers found this comment helpful)
Reshmatulsi, May 24, 2006 (view all comments by Reshmatulsi)
I also had to read this novel for my English lit As, and I have an exam for it on friday the 26th (two days time). I was very keen within the first chapter as well but as I read on I became disinterested. However as I read on through the chapters it slowly became more interesting creating a vast amount of tension, slowly and carefully unravelling a plot to finally jump and suprise you with the outcome. It also made me think a great deal, I would advise not to give up reading this book as it gets better.
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(24 of 40 readers found this comment helpful)
callum_parsnip_89, May 21, 2006 (view all comments by callum_parsnip_89)
I had to read this novel for AS english lit, i found the first chapter very good and i couldn't wait to read on but after chapter 2 i felt that it wasn't as intresting. i'm dreading having to read it again before my exam. the only good point was how Frayn used language that made you use your sense.
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(16 of 40 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780312421175
Author:
Frayn, Michael
Publisher:
Picador USA
Location:
New York
Subject:
General
Subject:
Boys
Subject:
World war, 1939-1945
Subject:
London
Subject:
Male friendship
Subject:
Domestic fiction
Subject:
World War, 19
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Bildungsromans
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
London (england)
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Literary
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st Picador ed.
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Series:
Recent Picador Highlights
Series Volume:
156-158
Publication Date:
January 2003
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
8.2 x 5.4 x 0.6 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Popular Fiction » Military
Fiction and Poetry » Popular Fiction » Suspense
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

Spies Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$1.95 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Picador USA - English 9780312421175 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

This is a story that takes you in like a dream. A man revisits a chapter in his childhood so steeped in intrigue that it continues to haunt him over the course of the rest of his life. Told in a very spare but psychologically pinned style.

"Review" by , "As it plays out to a surprising denouement, this enigmatic melodrama will keep readers' attention firmly in hand."
"Review" by , "Frayn builds quite a bit of suspense, and the reader is always one step ahead of Stephen in discerning the nature of the secret. What is truly remarkable about this novel, though, is the way Frayn perfectly captures the dynamics of childhood friendships."
"Review" by , "Frayn holds our attention with sharp economical characterizations of the frail and beautiful Mrs. Hayward, Stephen's annoyingly ordinary own family, and Keith's supremely self?confident father....Only a curious overabundance of climactic surprise?twists vitiates the skill with which Stephen's ordeal of subterfuge and guilt is portrayed."
"Review" by , "Michael Frayn is a master of the intellectual mystery masquerading as ripping popular entertainment."
"Review" by , "Finely wrought and highly comical....Frayn is a writer who likes to pull the rug out from under your feet while offering you the most seductive of smiles."
"Review" by , "Bernard Shaw couldn't do it, Henry James couldn't do it, but the ingenious English author Michael Frayn does do it: write novels and plays with equal success. [He] has extended his reach and seriousness while keeping a sprightly intellectuality."
"Review" by , "In Spies, recollections of actual things — the 'disconcerting perfume' of privet hedges in bloom and the flavor of lemon barley water — make Frayn's story so real you can taste it."
"Review" by , "In this very English novel, secrets assume an unexpected power and excitement as Frayn reveals that a little of the fascist is buried in every clever child, and that spying can be a soul-destroying game."
"Synopsis" by ,
The National Bestseller

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, transforming a wifes simple errands and the ordinary rituals of family life into the elements of adult catastrophe.

Childhood and innocence, secrecy, lies and repressed violence are all gently laid bare as once again Michael Frayn powerfully demonstrates that what appears to be happening in front of our eyes often turns out to be something we cannot see at all.

"Synopsis" by , From the bestselling author of Headlong, a mesmerizing novel about secrecy, imagination, and a child's game turned deadly earnest 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 images, we are brought back to a quiet, suburan 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, ferreting out their secrets. But when Keith utters six shocking words, the boys' game of espionage takes a sinister and unintended turn. A wife's simple errands and a family's ordinary rituals-once the focus of childish speculation-become the tragic elements of adult catastrophe. In gripping prose, charged with emotional intensity, Spies reaches into the moral confusion of youth to reveal a reality filled with deceptions and betrayals, where the bonds of friendship, marriage, and family are unravelled by cowardice and erotic desire. Master illusionist Michael Frayn powerfully demonstrates, yet again, that what appears to be happening in front of our eyes often turns out to be something we can't see at all.
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