Book Review: Exposure – Helen Dunmore *****

I rarely read spy novels. I suspect I’ve been put off the genre by the overly complicated plots of the Le Carré books. The type where you get bogged down and forget who everyone is and what they are trying to do.

Exposure is different. Set in 1960s London it is much more character driven and the spy plot takes a back seat to the relationships between the different characters.

England during this period is a less friendly place to be. Suspicion and intrigue are rife and there is bullying at every level from warring siblings to over entitled work colleagues playing on an out dated class system. There is an air of decay about everything, from the rotting window frame in the attic room to the necrosis in Giles’ leg. All symbolising the parallel collapse of morality in society.

Simon is a middle ranking civil servant at the Admiralty and is under no illusions that he owes his position to his friend Giles. When Giles phones him up from his hospital bed needing a favour Simon doesn’t hesitate to help. Giles had taken home a top secret file and needed Simon to return it to his office.

Simon takes a look inside and realises how potentially explosive the file is. Trying to decide what to do, he plans to keep it at home instead, thinking that it might be leverage to get out from under the thumb of Giles. It is discovered by his wife Lily who quickly realises how damaging it could be. Lily is a Jew who escaped the horrors of Nazi Germany and knows that the secrets in the file threaten their very existence. She quickly buries it in the back garden. Soon the police are at the door and life as they knew it is over. It is up to Lily to try and keep their family together in the wake of some devastating revelations.

There is a bit of a feel of the Railway Children about this book but it’s a much more obviously adult version. It’s the kind of story that makes you want to immerse yourself in the period completely listening to the music of the day and watching steam trains go by. At times this is not an easy read but it is a compulsive page turner that will have you looking at the era through fresh eyes.

Supplied by Net Galley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

You can get a copy of the book or ebook here:
Exposure

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