Spies by Michael Frayn

About the book

In the quiet cul-de-sac where Keith and Stephen live the only immediate signs of the Second World War are the blackout at night and a single random bombsite. But the two boys start to suspect all is not as it seems when one day Keith announces a disconcerting discovery: the Germans have infiltrated his own family. And when the secret underground world they have dreamed up emerges from the shadows they find themselves engulfed in mysteries far deeper and more painful than they had bargained for.

Reviewed by October Book Club:

Very well written, giving a powerful and evocative view of a child’s world. Lots of ‘secrets’ gradually revealed keep the readers attention throughout.

Star rating: ****

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11 thoughts on “Spies by Michael Frayn”

  1. Review by King’s Somborne Reading Group:
    Gripping tale from the first page. For many of our readers it was reminiscent of their own childhood experiences – playing on bomb sites, the expression ‘the duration’ and ‘the war effort’. There was a great feeling of secrecy that people didn’t know what was going on and it was better not to ask. A tragic story with suspension brilliantly maintained. A good read.
    Rating: ***

  2. Review by U3A Reading Group:
    Provided good discussion which enhanced the group’s appreciation and liking of the book.
    Star rating: ***

  3. Review by Southampton U3A Reading Group:
    A well constructed and interesting book, an accurate portrayal of life in war time England from a child’s viewpoint.
    Star rating: ***

  4. Review by Ems Valley U3A, Bookclub:
    Generally enjoyed tough 2/10 readers didn’t enjoy it. Readers could relate to first part particularly childhood descriptions. However, it was felt that some obscurity and plot complexity alienated the reader and that the end was not as satisfying as hoped – a bit of a cop out! A good idea though.
    Star rating: **

  5. Review by North Baddesley WI Reading Group:
    This book was enjoyed and appreciated by each person in the group. An unusual occurrence. Beautifully written –wonderful grammar and use of English. It was a nostalgic experience for all of us; it spoke of a time when innocence lasted for several years longer than it does today.
    Star rating: ****

  6. Review by Milford Reading Group:
    An enjoyable well written story very evocative of WWII. Brought back many old memories. Probably be enjoyed by the ‘more mature’ reader.
    Star rating: ***

  7. Review by New Forest/Waterside U3A theatre and literature reading group:
    A mixed reaction to this book although all of them positive. The varied ways in which readers saw the story seemed to stem from their different ages and where they spent the historic period covered by the action. Some found the opening chapters evocative of their own childhood experiences (remarkable since I am the only male in the group) and considered the middle section boring. Others, myself included, were not initially grabbed but appreciated the skill with which Michael Frayn developed the plot. The characters were brilliantly drawn, although just how well drawn was not obvious until the whole story was told. Plenty to discuss.
    Star rating: ****

  8. Review by Tuesday Reading Group:
    Very varied reaction. Some found it very ‘boys own’ and only liked it towards the end. Others really enjoyed it. A good reflection of the time.
    Star rating: ***

  9. Review by Arle Reading Group:
    Very detailed description puts the events in context, but this tends to slow the pace of the narrative. Most enjoyed reading the book and would read others by this author.
    Star rating: ****

  10. Review by Shipton Bellinger WI Reading Group:
    The writing is a pleasure to read. A coming of age novel that brought back many memories. The group was divided about the story line, some loving it but others finding it a bit over complicated. We all agreed that we had to read more Michael Frayn.
    Rating: 3 Stars

  11. Review by Stubbington Book Ends Reading Group:
    Mixed feelings about book. Evoked strong memories of childhood and the relationships between adults and children.
    Star rating: ***plus

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