Publisher: Faber & Faber
Length: 240 pages
About: Young boys discover spies at home
Style: Mixture of narrative and 1st person.
Where: England (London)
When: 2001 and 1940s
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 that
all is not what 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.
As soon as I get back from school I run straight to the lookout and start keeping watch on the Hayward’s house. But Keith has scarcely joined me before I have to go home for tea, and scarcely have
I got back from my tea and he from his before we both have to go home again to do our homework, to eat our supper,to go to bed. It’s just as I’d foreseen. We have a task of national importance to
perform, and we’re endlessly frustrated by all the petty demands of life.
'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 ... Frayn's novel excels.'
John Updike, New Yorker
Not so good
Spies works as a mystery, as a war story and as a coming-of-age narrative. The only thing it can't quite be, despite its author's intellectual background, is a work of philosophy. There are some
slightly strained passages, ponderings with a whiff of the seminar, rather too methodical for the context: 'I'm not sure, now the question's been raised, if I really understand even what it means to
The Observer Adam Mars Jones 10th February 2002 click here for full review
About the author
Frayn was born on 8 September 1933 to a deaf asbestos salesman in Mill Hill,a suburb of London, grew up in Ewell, Surrey, and was educated at Kingston Grammar School.
Following two years of National Service, during which he learned Russian at the Joint Services School for Linguists, Frayn read Moral Sciences (Philosophy) at Emmanuel College, Cambridge,
graduating in 1957. He then worked as a reporter and columnist for The Guardian and The Observer, where he established a reputation as a satirist and comic writer, and began publishing his plays and
He is best known as the author of the farce Noises Off and the dramas Copenhagen and Democracy. His novels, such as Towards the End of the Morning, Headlong and Spies, have also been critical and
commercial successes, making him one of the handful of writers in the English language to succeed in both drama and prose fiction. His works often raise philosophical questions in a humorous context.
Frayn's wife is Claire Tomalin, the biographer and literary journalist.