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 boys—Keith and his sidekick, Stephen—are 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 intrigue—but 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.