by William Boyd

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I had a bit of a case of “good book at the wrong time” here; but in the end it came out pretty well.

I started reading this book in the middle of moving house and it was suffering from my only getting to read a few pages at a time. The book flips between two stories: one in “present day” 1976 with eternal postgrad Ruth Gilmartin working as a tutor in Oxford, looking after her young son and worrying about her mother; and the second story being written down by Ruth’s mother, once Russian and called Eva Delectorskaya and part of the British security services in the middle of the second world war.

I like this sort of double handed storytelling in general but it wasn’t until I found time to sit and read the book in huge chunks that I really began to enjoy it. I seem to have said this here recently too - some books just aren’t any good in small doses!

Eva’s spy story is quite a thriller in places but the modern portions of the book aren’t so exciting. I kept forgetting it was supposed to be 1976 too. I enjoyed the book and if it had been written as a straight WWII spy caper I’d probably have found it a bit much so the “looking back” aspect must have added something to it. But in the end it just wasn’t as good as I’d hoped it would be.

I’ll pick up some more Boyd to read though, sometime soon. This is the first book of his that I’ve read.