Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Book Review: EXPOSURE by Helen Dunmore


Author: Helen Dunmore
Publisher: Random House UK, Cornerstone
Read: July 2016

Synopsis (Goodreads):

London, November, 1960: the Cold War is at its height. Spy fever fills the newspapers, and the political establishment knows how and where to bury its secrets.

When a highly sensitive file goes missing, Simon Callington is accused of passing information to the Soviets, and arrested.

His wife, Lily, suspects that his imprisonment is part of a cover-up, and that more powerful men than Simon will do anything to prevent their own downfall.

She knows that she too is in danger, and must fight to protect her children. But what she does not realise is that Simon has hidden vital truths about his past, and may be found guilty of another crime that carries with it an even greater penalty. 

My thoughts:

What would have happened if I hadn’t answered the phone? This question will plague Simon, whose happy life as husband to his beautiful wife Lily and father to their three young children is about to unravel because of one phonecall from an old friend, who asks him an impossible  favour. A favour which Simon cannot refuse, because there is history between him and Giles, a past Lily does not know about and which might well destroy his reputation and marriage if it ever came to light. A threat which will compel him to plead guilty to a charge of espionage, even though he is innocent. At the height of the Cold War, such accusations are serious, and soon Lily finds herself on her own with her children, having to rely on her own resilience to keep her family together ....

Exposure is a very character driven novel, and I especially loved the voice of Lily, who proves how resourceful women can be in times of crises. Barely having escaped Nazi Germany with her Jewish mother as a child, Lily has known threats to her own life and that of her family before, and it has made her strong, even if some think her cold. Most of all, she loves her family, and will do anything in her power to keep them safe. Despite being female and held in little regard by the men of her time, Lily is not easily cowed, even when pitted against dark powers who think they can control and manipulate her into obeying orders. As the story progresses, Lily slowly grows into her own, getting stronger and more determined to bring her husband home, despite the toll it takes on herself and her children.

Of all the characters, Simon was probably the weakest link, shaped by a childhood growing up in the shadow of overbearing parents and bullying brothers. Constantly criticized and cowed, it is easily understandable why he gravitates towards the confident and flamboyant Giles, who will later betray him. And yet Giles is a fascinating character study in itself, his life slowly unravelling after the accident which was the catalyst for the event following. Despite his failings, I could not loathe the man, even when he was prepared to sacrifice his old friend so readily.

Dunmore has done an excellent job in portraying her characters and the era they live in, and I enjoyed the story, right up to its dramatic finale.  

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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