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Restless: A Novel Bloomsbury USA 1st edition William Boyd


9th July 2013 Literature & Fiction 46 Comments

Someone is trying to kill Sally Gilmartin. It is the summer of 1976, and the only person she can trust is her daughter, Ruth, a young single mother struggling with her own demons. Now Sally must tell her daughter the truth: She is actually Eva Delectorskaya, a Russian migr recruited for the British Secret Service in 1939. Soon Ruth is drawn deeper into the astonishing events of her mother’s past, including her work in New York City manipulating the press in order to shift public sentiment toward U.S. involvement in Second World War and her dangerous love affair with another spy. Ruth also discovers that her mother has one final assignment. This time, though, Eva can’t do it alone–she needs Ruth’s help. Full of tension and drama, emotion andhistory, this is storytelling at its finest.

When Ruth Gilmartin learns the true identityand the WWII professionof her aging mother, Sally Gilmartin, at the start of Boyd’s elegant ninth novel (after Any Human Heart), Ruth is understandably surprised. Sally, ne Eva Delectorskaya, a Russian migr living in Paris in 1939, was recruited as a spy by Lucas Romer, the head of a secretive propaganda group called British Security Coordination, to help get America into the war. This fascinating story is well told, but slightly undercut by Ruth’s less-than-dramatic life as a single mother teaching English at Oxford while pursuing a graduate degree in history. Ruth’s more pedestrian existence can’t really compete with her mother’s dramatic revelations. The contemporary narrative achieves a good deal more urgency when Ruth’s mother recruits her to hunt down the reclusive, elusive Romer. But the real story is Eva/Sally’s, a vividly drawn portrait of a minor figure in spydom caught up in the epic events leading up to WWII. (Oct.)
Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Boyd’s ninth novel, an absorbing historical thriller, is loosely based on the history of a covert branch of British intelligence created to coax America into the Second World War. The story unfolds on parallel tracks as Sally Gilmartin, born Eva Delectorskaya, a Russian emigree recruited into the British Secret Service in 1939, reveals her clandestine past in an autobiography that she gives to her daughter, Ruth, a graduate student and single mother living a dull civilian life in Oxford in 1976. These installments give the narrative momentum (the accounts of Ruth’s daily life drag, by contrast) as Eva describes the taciturn spy who recruited and trained her before becoming her lover; her secret propaganda work in New York; and the act of duplicity, almost deadly, that forced her to flee to England and live under an assumed identity. Ruth barely has time to process the shock of her mother’s secret before she is swept into a dangerous game: finding her mother’s betrayer before it’s too late.
Copyright © 2006 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker –This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Restless: A Novel










  • 46 responses to "Restless: A Novel Bloomsbury USA 1st edition William Boyd"

  • Suellen Mellor
    2:43 on July 9th, 2013
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    At this point in his career, I don’t know if Boyd is capable of writing a bad book. With his past work he’s shown himself to be a writer at ease in multiple locations and time frames, and here he plays to that strength with a narrative moving back and forth between 1939 Paris and 1976 England. The story starts in the latter, where single mother Ruth Gilmartin is given a rather shocking manuscript by her aging, Cotswold village-dwelling mother, Sally. It’s a well-worn adage that we can never truly know our parents, and Ruth is given prime evidence of this, as her mother’s manuscript reveals her true identity. The sharp, white-haired, garden-tending widow grew up as a White Russian émigré in Paris, and was recruited into the British Secret Service in 1939.

    The story of Sally’s three year espionage career in Edinburgh, Belgium, and U.S. are meted out through further manuscript packets over the course of weeks. Anyone with a penchant for spy stories will find the details of this fascinating, from her training in mnemonic tricks and losing six-person tails, to her work in a unit dedicated to planting false stories in newspapers around the world, with the intent of both misleading German intelligence and bringing the U.S. into the war. (This is all based on the very real presence and activities of British intelligence agents in the U.S. during World War II.) However the modern story has its own element of more immediate intrigue, as Sally is convinced that someone is out to get her. Ruth thinks her aged mother is just paranoid, but agrees to try and track down the mysterious man who recruited her almost forty years previously — if only to prove her wrong.

    Yes, the mother’s doling out of her life story in manuscript installments is a rather clunky device, but Boyd has always had a fondness for having characters speak through letters, diaries, and so forth. And yes, these epistletory devices are always much more fluid and dynamic pieces of writing than any normal person would pen, but Boyd sweeps you along with his elegant prose and good pacing. Some reviewers have criticized the book for an imbalance in interest between the stories of the mother and daughter, however that may well be missing the point. Sure, Ruth is “just” a English-as-a-second-language tutor with a young son to look after, an everchanging roster of awkward foreign students, and an unfinished history dissertation. But such normalcy serves to both highlight the difference between her life and the secret life of her mother’s, and give the reader someone to identify with. This may feel to some as “Boyd lite” due to the espionage storyline, but such pigeonholing seems to smack more of knee-jerk genre snobbery than anything else. Boyd is among the finest novelists of his time and once again he proves his ability to write female characters better than almost any other male novelist out there. Great stuff.

  • Alex Aguilar
    4:42 on July 9th, 2013
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    As a woman, if you’re ever so slightly bored of modern women writers, this is for you. William Boyd’s achingly beautiful writing weaves an engrossing plot involving, but not limited to, a love story told from the man’s point of view. And it’s refreshing to read of a man’s utter devotion, told ungushingly but with such feeling and realism. In addition to the love, there is the story set mostly in the Far East, a little murder, infidelity, characters which jump out at you but allow you to fill in the gaps…. and a prologue that will have you desperate to drop the kids off at school and leave them there all week while you finish. This is a book for everyone, and the only criticism is that you won’t want to read anything else once you’re done!

  • Leila Waldman
    6:12 on July 9th, 2013
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    This is a spy novel, not a thriller, and there is a real difference between the two genres. Think John LeCarre and Graham Greene, not Robert Ludlum and Ken Follet. With the spy novel, you have the ever-so-slow peeling of layers, deeper characterizaion, a frequent sense of foreboding and, until all is revealed, some confusion. The thriller, in contrast, is the page-turning, up-all-night, action-packed adventure that you can’t put down. After finishing a thriller, you are likely to say “where can I get another fix,” but not to reflect on what you have just read, and if you try, you may not remember and, if you do, it may not make sense. With the spy novel, you may want to wait a while before reading another, but you will spend some time reflecting on what you’ve just read, and it provokes you in a more serious, literary way.

    I like both genres but find it important to orient my expectations going in.

    For the spy novel genre, Restless would have to rank among my favorites. In addition to the terrific writing, the likeable-but-far-from-perfect heroines and the World War II intrigue, the novel offers some additional pleasures.

    First, it is quintissentially British. The book involves, among other things, a single mother raising her son, the world of Oxford academia, and all sorts of emotionally powerful events. These all come across with the British stoicism, stiff-upper-lipism and “no winging (whining)” ethic that make the book very different from an American treatment of the identical plot. Not better, or worse, just different and thus very interesting to the American reader. The cultural difference (accurately renedered I should say) is a fascinating sidelight for the American reader.

    Second, the author employed heroines rather than heroes. I would be interested to hear from female readers, but I was very impressed with the author’s ability to create characters of the opposite sex who seemed nonstereotyped, but true. There is nothing of “the weaker sex” to the heroines, but they are not at all the same as they would be if written as men. In short, they’re real women (or at least seem so from my, male, perspective)in a genre that does not frequently offer that.

    Third, the novel spends a great deal of time on the intrigue, spying and propoganda surrounding British efforts to persuade the United States to join World War II. In an interview, Boyd says that he mostly used his imagination in creating the spying, but it certainly seems realistic and oh so relevant today. The wheels-within-wheels manipulation of the media and public opinion and the “trust nobody” mantra say more about contemporary foreign affairs than many current nonfiction treatments, which themselves simply repeat the spin that interested actors have given the authors.

    Enjoy.

  • J Clark
    6:29 on July 9th, 2013
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    William Boyd’s “Restless” is an unusual spy novel. The protagonist is a woman, Eva Delectorskaya, a multi-lingual Russian émigré recruited for the British Secret Service at the start of the Second World War in Europe in 1939. Through several changes of identity, she has become Sally Gilmarten, a widow living in an out-of-the-way cottage near a small English village called Middle Ashton.

    The book opens in the voice of Ruth, Sally’s twenty-eight-year-old daughter, a single mother raising a bright little boy named Jochen. The year is 1976, and in alternating chapters, the reader learns of Ruth’s life and loves as an Oxford University graduate student earning a livelihood tutoring various foreign businesspeople in English as a second language.

    The alternate chapters are the chapters of a memoir written by Sally in a third-person narrative, “The Story of Eva Delectorskaya.” These chapters tell of Eva’s recruitment after the murder of her brother, Kolia, also a British spy, her training in the craft of espionage, her early assignments and escapes from danger, and her posting to the United States, assigned to manipulate the media and build sentiment for the entry of the U. S. into the war as a British ally. Her final assignment involves a close brush with death, and the remaining chapters of the book deal with the circumstances of that encounter and the involvement of Ruth in the resolution of the mystery surrounding that incident.

    Like all good spy stories, “Restless” is replete with unexpected twists and turns, duplicitous motivations, a dangerous love affair, and a mystery that is not solved until the final chapter. What makes Restless unusual as a spy story is the intervening drama of Ruth’s life as a single-mother graduate student in the 1970s. Boyd inhabits his female characters so well that these chapters seem more like a contemporary romance novel than a spy thriller – an uncommon mix. But he captures the spirit of the times, the newly liberated woman, the left-wing demonstrations of the seventies, even though he leaves many of the strands of this story unresolved, the reader sometimes wondering what purpose it served. He does an admirable job of portraying the intrigue of war and international politics of the early years of the Second World War, but the resolution of the final mystery is fuzzy in places and does not evoke that final “aha!” from the reader, the ultimate goal of the very best spy novels.

  • Debra Verville
    8:17 on July 9th, 2013
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    Restless is the story of a mother who has concealed her true identity from her daughter. Chapters alternate between WWII and contemporary Oxford. The characters are complex and the settings detailed and evocative. I loved this book and read it in one sitting–I wish it had been longer. I love William Boyd’s novels–he has a historically detailed imagination and knows how to tell a story.

  • C. Pemo
    9:44 on July 9th, 2013
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    This well written book is a clever historical espionage thriller. Alternating between WWII and recent modern Britain, Restless is the stories of 2 women, a mother and daughter. The mother turns out to have had a hidden history as a spy during WWII which may be coming back to haunt her. The daughter is at a crossroads in her personal and professional lives. The story of the mother dominates the book. A weakness of the book is that the daughter’s story seems almost like a accretion, not adding much more than window dressing to the whole story. Character development is fair and the basic plot mechanism, revealed in a somewhat clunky fashion at the end, is far-fetched.

  • Cereal Ent
    11:15 on July 9th, 2013
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    A very unusual book which could be considered a period mystery, but stands as excellent literature on its own merits. The book starts in 1936 Los Angeles and follows a young woman architect for just enough pages for the reader to get interested in her. Then a mysterious man shows up and claims to be her father. After 70 pages she is then whisked away on a cross-Atlantic sea voyage to help her father find a woman in Lisbon. The bulk of the book then serves to explain why. In a slightly awkward device, the woman recounts, in prose form, what her father tells her about his life. This takes the reader to Manila in 1902 and follows a her father, as a doctor as he strives to bring modern medical practices to the Philippines, helps the occupying US Army investigate a series of gruesome murders, and watches his marriage fade away and maintain a love affair. There is also a subplot involving an attempt to build a flying machine. Events build to a crisis and collapse. By now the reader understands who the woman in Lisbon is and why she is important. Boyd’s strength is building a complete description of time and place at the same time as he creates characters with great depth. This book won the LA Times Book Prize for Fiction.

  • Maurice Pate
    13:07 on July 9th, 2013
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    My second William Boyd book. A complex tale of love, life, murder, intrigue and ethics. Boyd keeps the reader guessing until the end and then some more. It’s a brilliantly constructed story with real life characters. Kay Fischer’s life was falling apart, forced out of her architectural partnership, left with almost nothing by her sly partner, she tries to re-build her reputation as an architect. It’s not only her professional life that in shambles. She is still trying to get over her ex-husband, who turns up once in a while, and the death of her baby son. While all this turmoil is dragging her down, out of the blue a strange man, Dr. Carrissant appears in her life, changing everything. He claims to be her father, but she’s never heard of him – for all she knew, her father was dead. Well, that’s how the story begins and slowly unravels. One by one Dr. Carrissant tells Kay his life story. But he needs her help to find his true love, Delphine. The two of them embark on a strange and wonderful journey to bring their lives to a full circle. Boyd is a wonderful writer, who is able to keep the reader hooked, unable to put the book down. The characters are so real, it’s a pleasure to read. He seems to have some fascination with flying, a theme that recurs in this book (as well as in “Brazzaville Beach”).

  • Primus Pilus
    13:29 on July 9th, 2013
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    This is the first fiction-based book I have read that has mentioned the Philippine American War–the author is not even Filipino! For that, I give the book 5 stars. People should know about this forgotten and important war. Okay, I can go on and on about this… And now about the whole book: It’s not what I expected and I guess this is why I like it a lot. The character development is well done and the description of the locals and events were intriguing. I also really love the side story about the plane (you just have to read it).

  • zwoodrow
    15:26 on July 9th, 2013
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    This is a well written, finely crafted work of literary fiction in the form a a spy novel. As others have commented here, there are parallel running stories of mother and daughter. Mother was recruited as a spy while living in Paris in 1939. With training, her Russian emigre identity was effaced as she became a fully professional operative.
    Much of the action of the novel centers on Mother’s encounter with her own past. What’s missing is some deeper access to her interior life after WWII. How did she manage her complex identity–did she simply remain frozen? Had Mr. Boyd been able to open Sally’s inner world, the novel would be even more impressive. It’s still very much worth your time.

  • Toomuchmusic
    16:36 on July 9th, 2013
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    The book is captivating — like a mystery fiction. But can anyone suggest who in fact committed the murders?

  • JimboLodisC
    18:34 on July 9th, 2013
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    This novel spans half a century and half the world. The novel’s unconventional structure works beautifully with the writer’s strong sense of story, character and suspense. On the surface there are stories and histories of medicine, architecture, flight, war, politics. Beneath the surface an insistent exploration of the evolution of love and the secrets that bind people together.

  • realquick
    19:47 on July 9th, 2013
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    This book was phenomenal. I started it at 3 o’ clock one afternoon and just read it straight through, skipping dinner until I finished it.

    Ruth Gilmartin is a graduate student in history at Oxford, 28-year old single mother of a three-year old son. One hot Saturday in the summer of 1976 her world is turned upside down when her mother reveals that her identity as Sally Gilmartin (nee Fairchild) is an elaborately constructed fabrication. Turns out that Sally is actually Eva Delectorskaya, a Russian emigre recruited to the British Secret Service in 1939, after the murder of her brother, also a spy.

    Ruth’s and Eva’s stories unfold in alternating chapters until they finally converge in a climax that will keep you riveted. One slight problem is that Eva’s story is way more interesting, so that the chapters devoted to Ruth feel padded: there are some fairly obvious red herrings and a subplot that ends up going nowhere. But these are very minor flaws.

    Terrific story, great characters, good writing – “Restless” delivers on all three levels. As other reviewers have pointed out, this book is a bit of a departure for Boyd – it’s not quite his typical ‘literary’ novel. It’s part historical novel, part spy thriller, executed with exceptional flair. Boyd is an extremely talented writer and this book surpasses even his previous excellent work.

    I highly recommend “Restless”.

  • Kemnatz
    21:42 on July 9th, 2013
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    This was a very fun read but I cannot let this one go without commenting on the autrocious Kindle version. The thing was riddled with mistakes all over regarding spelling and puncuation. COME ON how hard can it be to trnasfer a digitial copy to a digital copy?!! Don’t you kindle people review your product before selling it?? But worse is the publisher. If I was Boyd I’d be livid.

  • Dr. Demento
    22:45 on July 9th, 2013
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    The characters in Restless are so appealing it is hard to put the book down until they play out their parts in the novel. The story never slows down, is never too much to believe and has a facination in the details of “spying.” I read it in one sitting and wished it could have gone on longer.

  • Greg Prather
    23:19 on July 9th, 2013
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    I happened upon this book as it sat on the “New Books” shelf of the Seattle Public Library. I had never heard of Boyd at that time. The book is wonderful. Don’t read reviews, read the first four pages. You’ll be hooked. I find myself, three years later, remembering that the first controlled airplane flight was not at Kitty Hawk, but in Manila, and the pilot was the coroners assistant!

  • Cherry Bruce
    2:21 on July 10th, 2013
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    The opening lines of this book grabbed me like few others, compelling me to read on.
    Granted, the plot didn’t always proceed as expected, but that ain’t no sin.

    It has been said that the characters in this story have not been fully developed, but to me the central characters appeared clearly enough.
    Maybe the reader doesn’t get to know them completely, but he does get to know as much about them as is necessary for the development of the story.

    Boyd weaves several stories into the plot, and his evocative storytelling pulls the reader in.
    Again, the book has been criticized for giving away the ending, but this isn’t a mystery novel, so who cares; thousands of readers will know how novels such as The Old Man and The Sea or The Remains of the Day turn out, but that in no way detracts from the sheer joy of reading the words penned by the authors of those classics.
    Same here.

    The end pulses with life, love, and loss, all tempered by hope and desire, albeit unfulfilled. The final ten pages moved me as few books ever have, with understated passion and elegance, and the final 2 pages had me awestruck.

    Not for some, but a gem for others.

  • mr kumar
    3:05 on July 10th, 2013
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    William Boyd’s latest novel, “Restless,” is an exceptional and wholly brilliant literary work on the theme of deception. It is also a compelling thriller, an intricate spy novel, and a fascinating work of historical fiction that uncovers little-known and embarrassing realities about the true relationship between Great Britain and the United States in the years immediately preceding the latter’s entry into World War II. Don’t pick up this book if you are looking for a genre-type spy novel. This is definitely not that type of book. This is an historically based literary novel concerning British espionage against the United States in three years leading up to Pearl Harbor. If that appeals to you, you won’t be disappointed. This book gets my highest recommendation, and is certainly one of the best books I’ve read all year.

    The story concerns two women, Sally Gilmartin, a seemingly ordinary aging British widow, and her daughter Ruth, a twenty-eight-year-old single mother. Ruth has a flat in Oxford and her mother lives in a cottage not too far away in the outlying rural district of Oxfordshire. Ruth is an Oxford graduate student trying to finish her Ph.D. thesis while earning a living teaching English to foreigners. As the novel opens, Ruth is worried about her mother: she seems constantly restless and is showing increasing signs of paranoia. Eventually, the mother divulges the reason for her persistent state of unease: she suspects that someone is out to kill her. In explanation, the mother gives the daughter the first chapter of a biography entitled “The Story of Eva Delectorskaya,” then she shocks her daughter even more by admitting that the story is, in fact, her own autobiography. Sally Gilmartin was the British spy Eva Delectorskaya, and she’s been on the run and in hiding for the past 35 years. Now she fears that someone has found her out and plans to kill her.

    For the rest of the novel, the chapters alternate between Sally’s story of her life as a British spy from 1939 to 1942, and the ongoing story of Ruth during the unusually hot British summer of 1976. Sally doles out the chapters of her life as a spy in bits and pieces over the course of a few months. While Ruth fearfully waits for each new installment of her mother’s harrowing tale, she not only has a hard time coming to grips with the reality of her mother’s past, but also lives through her own summer of shady happenings. Unintentionally, Ruth becomes involved with political activists and starts to experience her own restlessness and paranoia–deceptions build upon deceptions.

    Eventually, the two stories come together in an exciting and totally unpredictable denouement. The ending is exceptionally clever! You’ll be thinking about the twists and turns of this ending long after you’ve finished the last page. In particular, you’ll be thinking about the nature of deception…even deception between mother and daughter.

    Throughout the novel, Boyd’s message is clear: deception is dehumanizing, and if the business of spies is deception, then the price they pay is to live in a world without trust. “Restless” won the 2006 Costa Novel Award, one of the most prestigious literary prizes in the United Kingdom, recognizing the best novel of the year by writers based in the UK and Ireland. This was the first novel I’ve had the pleasure of reading by William Boyd. I am pleased to see that he’s written nine other novels, including many award winners. I plan to read a lot more by William Boyd in the coming year.

  • uhyeah
    4:22 on July 10th, 2013
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    More than any North American or European writer workingtoday, William Boyd understands the developing world in a mannersomewhat like the greta Grahme Greene. Boyd’s earlier books about Africa have been dead-on portraits of life in West Africa. You get the feeling from reading his African books of the ennui and decay caused by the heat, the humidity, and too many gins on the veranda. Blue Afternoons has many of the elements of Boyds earlier works – exotic tropical locals, the clash of European/North American cultures with those of the developing world. The exotic locales and glimpses into turn-of-the-century Philippine society gave the book an intriguing texture. The story, however, wasn’t nearly as captivating. A marvelous backdrop for a contrived, thin storyline. I kept thinking that Boyd must have done an incredible amount of historical research to be able to evoke the time and setting with such descriptiveness. But he left out the most important part of the book – the story. Overall, not a very satisfying book. I recommend instead one of his earlier books, such as Brazzaville Beach or On Yankee Station

  • Kevin Haney
    6:12 on July 10th, 2013
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    A secret service thriller with alternating sections. There is the story of Eva Delektorskaya, who had been recruited into the British Secret Service just before the outbreak of the Second World War. She was very good at her work; but for much of the time the bigger picture is kept from her by her boss, and that picture includes the deadly rivalries within and between the various intelligence agencies. When she realizes that as part of that game someone has tried to have her killed, she escapes from the outfit and adopts a new identity in England, of which the man who would become her husband and her daughter Ruth are kept in total ignorance. But in 1976 she thinks she has reason to suspect that whoever wanted her dead in 1941 is still after her; and she has to recruit Ruth to help her fend off the danger. In order to do this, she has first to tell her story to Ruth, and she does this by sending her in instalments the story of her previous life. I found it an unsatisfactory and unconvincing device: it reads like chapters in a novel that she had already written: it is a third-person narrative and there is far too much novelistic detail in the script for it to have been written for the purpose of putting Ruth into the picture. On the other hand, if the account had already been written, why was it not handed over to Ruth all together, instead of being released to her in sections alternating with the first person narrative of Ruth’s life after she is first told that her mother’s life might be in danger?

    Ruth, divorced from a German husband, teaches foreign students in Oxford. Prominent in her story are an Iranian student opposed to the Shah’s regime, and her brother-in-law and his girl friend who suddenly turn up from Germany where they may have been involved with the Baader-Meinhof group. At any rate, the police are interested in them. One is led to suspect that there might be a connection between these strands and the situation in which her mother finds herself. They play as big a part in Ruth’s story as does her growing involvement in the task her mother has set her.

    I don’t usually read spy-thrillers, and the intricacies of, say, John Le Carré`s plots happen not to appeal to me very much. The intricacies in this novel are of that kind; and fans of Le Carré will probably like this book, too. It is of course very well written, as one would expect from the winner of many book prizes; but it is all plot, and the characters, except for Eva in her old age, are not really three- dimensional. The climax, I think, is weaker than I expected it to be, though, in the few pages after that, the unravelling of motives in unexpected, and the suggested analysis of the political background in 1941 is one I have not come across before: I find it ingenious but historically not really convincing.

    The book did not really grip me; but then I am not the best judge of this kind of novel. Bear that in mind when you see my rating.

  • Marcel Johnson
    6:44 on July 10th, 2013
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    A government plants phony newspaper articles to exaggerate a distant threat and lure the United States into a foreign conflict. No, it’s not a potboiler about the road to the Iraq War. Instead, in RESTLESS, William Boyd has woven a fascinating historical spy thriller from stunning facts revealed only a few years ago about a British propaganda machine whose goal was to persuade a reluctant America to join Britain’s fight against Nazi Germany.

    As Hitler’s armies advanced across Europe after the invasion of Poland in 1939, the overwhelming majority of Americans responded favorably to isolationist calls to keep this country out of war. Philip Roth’s 2004 novel, THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA, vividly imagines that powerful and very real sentiment harnessed to defeat Franklin D. Roosevelt in his quest for a third term and elect Charles Lindbergh on an antiwar platform.

    To counter these attitudes, in 1940, with the tacit approval of the Roosevelt administration, the British government established an agency known as British Security Coordination, with an office at Rockefeller Center in the heart of midtown Manhattan. The goal of BSC — through a network of agents that, at its peak, numbered as many as 3,000 in the United States — was to spread disinformation intended to mobilize American public opinion to support this country’s entry into war. As Boyd describes it, in a recent essay about the novel in The Guardian, “Some of BSC’s schemes verged on the absurd; some were highly sophisticated media manipulation.”

    RESTLESS opens in 1976 in a quiet Oxfordshire village. Sally Gilmartin is living an unassuming life in a small cottage there, tending her garden and enjoying occasional visits from her daughter Ruth, who is fitfully pursuing a graduate degree at Oxford and earning a modest living tutoring foreign students in English to support her young son. Ruth’s fear that her mother is exhibiting the early signs of senile dementia gives way to curiosity when Sally hands her a typewritten memoir, entitled THE STORY OF EVA DELECTORSKAYA, and reveals that she’s a Russian émigré who had been recruited by a shadowy handler, Lucas Romer, to work in the BSC program. “We all have secrets,” Sally says. “No one knows even half the truth about anybody else, however close or intimate they are.”

    The balance of the novel alternates between Ruth’s first-person narrative and Eva’s account of her espionage work, told in the third person. Boyd tries to inject some drama into Ruth’s story through one subplot featuring her relationship with her student Hamid, a refugee from Iran, and another involving the mysterious appearance of her brother-in-law Ludger and his girlfriend Ilse, who Ruth suspects (without much evidence) may be loosely connected with a German terrorist group. There’s little doubt which tale is the more compelling. Eva’s tale begins in Paris in 1939, and traces her path from Europe to New York, across the United States to a fateful rendezvous in New Mexico, to Canada and then back to London, where it ends when she meets her husband and Ruth’s father, Sean Gilmartin, in 1942.

    Eva’s early work for BSC, jokingly referred to as “The Rumour Factory,” has an almost prankish quality as she concocts fake newspaper stories and poses as a correspondent, all with the goal of heightening American fears about the German threat. But as the tide of war continues to run in Germany’s favor and Britain’s need to enlist its American ally becomes more desperate, she realizes the game she’s involved in is a deadly serious one that may even jeopardize her life.

    Ruth works her way through Eva’s compelling narrative, acknowledging that “My mother’s sudden revelatory detonation had rocked me so powerfully that I had deliberately treated it as a fiction at first, reluctantly letting the dawning truth arrive, filling me slowly, gradually.” As she does so, it becomes clear that Sally has shared the story purposefully, hoping to enlist Ruth in her plan to settle an old score with Lucas Romer and reveal a shocking secret about her former handler.

    Like the best spy stories, the pleasures of RESTLESS lie as much in the way Boyd illuminates the nuances of human character as in the scenes of heart-pounding action, although there are more than a few of the latter. In this richly satisfying work, he reaffirms his credentials as an accomplished prose craftsman and combines that gift with storytelling skills that will appeal to fans of the best work of masters like Graham Greene and John le Carre.

    — Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg (mwn52@aol.com)

  • Willis Hiens
    7:24 on July 10th, 2013
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    William Boyd, the author of “Brazzaville Beach” and “A Good Man in Africa”, has written a tale of intrigue that takes us from the 1930s in Los Angeles to the late 1890s in the Philippines on a wild chase for the truth about a certain doctor’s past. The tale opens with the confrontation between a budding female architect (most unlikely in 1936, but if you can get by that, the rest is easy) and an elderly man (the doctor) who claims to be her father. The story revolves around the doctor’s need to eventually get to Lisbon in his efforts to locate someone…. during the trip to Portugal, he weaves the story for the architect and for us. The details of the grizzly war in the Philippines (and the behavior of the Americans there), the languid, filthy streets and neighborhoods of Manila, the medieval medical practices, and the complex world and class systems of Philippine society during the turn of the century all work together to make this a fantastic read. With little effort, this might even be a good movie!

  • Dave L
    9:22 on July 10th, 2013
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    I HAD to read it. It is William Boyd, after all, one of my favorite authors.
    Many years ago, a friend told me I HAD to read News Confessions. And I did it : I took me away. Loved it. And advised other people to read it.
    Since then, I am still looking for the next Boyd masterpiece. The Nat Tate story was brilliant. Some others were sustaining. Is Confessions his masterpiece? Yes. What is Restless? A far cry from Confessions… It made me wait for those Boyd comments & twists. Interesting, enjoyable, but really not the best Boyd ever. There is no real punch in this one, just interest in going on to find out more about the Eva character.
    I’ll stop here, Mr Boyd. I will still read you and wait for a new strong book like you are capable of.

  • crazyamerican
    10:57 on July 10th, 2013
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    William Boyd’s “Any Human Heart” is a modern classic and a revelation – one of my best reads ever – and his latest novel, “Restless”, is irrefutable evidence that Boyd is a huge talent and clearly more than equal to the task of tackling different genres and coming away with winners all the same, and firing from all cylinders. Deservedly, it went on to win the 2006 Costa Book (formerly Whitbread) Award but was inexplicably ignored by the 2006 Booker committee in a lean year if the horribly patchy shortlist is anything to go by.

    “Restless” is a set in World War Two spy thriller that rivals the best of the genre. Eva Delectorskaya, a Russian emigree recruited into the British intelligence service to spy on the Germans in the late 1930s, now lives quietly in the English countryside under an assumed identity with a family, including a grown up daughter (Ruth Gilmartin) and a grandson, in tow. They and her deceased husband know/knew nothing of her past but after all these years of living a normal life, suddenly there’s one final thing she desperately needs to do for herself, something that would entail her coming clean about her secret past life with Ruth and risking the only relationships that are real and matter to her.

    The novel has a two-tier time structure – “now” in the fore and “then” in the back – and while it’s almost inevitable that the back (spy) story should provide most of the excitement, and the thematic and narrative drive, the story in the foreground isn’t simply a device or an excuse to take an excursion into the past. I won’t spoil the fun by saying more, except that the two stories dovetail in a marvelously crafted climactic encounter that won’t disappoint.

    Boyd is also a master of characterization. Eva’s training as a spy for the British intelligence has taught her to trust no one. Not even her loved ones must know as the stakes are high. To live with this secret must be intolerable with nobody to share it. Yet her ice cool steeliness in the face of present unidentified danger masks a deep love for her daughter. With an undisclosed former spy for a mother, it’s not surprising that Ruth’s relationship with her mother isn’t close or intimate like the one she shared with her deceased father. But that’s fine and the relationship survives. Lucas Romer, Eva’s boss and some time lover during the World War years is another key character that’s brilliantly drawn and finely etched in our minds.

    William Boyd’s fictional prose is some of the best I’ve read. It’s as intelligent and finely nuanced as any in the canon of contemporary literature. His writing is right up there with Ian McEwan, John Banville and Julian Barnes.

    “Restless” counts among my best reads this year. Highly recommended.

  • corina
    12:34 on July 10th, 2013
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    Superficially, it’s tempting to pidgeonhole William Boyd’s “The Blue Afternoon” as a thriller. For much of the way, you may find your heart racing and yourself thinking you can’t put this down until you reach the end. But at the heart of this wonderfully entertaining novel is a romance, a romance so huge and heady it’s almost redemptive in its force. The thriller elements of murder, blackmail and betrayal only create the opportunities and subtext for the great love affair to play out. Some readers may find the Salvador/Delphine affair surprising and even incredible. You wouldn’t if you allow yourself the luxury of accepting Cupid’s strange ways. But what’s even more intriguing to me is Boyd’s ability to generate a deep sense of sustained ambivalence in the treatment of his characters and their personal situations throughout the novel. You’re never sure enough about any of them to rule anything out. For instance, Salvador’s Filipino colleague, Pantaleon, shows a surprising side to him under pressure. Delphine also remains an enigma, right to the very end. Boyd’s reluctance at a clear resolution perhaps hints at how he really wishes us to regard his novel, not as a “who dunnit” but as a sojourn with the human heart which needs Love and Romance to nourish and keep it alive. Kay, Salvador’s daughter, isn’t a technical devise or a red herring either. She may be an observer and peripheral to the plot which is told in flashbacks, but we are told she’s one of two reasons why Salvador has managed to gain strength to survive his personal tragedy. “The Blue Afternoon” is an engaging and superbly written novel. Highly recommended reading.

  • Caroline
    14:16 on July 10th, 2013
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    William Boyd is an excellent writer. The prose, characterizations and dialogue are uniformly excellent in all his books I’ve read, including ‘The Blue Afternoon’. In this book we have, in effect, a romance between a doctor and a married woman … plus a number of interesting side stories (murder, war, mayhem and yes, more romance). The 1903 Manila setting, just after the Spanish-American war, gives the story a historical and fascinating twist.

    Like his other books, ‘The Blue Afternoon’ isn’t an entirely believable read. But it is such a pleasurable story that one wishes it was all fact, not fiction. My only complaint with it is the ending. Some open-ended matters concerning subplots are not closed. The author has seemingly done this purposely to tease the reader. I wasn’t teased, just annoyed. However this doesn’t tarnish the overall pleasure of reading ‘The Blue Afternoon’.

    Bottom line: a rich, charming fable. Why it hasn’t been made into a film is anyone’s guess. Recommended to all.

  • Alphonso
    14:30 on July 10th, 2013
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    Ruth is a single mother who teaches English as a second language in Oxford, England. One day her mother hands her the first installment in her autobiography, and Ruth discovers that everything she thought she knew about her mother’s background is a lie, and that her mother was actually a secret agent by the name of Eva, who worked for the British immediately prior to and during WW2.

    From here, the book alternates between Ruth’s life in the present day and her mother’s story during the war. Like Ruth, I found myself caught up in the spy saga and hungry to see how it developed. William Boyd has done a great job of creating a plausible and intriguing storyline for Eva – more John le Carre than James Bond. While he captures the isolation of Eva’s world and the mundane elements of her job, the story also builds with genuine tension and pace. Ruth’s life, on the other hand, is more prosaic, but as she gets caught up in her mother’s story, she loses her jaded view of the world and starts to see potential intrigue in the people and events around her.

    This is an easy book to read and I enjoyed it very much. The details about Eva’s training and life as a spy felt real and fascinating to me. The twists and turns in her story kept me hooked without feeling contrived or false. As I read the book I could feel it building towards some kind of climax but I had absolutely no idea where it would go. The mother’s and daughter’s stories eventually intersect in a way that I found very satisfying. I thought it was a great read from start to finish.

  • my_groupon
    15:31 on July 10th, 2013
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    This is the first book I’ve read from this author.

    It’s a WWII thriller, rare now, some 60 years after the war. WWII thrillers were much more common certainly when I was growing up as a kid. This book does have some kind of a retro noir feeling to it. The book itself is set in the 70′s.

    My comments:
    1) It’s somewhat slow, it wasn’t one of those books which I had to finish because it was so enthralling, but it did keep me wanting to read more.
    2) The switching back and forth between the 70′s and the 40′s memoirs was somewhat disconcerting, perhaps that’s why I could keep putting it down, because I knew “what was going to happen next”, wasn’t going to happen until a chapter later.
    3) The book was fairly well written and not hard to read. There was really only 1 protagonist per decade (the 40′s and the 70′s) and the story between the two drew closer and closer together towards the end. That was a nice bit of writing.
    4) The ending was only revealed in the final pages and to be fair, it was a fine ending. I won’t give it away by saying anything more.

    Conclusion: A good, if not a great book. I’ll definitely check out this author’s other works.

  • Paul Hinz
    17:10 on July 10th, 2013
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    Highly recommend it. One of those rare books – great story and beautifully written. A bit of a mystery, a bit of romance, a bit of a world long gone.
    I also recommend:
    -”Good man in Africa” by the same author
    -anything my Tome Wolfe
    -anything by Balzac and Zola
    -”Power of One” by Bryce Courtenay
    -”Fear and Trembling” by Amelie Nothomb

  • daoud
    18:34 on July 10th, 2013
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    When Ruth, a single mother and teacher of English as a Second Language, goes to Middle Ashton to visit her mother, Sally Gilmartin, in 1976, she receives a surprise. When Ruth is ready to go home, Sally gives her a folder entitled _The Story of Eva Delectorskaya_. Ruth has never heard of Eva–until her mother stuns her by announcing, “I am Eva Delectorskaya.” Sally believes that someone is trying to kill her, and she wants Ruth to help her find Lucas Romer, her former boss in a British spy agency, during World War II.

    The novel which ensues from the additional folders Eva gives to Ruth alternates between Ruth’s life in the 1970s and the life of Eva Delectorskaya from 1939 through 1942. A Russian émigré to Paris, Eva is recruited by British intelligence, and once she has been trained (and has removed all traces of a foreign accent from her voice), she is sent to Belgium, where she works for Agence d’Information Nadal, a front organization which plants disinformation which the allies hope the Germans will accept as truth. Later she goes to Holland with Lucas Romer, her boss, and eventually to Manhattan.

    Ruth’s life, far more plebeian than Eve’s, revolves around her teaching of foreign students, her care for her son, her friendship with Hamid Kazemi, an Iranian student and engineer, and her involvement in activist politics. When Ruth succeeds in locating Lucas Romer, the two story lines come together in a grand climax.

    Always a master of narrative pacing, Boyd keeps the story moving smartly, though Eve’s story is far more interesting and more involving than Ruth’s. His ability to recreate the atmosphere of Europe and the US in 1942 makes for lively reading as he explores some of the lesser known intrigues by British intelligence. Boyd has often made use of diaries and journals to advance his plots, and this formula works as the reader becomes fascinated by Eve’s complex life as a spy. Unfortunately, the characters themselves are not very complex, and as a result, the reader remains at arm’s length from the action. With its unusual plot twists and its focus on British spy activity within the US, however, the novel moves quickly and is fun to read. n Mary Whipple

  • ugly george
    19:52 on July 10th, 2013
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    British actress Rosamund Pike is probably best known for playing the gal who caught James Bond’s eye in Die Another Day. While that performance certainly grabbed audience attention, she has numerous other noteworthy credits both on stage and in films. She does another star turn as she inhabits two narrative voices in the 9th novel by William Boyd. He’s been called “The finest storyteller of his generation,” and Restless again demonstrates how splendidly he can spin a tale.

    Set in Oxfordshire, England during 1976 our story opens with a bit of a shock – Sally Gilmartin gives her daughter, Ruth, a memoir she has penned. Ruth is amazed to learn that her mother is not at all who she believed her to be. In actuality, Sally Gilmartin is Eva Delectorskaya, A Russian who worked for the British Secret Service during World War II. Sally or Eva has guarded this secret well for almost 30 years.

    Now, she is revealing the truth about herself to her daughter not because she wishes to be open but because she fears for her life and Ruth is the one person in the world she believes she can trust. Ruth is not only astounded but disbelieving, wondering if her mother may be delusional at the onset of old age. Nonetheless, for her mother’s sake she tries to find Romer the man who recruited Sally/Eva and with whom she had an affair.

    Restless is related in parallel stories, probably the most compelling are the accounts of Sally/Eva’s enlistment, training, and experiences. Following the war she returns to England, adopts an identity and marries. She has every reason to believe her past is well behind her.

    Not so!

    Highly recommended.

    – Gail Cooke

  • define success
    20:04 on July 10th, 2013
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    A masterful storyteller, William Boyd captivates his reader from the onset. “The Blue Afternoon” is a wonderful and beautifully written story that encompasses romance, intrigue, crime, and passion, and one that truly holds the reader’s attention from cover to cover. From the moment I read the incredible prologue, I didn’t want to put this book down. There is a skillful blending of perspective here–the author (a man) has been eminently successfully in creating a story in which a woman is the narrator, and she, in turn, recounts the story of a man (her father)

  • Gary Clymer
    21:06 on July 10th, 2013
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    The characters in Restless are so appealing it is hard to put the book down until they play out their parts in the novel. The story never slows down, is never too much to believe and has a facination in the details of “spying.” I read it in one sitting and wished it could have gone on longer.

  • Tanya
    22:17 on July 10th, 2013
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    The novel is framed around the perspective of Kay Fischer, an LA architect in 1936, who is approached by her long lost father who wants her to help him hunt down his long lost love. Fischer is at wits end with her architecture because her partner has basically sold her out and she goes along with him, traveling all the way to Spain where he believes the lady, Delphine, lives. The frame seems unnecessary and unsatisfying. Not sure what we are supposed to learn about Kay from it? When the novel ends, I didn’t feel any further along with her sense of herself then when it started so that was ultimately unsatisfying.

    The main action of the novel actually takes place 30 years earlier during the Phillipine/American war when her father, Dr. Carriscant met the woman he wants to hunt down. He tells Kay this story on their route to Spain. The novel takes us back to the Phillipines, and the story is told from Carriscant’s perspective. This part of the novel is intriguing and somewhat unusual while being a traditional love story as well.

    Carriscant represent the modern physician of an era where many still didn’t respect cleanliness rules and we hear alot about his operating theater compared to the other major doctor. There are also some details of operations at the time period. But the plot runs along three lines: first, Carriscant is helping an American army police officer, Bobby, to autopsy some murdered soldiers. Bobby is intent on finding out who killed them and as the novel progresses, clues point more and more towards Carriscant himself. The second plot line is Carriscant’s anesthesiologist is attempting to build a flying machine for a contest and he embroils Carriscant in this. And, finally, Carriscant meets Delphine, the wife of an American soldier when she accidently almost shoots him with an arrow. Carriscant’s marriage has been deteriorating for some time and he is ripe for an affair (there is one harrowing scene when he attempts to visit a brothel).

    These three plot lines eventually get wrapped up with one another as Carriscant starts an affair with Delphine and they decide they want to run away. The plot itself is somewhat interesting, but what I found more intriguing was the details about the Phillipines and life during this era. We hear of the filthy streets, the secluded life of the Americans and the division between “native” and invader. The novel is also at least somewhat about women beginning to fight against the strictures of society–both Kay and Delphine.

    One other strength of the novel is the complexity of the characters and the ambiguity of the outcome of the book. This is not your typical love story. And each character has aspects to his/her personality that suggest that he/she is not what they seem to be on the surface. I never did figure out why Carriscant approached Kay in the first place though, except as a plot device. It almost felt like Boyd had some other plan in mind for Kay but never returned to it.

  • Vishal P. Rao
    23:57 on July 10th, 2013
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    Cannot fathom the 4 stars reviews; especially the reviewer who states: “plot is hampered by a slightly overwrought literary device, the mother doling out her diaries at intervals, conveniently allowing the author to flip back and forth in time.” The device is brilliant. You want to read straight forward and mundane, well, stick to Ludlum or Silva or whomever. The discerning reader will note the author’s subtlety and craft. His slight of hand if you will. The slow way the substance of the tale is revealed. It’s like being lost in a forest. You believe you know which path to take out. The sun is shining. You come upon a meadow here, a brook there. No, wrong way. It is only when all is revealed and you are safely out that you say, well, I knew where I was all the time. But, you didn’t. Boyd never disappoints. I stumbled upon him long ago when I read The Ice Cream War. His novels are all dissimilar. He’s vastly underrated because he’s so accessible. I cannot wait to see what he gives us next.

  • Chuck in CA
    0:28 on July 11th, 2013
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    I purchased this book a couple of years ago but never got around to reading it for one reason or another. Once I started, however, I could not put the book down until the end. It is very readable.

    I was, however, rather annoyed by the author’s tendency to weave thinly disguised episodes into the story (such as the Venlo incident in Holland and the Krivitsky “suicide” in Washington, not to mention recognizable descriptions of SIS officers). Since these episodes were never really developed, they seemed to be little more than superficial plot points thrust into the story to lend it a tone of verisimilitude. Other reviewers have commented on extraneous and undeveloped characters in the life of Ruth, the principal narrator; and while I rather enjoyed the relationship between Ruth and her son, Jochen, I can’t imagine a real mother allowing such dubious characters as Ludger and Ilse anywhere near her child, much less having them live in the same house. And would a real mother actually take her young son to a potentially dangerous student demonstration and then urge him to throw a raw egg with police in attendance?

    Nevertheless, the book has much to recommend it. The central character, Eve, Ruth’s mother, is engaging. I especially enjoyed the episodes that centered upon Eva’s training for her future clandestine profession. And while I was not always convinced by her narrative voice (The third person in a supposed revelation to her daughter Ruth was somewhat disruptive in an otherwise first-person narrative.), I found her story absorbing, especially the episodes in New York centering on British efforts to get the United States to participate in the war against Germany.

    Unfortunately, just at the point when the author could have really explored this fascinating aspect of the story in depth, he sent the heroine off literally on detour after detour–too many bolt-holes; too many identities; and too many loose ends, which the pat answers at the end of the book simply did not tie together.

  • Amenemhat
    4:10 on July 11th, 2013
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    There really ought to be another word for ‘gripping’ – it’s so trite, and yet it’s ideal to describe this crackerjack read. I hadn’t read anything by William Boyd before this, and I’m delighted to have found him.
    And I’m always a bit fascinated by men who can write so convincingly in the first person as women …
    Mr Boyd’s crisp, articulate prose carries you along without ever getting in the way – which keeps things clear so you can concentrate on who’s who and who’s doing what in all the cloak-and-daggery. The plot’s quite simple: Ruth, a young English woman, discovers her mother, Sally, had been a WWII spy, working on propaganda for a small British intelligence organisation.
    Mr Boyd’s technique of alternating chapters from Sally’s memoir with chapters from the daughter’s life heightens the drama: we swing from Ruth’s humdrum life in 1970s Oxford to Sally’s derring-do as she progresses from recruitment in pre-war Paris to missions in the US as it tries to withstand pressure from Britain and Russia to enter the war.
    Like all great spy stories, the tension builds beautifully with twists and intrigue and subterfuge, of course, and though the plot thickens — sorry! — it never bewilders.
    I enjoyed the parts that dealt with Sally’s recruitment and training, loved the sense of atmosphere in ’40s London and New York, and sympathised with both women as each struggled to come to terms with the outrageous skeletons in Sally’s cupboard.
    A ripper.

  • Ralph Anderson
    5:42 on July 11th, 2013
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    William Boyd returns to the familiar ground of Hollywood’s golden area between the World Wars (which was so meticulously recreated for us in his 1988 novel “The New Confessions”) and embarks on a journey which takes him forward in time to the present day, and around the world to the Philippines and Portugal. While the Blue Afternoon does not match his earlier work (Brazzaville Beach, A Good Man in Africa) in terms of meticulous attention to historical detail, he is in top form in poignant descriptions of love affairs between characters in desparate circumstances. This book is a must read for Boyd fans. For those uninitiated to Boyd, it would perhaps be better to start out with “The Destiny of Nathalie X”, a fine collection of short stories, or the more satisfying and thematically focused “The New Confessions”.

    Fans of Fitzgerald and Evelyn Waugh may enjoy The Blue Afternoon, which has the same sort of sweeping temporal background as Gatsby or Brideshead.

  • List in error
    6:19 on July 11th, 2013
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    I expected to read a love story but did not find one. Do you other women see this as a LOVE story? It is a lust story. It was enjoyable and good if you are visually inclined. I could not put it down because I wanted to find out what was going to happen.

  • John H
    7:32 on July 11th, 2013
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    Dear Steven,

    Thanks for recommending Restless. I did find it compelling storytelling and will recommend it.
    Nevertheless, I ended up feeling annoyed with the author for a number of really pointless and avoidable flaws and literary pretensions. If I didn’t like it so much, the flaws would not annoy me so.

    So I’ll refrain from summarizing the good aspects of the book (which I’m sure you see) and get the ennui off my chest.

    The book has or course 2 parallel stories alternating by chapter: First of a daughter in the 1970′s alternating with a story of her mother beginning in the 1939. The book begins with a male author (Boyd) telling the story of daughter in the first person. Her elderly mother hands her secret memoir (of her life as a spy) to the daughter at the end of the first chapter. The second chapter begins with the telling of the story in the memoir. Although the memoir is presumably written by the mother in the first person, the chapters telling her story are instead told by the Boyd in the third person. Why?

    The Daughter chapters all have titles presumably indicative of their content. (But they aren’t: Often they instead refer to something mentioned only in the last paragraph of the chapter.) The Mother chapters all have the same unhelpful title: “The Story of Eva Delectorskaya”.

    Although the switching back and forth in time at the end of each chapter goes smoothly enough, Boyd also insists on playing pointless time games within the chapters: Several chapters start in the middle and then track back to explain what happened since the end of the chapter 2 chapters ago.
    ***SPOILER ALERT***
    Overall the Mother’s story is the heart of the book. The Daughter’s story does serve the important role of driving home the theme of how little we may know the people closest to us. But beyond that the daughter’s story is littered with irrelevant subplots (her nasty room mates who might be terrorists, the student who might be an Iranian revolutionary who wants to marry her) which the reader expects might be relevant to the overall novel but turn out to be pointless and gratuitous distractions.

    What amazes about the mother is how careful and thorough she has been trained to be. She has kept herself hidden away and incognito for 30 years to avoid being tracked down and killed. But now she does something completely out of character: She wants to find her nemesis. She could do it herself. But no. For no conceivable reason, she involves her daughter in the hunt, using her real name, needlessly endangering the daughter’s life and perhaps the life of her young son. There is no reason for this other than the author’s need perhaps to somehow tie the two stories together at the end.

    Lastly, the villain also does something completely out of character: Does his devious mind try to find a way to eliminate his enemies (the mother, daughter, the history professor) as he has done successfully so many times before? No. He obligingly commits suicide. Huh?

    All fiction requires the reader to suspend disbelief. All fiction authors have to make thousands of choices from an infinite set of possibilities. Great authors tell their stories so smoothly that they appear to be true. The stories “have to” unfold the way they do because that’s what “happened”. The authors hide their arbitrary choices so skillfully that the story “rings true”. But if they don’t hide their choices well (or they shove them in my face to show me how clever they are), I waste too much time thinking: “Why is the author doing this??. Then I get annoyed.

    Barry Milliken

  • Douglas Ledet
    9:30 on July 11th, 2013
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    I listened to an unabridged audio version of this book, and I can’t say for sure how much I loved it because of the excellent quality of the reading, and how much I loved it for the characters and story. The mother-daughter storylines are somewhat imbalanced, but they have to be. The mother’s story is revealed to the daughter who has to make sense of it in the midst of her own, complicated, young adult life. One character’s narrative is completed (or is it?), while the other’s is temporarily explored, midstream. There is a satisfying conclusion for one storyline, and merely a stopping place for the other. Somehow, these two add up to a compelling combination, like the mixed flavors of sweet and tart in a very good cherry pie. Yum.

  • ovgadget
    10:50 on July 11th, 2013
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    Restless: Two Stories in One

    In Restless William Boyd gives us two stories in one: the stories of Ruth Gilmartin and Eva Delectorskaya. But sadly only one of the stories is fully developed. Ruth Gilmartin, a single mother, teaches English as a second language and lives in Oxford, England with her son Jochen. Her life gets complicated when her mother, Sally Gilmartin, gives Ruth her memoirs revealing herself as the British spy Eva Delectorskaya. Boyd structures the memoirs one chapter at a time into the novel. This results in alternating chapters of the two women’s lives, with two viewpoints, two settings, and two time frames, the seventies and the forties. Ruth, along with the reader, becomes absorbed in her own mother’s past. And what a Machiavellian past Eva had: a contrast to the routine existence Ruth lives.

    Boyd’s creative use of two storylines within one novel makes reading interesting. Eva’s undercover story takes center stage. Each chapter ups the ante in violence and intrigue. Her entanglement with Lucas Romer, her boss, leads her to plant fake documents meant to encourage the U. S. to engage with the British in World War II. Boyd packs this thriller with mystery, drama, and devious manipulation, compelling the reader to search for answers. He builds a complicated plot for Eva’s story, and withholds information as well as any mystery writer. By the time the story has played out he ties up all the pieces with finesse.

    He is not as meticulous writing Ruth’s story. He inserts plotlines and leaves them unfinished. What happened to Hamid’s love for Ruth and his connection to the protests against the Shah, to Ludger, Ilse, and their connection to the Red Army? What about Detective Constable Frobisher? Why did Boyd build so many fascinating questions in Ruth’s story and not resolve them? One writing theory is if the author puts a gun on the mantle in the first chapter, he better let the reader know why it was there by the last chapter. Boyd put too many guns on Ruth’s mantle and we still don’t know why in the last chapter he included them in the story. Though William Boyd is a talented writer, this careless oversight keeps the novel from being exceptional. Boyd needs to go back and edit.

  • Silver.Eagle
    12:17 on July 11th, 2013
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    This is one of those books, like the movie Titanic, that begins in one time period, flashback to an earlier one, and then returns to the first for its climax. In the case of The Blue Afternoon, two out of three isn’t bad.

    We are drawn into the strory when a woman whose baby has died is approachted by a down-and-out stranger who claims he’s her real father. That’s intriguing. The setting of 1936 Los Angeles is not particularly believable. This part is told in the first person and the woman’s sensibilities a seem a bit more contemporary than that period.

    The second part, detailing the man’s history in American occupied Manila is incredible. William Boyd has a gift for history and the details of the (then) young doctor’s medical practice ring very true. As a character (now told in third person, limited) he is much more fully realized here than in the other two sections of the book. But the account calls for some resolution we hope will occur when we return to the daughter’s perspective. It does and it doesn’t. For one, we have been overpowered by the man’s story and barely remember the original narrator’s loss. Second, he again becomes a two-dimensional figure, but now we are less inclined to accept this after all we have gone through with him.

    In theory the two themes of loss should meld together. They just don’t. Plenty to think about though, and I give the author full credit for allowing us to draw conclusions. But this novel with all the right ingredients, somehow, like the young doctor in 1902 Manila, misses the boat.

  • John Mancini
    14:12 on July 11th, 2013
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    BLUE AFTERNOON, by William Boyd, came up to my expectations. I enjoyed it, as I do all of Boyd’s novels. I found the plot intriguing, and the facts were really well researched. The main character, Carriscant, was a surgeon. I did find the details of the operations he performed, became a little tedious and not to my taste. A book I would recommend to my friends.

  • James MacKay
    15:46 on July 11th, 2013
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    Alternating between 1976 and the years 1939 to 1941, Restless is an engrossing and compelling literary thriller set in Oxford, and London, and also in Canada and the United States. A truly international accomplishment, the novel tells of an era where British Special Forces and spy networks were bought and sold in an environment where no one is who they seem, and where international humiliation was to be avoided at any cost, regardless of the consequences to the lives of loyal individuals.

    It is the summer of 1976 and England is reeling, gasping for breath, almost “pole-axed by the unending heat,” when Ruth Gilmartin learns that her mother, Sally Gilmartin, is not the person whom she thought she was. Born in Russia and a British spy during the Second World War, Sally is actually named Eva Delectorskaya, who as a young girl, lived in France, and was recruited by an enigmatic Englishman, a Mr. Lucas Fromer to work as a spy for the British intelligence services, first in Europe and later in America.

    At first, Ruth treats her mother’s confessions like a fiction, before finally letting the dawning truth arrive. Her world is rocked at her mother’s sudden revelatory detonation that her life has been built on lies. Sally, however, has finally decided to confide in her daughter, anxious to let the truth be told. A dark current of fear has begun to flow beneath the placid surface of Sally’s ordinary life, and after years of serene and unexceptional living in a peaceful Oxfordshire town, she has a very real fear that someone is out to kill her.

    In an effort to alleviate her paranoia, Sally enlists Ruth to track down the elusive Lucas Fromer, perhaps because only he can answer and finally put to rest Sally’s hesitations about her past and the deadly game of cat and mouse that she became caught up in. Ruth learns that upon the death of Kolia, her mother’s brother, Eva was enlisted by Fromer to participate in undercover operations in France, before sending her to off England and Scotland where he had her trained in Morse code, breaking codes, tampering with documents and various other covert operations.

    Complete with her new talents, Eva began “to look and analyze the world with a precision and purpose that went far beyond anybody’s simple curiosity,” and was eventually transferred to New York, assigned as a news reporter for the TransOceanic News Agency. Everything became undercover, and Eva worked hard alongside the British unparalleled propaganda machine, which had only one solitary and vital task: to persuade America it was in her interest to join the war in Europe.

    Meanwhile, Ruth is left to draw together the fragments of her mother’s incredible story where the main rule was always to trust no one and where this war time fiction moved on steadily through the international news media, accumulating weight and significance, confirming its emerging status as fact, all designed to bring America into the war, to cajole and nudge persuade and convince.

    But Ruth also has her cross to bear, a single mother, and a teach of English as a second language, she is forced to confront the attentions of Hamid Kazemi, a stocky, bearded Iranian engineer who hates the Shah of Iran with a special fervor and who has been learning English from Ruth. She also has to put up with the freeloading brother of her German ex-lover who is earning extra cash as a part-time porn star and is in some way affiliated with the Bader-Meinhof gang and the world of urban terrorism.

    When fragments of Eva’s own forgotten past begin to surface and the associations become too evident to ignore, Ruth discovers her mother’s involvement in a web of duplicity stretching from New Mexico to Canada and all the way back to England. This covert world with its interconnecting lines of deception was effectively a whole British security and intelligence apparatus right the middle of Manhattan, hundreds of agents all striving to persuade American to join the war, despite the express and steadfast objections of the majority of the U.S. population.

    When Eva, however, botches a clandestine operation, a delicate balance is disturbed, and she is forced to take desperate measures to her cover tracks and to muddy the water. Author William Boyd presents a deeply compelling account of Eva’s story, as her journey of wartime espionage eventually catches up with her. Ruth tenaciously pursues any leads she can uncover, determined to hunt down Fromer, partly to assuage her mother’s fears and partly to satisfy her own underhanded inclinations.

    As the tension mounts and Boyd steers his story towards the inevitable showdown between Eva and Fromer, Ruth realizes that her mother’s life will always be covert, and fearful, and forever watchful, always restless, always under surveillance, and suspecting. The author steadily builds the tension and ratchets up the action, especially when Eva is forced to go on “the run” to Canada. The final dénouement is particularly gratifying in a total page-turner that evokes a shadowy world where we all have secrets, and where no one knows even half the truth about anybody else, however close or intimate they may be. Mike Leonard October 06.

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