Exposure, Helen Dunmore
Recommended by Tara Bungard. Despite our differences, I’ve always respected Tara’s choice of books, and I was glad that she was happy to recommend one for me. She thinks I’m somewhat ambitious, taking on this challenge, so I’m grateful she didn’t recommend something ridiculously long to put a spoke in my wheels!
I enjoyed this book a lot – I think I’d describe it most easily as a gentle thriller. Set in the height of the Cold War spy era, when anyone could be suspected of plotting to bring down the establishment. It opens with a reminiscence of Nesbit’s The Railway Children – a book I loved as a child, a whistling train in the distance conjuring up images in various character’s minds and before we know it Daddy doesn’t come home to the children one night after being accused of spying, winding up in prison. It has been long enough since I read Nesbit’s book for me not to spend the rest of this one worrying about what parallels there would be in the plot, or whether I should be looking out for them – if I remember I will go back to The Railway Children once this year is up and see what else I can find.
Dunmore’s use of details to bring the 60s to life is extremely compelling. Obviously I wasn’t alive then, but from all I’ve read, watched and heard about the period, there was never a moment in the book when I doubted the setting. Combined with the taut plot which never meanders, one is presented with a gripping read, with a huge amount packed into the 400 or so pages. From the quotes on the cover however, one might be pardoned for expecting this to be a thriller more in the mould of Dan Brown. If that is what you’re looking for, go elsewhere – this is, as I said earlier, gentle. In some ways it is more of a romance – Lily’s love for her husband drives her steely resolve to keep the family afloat; Simon’s love for Lily leaves him with the quandary of being blackmailed about his past to avoid hurting her.
I don’t wish to reveal any more of the plot, or say too much more about any of the characters – Dunmore does all of this so much better than I could ever begin to, so I think I will take a leaf out of her book and leave other things unsaid. This is an excellent read, well worth it.