Restless – a really good book

I’m not sure why it’s been since a long gap since my last post- not managing to finish any books, courses, and sheer inertia. My not uncommon but annoying habit of trying to read about seven books at a time? Must try harder…

So what have I finished by way of books? The best has been a re read, inspired by a book group today, of Restless,  by William Boyd.

This is a very good, exciting and enjoyable book. If you are a hard core thriller fan, you may, in the words of one of the group, find it a bit insipid. Devotees of John le Carre may also find this a little lacking in detail, but given that Boyd is not writing from first hand experience I think that it is reasonable.

One of the best things about this book is that it is written about two women, mother and daughter. The third person account of Eva’s training as a spy in pre war Scotland is fascinating, especially as the shops described still exist. What is well researched is America’s attitude to entering the war before Pearl Harbour and the description of the misinformation fed to the newspapers by various news agencies.  The spy revelations are really interesting, and I would happily have read more. I found the whole account moving, fascinating and realistic. The multiple identity aspect of the novel is a bit confusing, but works within the context of what Eva must do.

The other story running throughout the book is of Ruth, the daughter unaware of her mother’s true history. She has a small son, a history of unsatisfactory relationships, and her own connections with German politics. The first person account of her teaching, her alcohol consumption and her attitudes alone would have made for a pretty flat novel, even if they are sometimes painfully accurate. The momentum of this book about the need for continual watchfulness is maintained, however, and when she joins forces with her mother it is interesting.

Perhaps the weakest point of the book is the ending, but others in the group felt that it fitted in well with the book overall. I read one review which pointed out that this was Boyd’s first book with Bloomsbury, and maybe it shows as it could well be a much longer novel with more detail and a tighter ending. While I read ( and posted about) Any Human Heart I must confess that I have made two unsuccessful attempts at Ordinary Thunderstorms.  I think Restless is a brilliant book, in many ways, and I really think it will appeal to many readers. Just be careful with the pencils, people!

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