Prime Spies By Michael Frayn – Mariahilff.de

There is very little evidence of the war where Keith and Stephen live But the two friends suspect the inhabitants of The Close aren t what they seem As Keith informs his trusting friend, the district is riddled with secret passages and underground labs


10 thoughts on “Spies

  1. Robin Robin says:

    In the 1940s, some boys played Cops Robbers, some played Cowboys Indians But Stephen and Keith, English boys and neighbours during WWII, played Spies Sure, it s a less well known game, but it is just as engrossing, and involves a hideout and a logbook, lots of sneaking around, and monitoring the movements and whereabouts of Keith s mother, who the boys are certain is a German spy.This coming of age story is told by Stephen, an elderly, grandfatherly Stephen, who is remembering a pivotal In the 1940s, some boys played Cops Robbers, some played Cowboys Indians But Stephen and Keith, English boys and neighbours during WWII, played Spies Sure, it s a less well known game, but it is just as engrossing, and involves a hideout and a logbook, lots of sneaking around, and monitoring the movements and whereabouts of Keith s mother, who the boys are certain is a German spy.This coming of age story is told by Stephen, an elderly, grandfatherly Stephen, who is remembering a pivotal time in his childhood He returns to his childhood neighbourhood and it all comes back to him in a series of nostalgic waves Memory is not reliable, and neither is this narrative, but it IS deliciously satisfying and continues to unfold and reveal up until the very last page.The dynamic between the boys is fascinating Stephen, who feels lucky Keith pays him any attention, and who is aware that there s something shameful about his own family, and Keith, who lives in a perfect house filled with perfect toys and a regularly maintained bicycle, and who calls the shots in their friendship.The idea of a pair of children acting as amateur sleuths in a mystery that is far over their heads reminded me a bit of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, though this was farliterary and memorable for me It s also muchsuspenseful, as the game of Spies gradually shifts from a charming, childish fantasy to something dangerous The street in this quiet English town is full of secrets, and nothing is as it seems The whistle of a father working in the garden has never been so sinister.It took me a little time to get into the story, but once in, I was turning pages feverishly I worried, as in other spy stories, will this one be obtuse andconfusing than anything else I needn t have worried, though Frayn doesn t leave us hanging in a maze of double agents and hazy memories He leads us through, having left a trail of breadcrumbs that we can now see in the clear, 20 20 vision that retrospect affords.Elegant, captivating storytelling.4.5 stars


  2. Hugh Hugh says:

    Another from the 2002 Booker longlist, this one is a quiet revelation and a masterly piece of storytelling.The action is narrated by an old man revisiting the scene and remembering his childhood adventures in suburban England during the Second World War The story is narrated from the childhood Stephen s perspective, with occasional interludes in which the older man reflects on the story, the nature of childhood memories and what he did and didn t know when.Stephen is a follower, not a leader, a Another from the 2002 Booker longlist, this one is a quiet revelation and a masterly piece of storytelling.The action is narrated by an old man revisiting the scene and remembering his childhood adventures in suburban England during the Second World War The story is narrated from the childhood Stephen s perspective, with occasional interludes in which the older man reflects on the story, the nature of childhood memories and what he did and didn t know when.Stephen is a follower, not a leader, a second child prey to bullies at school, who is befriended by Keith, a lonely child from a better school Keith develops a fantasy that his mother is a German spy, and co opts Stephen into a scheme to spy on her The game becomesserious because she does indeed have secrets, and the nature of these secrets and their gradual revelation form the core of the book, along with what Stephen learns about his own family Some of the key revelations are held back until very late in the book, others are hinted at earlier, but the whole is very satisfying A lovely book which deserved better than a mere longlisting


  3. Katie Katie says:

    I was convinced this was going to be a five star read until about twenty pages from the end Such a clever and artfully constructed book deserved a much better denouement As it was the ending was flaccid for me and the final twist somewhat lame I can t explain why without spoiling the plot Spies is narrated in the first person by an elderly man looking back at one experience during WW2 It begins at a leisurely pace, it s languorous rhythms matching those of the out of the way English town wh I was convinced this was going to be a five star read until about twenty pages from the end Such a clever and artfully constructed book deserved a much better denouement As it was the ending was flaccid for me and the final twist somewhat lame I can t explain why without spoiling the plot Spies is narrated in the first person by an elderly man looking back at one experience during WW2 It begins at a leisurely pace, it s languorous rhythms matching those of the out of the way English town where it s set Early on we get an interesting look at the hierarchy of power between young boys Stephen, the narrator, has no power The only kid willing to befriend him is a stuck up boy no one else likes But Stephen s role is as a menial sidekick, there to carry out Keith s orders The bullied narrator exacts little sympathy because he s so relentlessly abject I felt the author went a bit over the top with his depiction of craven shyness Stephen can t even look at adults let alone answer their questions which will become a bit annoying further down the line when this paralysis becomes a convenient plot device It s almost as if he compels those around him to treat him without respect That said I did get a few insights into ways to ensure my own little boy isn t bullied when he starts school next September The pace considerably hots up when Keith announces his mother is a German spy The two boys begin to follow her, but she always mysteriously vanishes This is the best part of the book when the mystery of the mother s antics is hard to work out It has the exciting intrigue of a brilliant thriller at this point And I loved how he showed kids with a feverish imagination inventing an adventure and then having to suspend disbelief, just like readers, to sustain the narrative Perhaps it doesn t take too long to work out the nature of the mystery but I was still excited to see how it would play out Then came the ending I really liked this but didn t quite love it because of the unsatisfactory ending I ve got a feeling this is why I wouldn t love thrillers in general The endings somehow like the vacuum cleaning of a carpet which never for me achieves a result that quite rewards the effort


  4. BlackOxford BlackOxford says:

    The World From Under a HedgeThere is nothing lacking in Spies Character, plot and pace are about as close to perfect as it gets Frayn s understanding of the juvenile mind is formidable His intellectual subtlety is enviable His ethical sense is acute He knows how to tell a story Proust was inspired by the scent of fresh madeleines the memory of Frayn s narrator is provoked by the sickly stink of a privet hedge in Summer under which he spends his time in spying on the neighbourhood The rea The World From Under a HedgeThere is nothing lacking in Spies Character, plot and pace are about as close to perfect as it gets Frayn s understanding of the juvenile mind is formidable His intellectual subtlety is enviable His ethical sense is acute He knows how to tell a story Proust was inspired by the scent of fresh madeleines the memory of Frayn s narrator is provoked by the sickly stink of a privet hedge in Summer under which he spends his time in spying on the neighbourhood The reader might expect, therefore, a less than up beat moral.The theme of Spies is the sort of quantum physics of everyday life Its protagonist, Stephen, is acutely aware of the power of simple observation when he says,Just by looking at things I shouldn t have looked at, I ve changed themThis is the appreciation by age of the naive, destructive folly of youth We change the world into something different by our smallest and most passive acts His elderly self knows the dangers of youthful curiosityI think that what he instinctively grasped was this that some things must never even be knownOne s mere presence has consequences that can t be anticipated.Stephen s epiphany is his realisation that he is responsible for what he experiencesMost of the time you don t go around thinking that things are so or not so, anythan you go around understanding or not understanding them You take them for grantedTaking things for granted is what young people do It could be the definition of youth Understanding the effect of one s life on others is what only old people can do Unfortunately it s a non transferable skill So it has to be learned, if it is learned at all, by every generation


  5. Meike Meike says:

    What do we see from our vantage point in the meantime Or dream that we see, or imagine that we see, or imagine later that we remembered seeing Keith and Stephen grow up in Britain during WW II When the two kids play a game of imagination that works on the premise that Keith s mother is a German spy, the boys start following her around, but what they find out is certainly not what they expected and the consequences of their game get out of control Frayn s writing is particularly strong whenWhat do we see from our vantage point in the meantime Or dream that we see, or imagine that we see, or imagine later that we remembered seeing Keith and Stephen grow up in Britain during WW II When the two kids play a game of imagination that works on the premise that Keith s mother is a German spy, the boys start following her around, but what they find out is certainly not what they expected and the consequences of their game get out of control Frayn s writing is particularly strong when he describes how a child knows that a game is just that, a game, while at the same time believing that the reality he only imagines is real, because that is the whole point of playing In a way, that is also how political propaganda and ideologies work there s the backdrop of WW II, after all Once people start to act according to the reality they imagine for one reason or the other , things have to go downhill instigated by the game that Keith starts, Stephen getsandunsure about what is real and what isn t, which heightens his overall anxiety but also excitement , and Frayn masterfully depicts how he finally fails to acknowledge reality when it is staring him right in the face The psychology behind that and how subtly Frayn plays it out is simply fantastic, although the reader certainly needs some patience, because large parts of the novel are not story driven, but linger in the realms of Stephen s mind While told by a much older Stephen looking back on his past, the protagonist is still conveying the story from the point of view of his younger self the reader almost always remains ahead of young Stephen, as from the point of view of a grown up outside of the game, what is happening will be judged very differently These two levels work nicely and add to the suspense, because the question how Stephen and Keith will interpret a situation always lingers.All in all, the true mystery to me is how come this book was not shortlisted for the Booker 2002 but you shortlisted Unless Seriously Thanks a lot to the The Mookse and the Gripes gang on here for this fun Booker 2002 readalong


  6. Vit Babenco Vit Babenco says:

    Returning to the location where you have spent your childhood you always find out that the place is full of melancholy and a turbulent torrent of the recollections is inevitable Things start as a game, and then they turn into a test, which I fail When two boyfriends begin a silly investigation and try to penetrate the world of grownups, their life changes in quite an unexpected way What starts as an innocent game turns into a real psychological crucible You start playing some game, and you r Returning to the location where you have spent your childhood you always find out that the place is full of melancholy and a turbulent torrent of the recollections is inevitable Things start as a game, and then they turn into a test, which I fail When two boyfriends begin a silly investigation and try to penetrate the world of grownups, their life changes in quite an unexpected way What starts as an innocent game turns into a real psychological crucible You start playing some game, and you re the brave one, you re the great hero But the game goes on and on, and it getsandfrightening, and you get tired, because you can t go on being brave for ever And then one night it happens You re up there in the darkness five hundred miles from home and suddenly the darkness is inside you as well In your head, in your stomach Is one intrepid enough to play a frightening game to the end and become a man Spies is a very powerful and extraordinary coming of age novel


  7. Danielle Danielle says:

    If I hadn t had to read this book for English I never would have finished it The concept for the book was interesting, the actual story however was really slow and I just couldn t get into it In the last chapter it was like the writer suddenly decided that he needed to add in some thing to shock the audience, however it was delivered in such away that there was no real shock value to it.


  8. Preeta Preeta says:

    I can t decide whether to give this book four stars or five The language was a lotstraightforward than the dense, breathless wordplay I usually love, but the further I got into the book theI came to see this as another mark of Frayn s genius, because the language picks up and becomesurgent and complex as the plot does.The plot is brilliant no question about it I couldn t put this book down, and those of you who know my distractible self will know that this says a LOT I put I can t decide whether to give this book four stars or five The language was a lotstraightforward than the dense, breathless wordplay I usually love, but the further I got into the book theI came to see this as another mark of Frayn s genius, because the language picks up and becomesurgent and complex as the plot does.The plot is brilliant no question about it I couldn t put this book down, and those of you who know my distractible self will know that this says a LOT I put down everything I d put down my own head if I could, I m so bored with it.I m sure part of my total absorption owes itself to the fact that this book handles some of my favourite themes the fallible nature of memory, the weight of childhood mistakes The narrator and a friend he is desperate to impress begin what seems at first like another rollicking adventure of the kind they ve always played spying on the friend s mother because they suspect she s a German spy oh yes it s World War II Along the way, as you might well suspect, their game turns horrible and terrifying Perhaps the most terrifying discovery the narrator makes, and that we achingly remake with him, is the vulnerability of adults Could the world of adults possibly be evenlonely than that of children What you probably won t suspect, though, is who did what, or how it all happened, or why The narrative is as brilliantly plotted as the best of murder mysteries, and nothing prepared me for the shock of revelation at the end As with the best murder mysteries, I looked back and saw that it should all have been obvious that copious clues had been planted for my benefit, but I d been so swept up in fear and dread that I hadn t picked up on them


  9. Kelly Kelly says:

    Spies is one of my favourites Admittedly, I only read it because it was part of my English Literature A level studies, and most of my class would disagree with me in my affections for this book since it was definitely a challenge to analyse However, I found that this only deepened my affections and admiration for Frayn s masterpiece There are so many levels to Spies It is complex, as Frayn chooses to narrate this story almost as a stream of consciousness, where events are disjointed and half Spies is one of my favourites Admittedly, I only read it because it was part of my English Literature A level studies, and most of my class would disagree with me in my affections for this book since it was definitely a challenge to analyse However, I found that this only deepened my affections and admiration for Frayn s masterpiece There are so many levels to Spies It is complex, as Frayn chooses to narrate this story almost as a stream of consciousness, where events are disjointed and half remembered, then returned to later and expanded upon It follows his train of thought, rather than a chronological sequence of events This can make it difficult to read at times, however it captures the essence of a person revisiting old memories It mimics how our thoughts and memories work each triggered by stimuli, such as a scent, a place, a feeling, and how they do not always follow a logical direction but may in turn, trigger other memories which may be linked in some way Frayn captures this exceptionally well.Spies is a fitting title for the book, as it is a major theme throughout the novel where everyone appears to be spying on everyone else It is a touching and charming story, told through the perspective of an older man who revisits the neighborhood he grew up in, recalling his childhood memories One of my favorite quotations is Everything is as it was, and everything has changed This phrase seemed to resonate with me and summarise the feelings aroused when revisiting the past An enchanting read, despite its complexities, and a must for all readers.This is a book I wouldn t mind reading again and again And each time I have, it is easier to piece together the events and different things take on a different importance This story has so many hidden complexities, it is a joy to read over and over to gain a deeper understanding of the characters, the events and Frayn s unusual written style


  10. Maciek Maciek says:

    Spies is a coming of age story, a mystery, a war novel, and a big leap into childhood from adolescence and back I can t say muchbeacuse I m at a loss for words and it s all Michael Frayn s fault The guy is brilliant and so is the book.