Saturday, June 29, 2013
Restless by William Boyd
“I am Eva Delectorskaya,” Sally Gilmartin announces, and so on a warm summer afternoon in 1976 her daughter, Ruth, learns that everything she ever knew about her mother was a carefully constructed lie. Sally Gilmartin is a respectable English widow living in picturesque Cotswold village; Eva Delectorskaya was a rigorously trained World War II spy, a woman who carried fake passports and retreated to secret safe houses, a woman taught to lie and deceive, and above all, to never trust anyone.
Three decades later the secrets of Sally’s past still haunt her. Someone is trying to kill her and at last she has decided to trust Ruth with her story. Ruth, meanwhile, is struggling to make sense of her own life as a young single mother with an unfinished graduate degree and escalating dependence on alcohol. She is drawn deeper and deeper into the astonishing events of her mother’s past—the mysterious death of Eva’s beloved brother, her work in New York City manipulating the press in order to shift public sentiment toward American involvement in the war, her dangerous romantic entanglement. Now Sally wants to find the man who recruited her for the secret service, and she needs Ruth’s help.
This is not your ordinary espionage book. It's rather unique as it's from both the perspective of the spy concerned (Eva or Eve or Sally) and her daughter, Ruth.
We get to know the young Eva from the manuscript she wrote for Ruth about her life as a spy prior to the second world war. We learned how she was recruited and trained and the assignments she went on, the people she met and work with. We also get to know the older Eva or Sally as she was then known from her interaction with Ruth and we can see the communication gap between mother and daughter being narrowed as Ruth gets to know more about her mum and being caught in mum's espionage web.
So this is more than just an espionage book. It's about the relationship between mother and daughter, it's about life during the 30s and 40s, the thrill and danger of being a spy and life now as it is for Ruth which is so mellow compared to what her mother went through. But then, Ruth does live in a less turbulent time.
The author also explores how someone like Eva or Sally who has fallen out of the espionage game officially but never really leaves that life. Are there real life Eva or Sally out there? I am sure there are but that's my assumption.
Overall, it is a rather enjoyable book. Very refreshing. I also like the way the author writes. But then William Boyd is a Bookers prizewinning novelist with lots of titles behind his name.
Restless has also been adapted into a TV series in year 2012. I would love to watch it :)