Exposure by Helen Dunmore
|Exposure by Helen Dunmore|
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe|
|Summary: Helen Dunmore returns with a book more twisting and layered than her previous, and yet is an intimate and compelling study of people, personalities and the secrets we hide from each other – easily one of Dunmore's best.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: January 2016|
|External links: Author's website|
London - 1960. With the Cold War at its height, spy fever fills the newspapers, the political establishment knowing how and where to bury its secrets. A sensitive file goes missing, and Simon Callington is accused of passing information to the Soviets, and is arrested. His wife Lily suspects that this imprisonment is part of a cover-up, and that those higher than Simon are fighting to prevent their own downfall. Knowing that both she and her children too are in danger, Lily must fight to save Simon and protect her family. Little does she know that Simon is hiding many things from her, including a crime that may carry with it an even greater penalty.
As far as plot goes, that blurb is all I'm willing to share – this is a twisting, gripping tale that goes to places I really could not have imagined – yet keeps the reader on board and emotionally involved throughout. I can't deny that it took me some time to get used to the style and attached to the characters, and that's not an issue I've had with Dunmore's books in the past. However I feel that may be more down to the setting – the grey murk of the Cold War is somewhat more distancing than the immediacy of Dunmore's previous novels. The Betrayal, The Lie, and The Greatcoat all focused on war to a large extent – either the act of or the consequences that follow. There is less of an immediacy here, although tendrils of Dunmore's exquisite storytelling and well-crafted characters, soon take a firm hold and I was thoroughly swept away.
As ever, Dunmore has constructed a narrative that confounds expectations, sweeping past where one thinks the plot will end up, and somehow ending in a far more interesting place. Well-built too are the characters - particularly Lily. Whilst past secrets are uncovered and betrayals made, these nevertheless are likeable characters, layered and flawed but ever relatable, and their actions relatively excusable given the pressures and social rules of the time.
Intricate, gripping, and deeply moving, Helen Dunmore has another hit on her hands in Exposure. A great read for colder nights – lose yourself in this chilling, captivating and wonderfully crafted tale of the Cold War. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
For further reading I would recommend Winter in Madrid by C J Sansom. Much like Dunmore, Sansom excels in this atmospheric tale by taking a period of uncertainty, fear and danger, and weaving in a gripping and thrilling tale around the lives of his characters – never overwhelming their voices but working with them in tandem to weave a spellbinding tale.
You can read more book reviews or buy Exposure by Helen Dunmore at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Exposure by Helen Dunmore at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.