I’ve been reading a lot of escapist books lately, things to take me out of my current world and into another. That led me to Exposure by Helen Dunmore. It’s a cold war era spy thriller, with a married couple at the center of it, caught up in something that they aren’t quite aware of in the beginning. And it’s wonderful.
I found this book through The Guardian’s best books of 2016 list, it was recommended on the second list, where writers talk about what they’re reading. And I’m so glad I found it. Simon and Lily Callington are a couple that at first seem quite average, London dwellers with three children and a nice house. But as the story unfolds you start to peel away the layers of who they are. And the layers are fascinating.
Of course, Simon being accused of treason is the catalyst for the layers being exposed to us, but there is so much more to this book than just the spy portion. The relationship between Simon and Lily, between Lily and her children, between the children themselves, and between Simon and his work. Dunsmore weaves all these relationships together and shows you deeper and deeper glimpses of the family and the people surrounding them.
Exposure is a bit like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy with characters who are slowly showing us who they are and a story that is not quite what it seems at first.