Exposure by Helen Dunmore – 4.5*s



London, November, 1960: the Cold War is at its height. Spy fever fills the newspapers, and the political establishment knows how and where to bury its secrets.

When a highly sensitive file goes missing, Simon Callington is accused of passing information to the Soviets, and arrested.

His wife, Lily, suspects that his imprisonment is part of a cover-up, and that more powerful men than Simon will do anything to prevent their own downfall.

She knows that she too is in danger, and must fight to protect her children. But what she does not realise is that Simon has hidden vital truths about his past, and may be found guilty of another crime that carries with it an even greater penalty.

I was intrigued by the premise of this novel, but a little worried that it might spend too much time dealing with the subject of spying, as that is not my thing. For anyone in a similar quandary, don’t worry this is a brilliant book and is more about the lives and feelings of the people involved, and even managed to pique my interest in the subject. Anyone familiar with the real life story of Philby, Burgess and MacLean, will recognise echoes of the University recruited students, MI5 and Russian double agents that form the background to the novel.

Set in the Cold War era of the 60’s the story essentially revolves around Lily, Simon and their three young children, Paul, Sally and Bridget. They are a happy middle class family living in Muswell Hill. Lily is a part-time teacher and Simon civil servant in the Admiralty. However their lives are thrown into turmoil when Simon does a ‘favour’ for a friend. Of course that ‘friend’ has a past and a history that means any favour is likely to have consequences, and here the consequences are catastrophic.

I loved the way that the book was written as it really draws you into the story and involves you as the growing threat of menace mounts throughout the book. The characters are really well drawn, so that in Lily and Simon’s case you have an almost immediate liking and sympathy for their plight. Giles who is initially objectionable, is not without sympathy at the end and even the children are fully rounded characters, that play an important part in the development of the plot.

As the book is more about the people involved, rather than the act that initiates the action, it is interesting that is the past lives and secrets of Lily and Simon, that are the real threats to how they can overcome the predicament they find themselves in. However no intention of divulging any hints or spoilers, I just urge you to read this for yourselves.

This is a great read and I’m happy to recommend it.

I received a review copy via NetGalley in return for an honest review.


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