A novel about one family trapped in the grand narratives of history.
On a freezing January morning in 1961, eight-year-old Anna's mother disappears into the fog. A kiss that barely touches Anna's cheek, a rumble of exhaust and a blurred wave through an icy windshield, and her mother is gone. Looking back, Anna will wish that she could have paid more attention to the facts of that day. The adult world shrouds the loss in silence, tidies the issue of death away along with the things that her mother left behind. And her memories will drift and settle like the fog that covered the car.
That same morning a spy case breaks in the news―the case of the Krogers, apparently ordinary people who were not who they said they were; people who had disappeared in one place and reappeared in another with other identities, leading other lives. Obsessed by stories of the cold war and of the Second World War, which is still a fresh and painful memory for the adults around them, Anna's brother, Peter, begins to construct a theory that their mother, a refugee from eastern Germany, was a spy working undercover, and might even still be alive. As life returns to normal, Anna struggles to sort between fact and fantasy. Did her mother have a secret life? And how does anyone know who a person was once she is dead?
The Spy Game is a beautifully wrought novel about loss, history, memory, and imagination, and the way in which we shape these to construct our own identities. It is a painful and tender reminder of the importance of understanding the past and, in turn, the importance of letting go.
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