Monday, December 12, 2016
Review of Exposure by Helen Dunmore (Hutchinson, 2016)
Exposure is a spy drama that focuses mostly on the fallout affecting a wife and children when a family-man is framed as a traitor. The tale concentrates on a triangle between Lily Callington, her husband Simon, and his boss, Giles. In an effort to save his own skin after taking a top secret file home and ending up in hospital after a fall, Giles turns to Simon, a long-time friend and colleague. When Simon fails to take the file back he unwittingly positions himself as a fall-guy. Dunmore uses the refrains of indecision, waiting too long, and a hope that a situation will turn out alright to chart the fallout, setting the tale in the context of Lily’s flight from Germany twenty years earlier in which her family delaying leaving Germany, with only herself and her mother reaching Britain. The tale has a number of strengths. The storyline is nicely plotted and paced, with the unfolding drama of the ordeal interspersed with flashbacks to key moments in Lily, Simon and Giles’ lives and the gradual revealing of secrets that may have additional repercussions. The characterisation and character development is excellent, with each of the leads being fully dimensional, along with the children, and their interactions ring true. In addition, Dunmore keeps the mood and tension low-key but persistent, keeping the sense of an everyday family caught out of step front and centre. The result is an engaging, thoughtful, understated literary spy tale.