Review of Exposure by Helen Dunmore

Exposure Book Cover Exposure
Helen Dunmore
Random House
January 28, 2016

By the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Lie. Forbidden love, intimate betrayal and the devastating power of exposure drive Helen Dunmore's remarkable new novel. 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’ve read books by Helen Dunmore in the past and always been impressed by the quality of the writing. The start of this book exhibits the same skill. It has well crafted and evocative writing giving a feel of the time and place; this is London and the surrounding area in the 1960s mainly.

This is the story of Simon, Giles and Lily (or maybe Lili). The writing creates the feel of this earlier time with concerns about fairly mundane day to day life issues coupled with the Cold War and national security. I’d rather not give away too much about the story, that is for the reader to discover. However I felt it often had a grey normality about the tales when life is anything but normal and the story gradually gripped me. The tempo and narrative style of this author is not action packed; rather it is more understated and atmospheric with a great underlying tension.

In part, this concerns the consequences of old friendships and the ebb and flow of lives made less ordinary by chance and history. Giles has an accident and calls on his old friend Simon for help.  The narrative then focusses on the three main characters exploring the story from the different viewpoints.  I do have a minor niggle with this book close to the ending however it certainly didn’t spoil it for me. The writing is a real gem; it is simple but so effective and evocative. It creates a tale that at times extremely powerful in a very understated (& “British”) way. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will certainly continue to read Helen Dunmore’s work in the future.

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review