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Restless [Paperback]

William Boyd
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 4 2006
What happens to your life when everything you thought you knew about your mother turns out to be an elaborate lie? Ruth Gilmartin discovers the strange and haunting truth about her mother, Sally, during the long hot summer of 1976. For Sally Gilmartin is not what she seems at all. Russian by birth, she was recruited into the British Secret Service in Paris in 1939 and spent the war years as a spy. But once a spy, always a spy. Sally Gilmartin has far too many dangerous secrets, and she has no one to trust. Before it is too late, she must confront the demons of her past. This time though she can't do it alone, she needs Ruth's help. "Restless" is yet another tour de force from William Boyd. Exploring the devastating consequences of duplicity and betrayal, it is a thrilling novel that captures the drama of the Second World War and a remarkable portrait of a female spy. Full of suspense, emotion and history, this is storytelling at its very finest.

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From Publishers Weekly

When Ruth Gilmartin learns the true identity—and the WWII profession—of her aging mother, Sally Gilmartin, at the start of Boyd's elegant ninth novel (after Any Human Heart), Ruth is understandably surprised. Sally, née Eva Delectorskaya, a Russian émigré living in Paris in 1939, was recruited as a spy by Lucas Romer, the head of a secretive propaganda group called British Security Coordination, to help get America into the war. This fascinating story is well told, but slightly undercut by Ruth's less-than-dramatic life as a single mother teaching English at Oxford while pursuing a graduate degree in history. Ruth's more pedestrian existence can't really compete with her mother's dramatic revelations. The contemporary narrative achieves a good deal more urgency when Ruth's mother recruits her to hunt down the reclusive, elusive Romer. But the real story is Eva/Sally's, a vividly drawn portrait of a minor figure in spydom caught up in the epic events leading up to WWII. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Booklist

If an espionage thriller with terror tentacles reaching from pre-World War II to the present can be called a cozy, this is it. Boyd's latest novel moves back and forth from the heart of the British countryside and misty, romantic Edinburgh to prewar Paris and into various capitals during the conflict itself--all with a satisfying, Agatha Christie atmosphere. This is also a mother-daughter story set in 1976, with the daughter of an eccentric mother trying to figure out who wants to kill her mother, Sally Gilmartin. Boyd introduces a rather clunky literary device of having the mother give her daughter a manuscript that details her life as a WWII spy for the British Secret Service. Boyd's focus on Gilmartin's spy training and her behind-the-scenes propaganda work in New York to steer public opinion toward U.S. involvement in the war is fascinating. A somewhat clumsy narrative enlivened by some expertly generated suspense. Connie Fletcher
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Finding Peace at the End of the Journey Aug. 6 2014
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
British author William Boyd is a master at writing novels that are extensive, intensive, complex and, overall, very satisfying in their conclusion. He does all this by focussing on making a life for the main character while developing a couple of sideshows meant to enrich the main plot over time. This formula plays out once again in this novel in the life of a British wartime spy named Eva who leads a footloose and adventurous existence in an attempt to outwit the enemy in a cat-and-mouse game of dire consequences. It is 1939 and, as an emigre hanging around a doomed Paris, Eva, suddenly becomes an unwitting member of a covert intelligence operated putatively committed to bringing the US into war on the British side. Eva is a single woman vulnerable to many emotions, not least the need to be loved. It will be Lucas Romer, her handler, who will become her lover as they move to America to pursue this mission. As the reader will learn, Romer is a traitor who has his own sinister plan for keeping America out of the war and is prepared to do anything, including throwing Eva under a bus. To reinforce this intriguing tale, Boyd introduces a subsequent narrative that takes place a generation or so later involving her daughter, Ruth, born out of the chaotic and fearful life she led with Romer. The similarities are so uncannily similar as to make the point that we are not alone when we travel through life. What Ruth discovers about her mother, through reading parts of her harrowing story of escape from danger, is that they share a tortuous life of travelling the world in search of love in the shadows of ever-present danger. This revelation allows her to better understand her mother’s similar need for peace. In the end, Eva, Ruth, and her son Jochem, get the satisfaction that justice, though cruel and whimsical, can offer a well-earned sense of vindication to those who patiently pursue the truth.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Useless character Jan. 29 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The story of the mother was good enough, but I couldn' be bothered with the daughter's story. It was ok
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "THE FINEST STORYTELLER OF HIS GENERATION" Nov. 7 2006
By Gail Cooke TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
British actress Rosamund Pike is probably best known for playing the gal who caught James Bond's eye in Die Another Day. While that performance certainly grabbed audience attention, she has numerous other noteworthy credits both on stage and in films. She does another star turn as she inhabits two narrative voices in the 9th novel by William Boyd. He's been called "The finest storyteller of his generation," and Restless again demonstrates how splendidly he can spin a tale.

Set in Oxfordshire, England during 1976 our story opens with a bit of a shock - Sally Gilmartin gives her daughter, Ruth, a memoir she has penned. Ruth is amazed to learn that her mother is not at all who she believed her to be. In actuality, Sally Gilmartin is Eva Delectorskaya, A Russian who worked for the British Secret Service during World War II. Sally or Eva has guarded this secret well for almost 30 years.

Now, she is revealing the truth about herself to her daughter not because she wishes to be open but because she fears for her life and Ruth is the one person in the world she believes she can trust. Ruth is not only astounded but disbelieving, wondering if her mother may be delusional at the onset of old age. Nonetheless, for her mother's sake she tries to find Romer the man who recruited Sally/Eva and with whom she had an affair.

Restless is related in parallel stories, probably the most compelling are the accounts of Sally/Eva's enlistment, training, and experiences. Following the war she returns to England, adopts an identity and marries. She has every reason to believe her past is well behind her.

Not so!

Highly recommended.

- Gail Cooke
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Terrific Literary Page Turner March 6 2007
Format:Hardcover
What a fun ride it was reading Restless by William Boyd. A bit of a mystery, a bit of an English spy story and a bit of a family drama all rolled into one. The book is broken into two narrative streams. The first is Ruth who teaches English to foreigners rather than finishing her doctorate. The second is the story of her mother Sally (real name Eva) who in fact, was a Russian who gets hooked into spying for the English immediately prior to and during World War II. The sections surrounding Ruth are fine and have the aura of a small town mystery story as she is surprised to learn about her mother's past, but it is really Eva's story we want to know about. Those sections crackle with a real sense of danger as Eva makes her way through the world of espionage while trusting no one. I liked the juxtaposition of Ruth's mundane, simple post-war life with the covert life of Eva, truly surviving only by her wits. I'll never look at a very sharp pencil the same way again. The story is clever, as are the historical twists and Boyd tells it in an engaging style. This is a something akin to a literary page turner and it's about the length that you could curl up one evening and devour whole.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  181 reviews
173 of 177 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars British Spy Novel --- Tops in Genre Sept. 2 2007
By Middle-aged Professor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a spy novel, not a thriller, and there is a real difference between the two genres. Think John LeCarre and Graham Greene, not Robert Ludlum and Ken Follet. With the spy novel, you have the ever-so-slow peeling of layers, deeper characterizaion, a frequent sense of foreboding and, until all is revealed, some confusion. The thriller, in contrast, is the page-turning, up-all-night, action-packed adventure that you can't put down. After finishing a thriller, you are likely to say "where can I get another fix," but not to reflect on what you have just read, and if you try, you may not remember and, if you do, it may not make sense. With the spy novel, you may want to wait a while before reading another, but you will spend some time reflecting on what you've just read, and it provokes you in a more serious, literary way.

I like both genres but find it important to orient my expectations going in.

For the spy novel genre, Restless would have to rank among my favorites. In addition to the terrific writing, the likeable-but-far-from-perfect heroines and the World War II intrigue, the novel offers some additional pleasures.

First, it is quintissentially British. The book involves, among other things, a single mother raising her son, the world of Oxford academia, and all sorts of emotionally powerful events. These all come across with the British stoicism, stiff-upper-lipism and "no winging (whining)" ethic that make the book very different from an American treatment of the identical plot. Not better, or worse, just different and thus very interesting to the American reader. The cultural difference (accurately renedered I should say) is a fascinating sidelight for the American reader.

Second, the author employed heroines rather than heroes. I would be interested to hear from female readers, but I was very impressed with the author's ability to create characters of the opposite sex who seemed nonstereotyped, but true. There is nothing of "the weaker sex" to the heroines, but they are not at all the same as they would be if written as men. In short, they're real women (or at least seem so from my, male, perspective)in a genre that does not frequently offer that.

Third, the novel spends a great deal of time on the intrigue, spying and propoganda surrounding British efforts to persuade the United States to join World War II. In an interview, Boyd says that he mostly used his imagination in creating the spying, but it certainly seems realistic and oh so relevant today. The wheels-within-wheels manipulation of the media and public opinion and the "trust nobody" mantra say more about contemporary foreign affairs than many current nonfiction treatments, which themselves simply repeat the spin that interested actors have given the authors.

Enjoy.
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of his best Oct. 9 2006
By Newton Munnow - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Over the last twenty years, William Boyd has, for me, been among the most consistent writers of narrative fiction. There have been books that will stand the test of time (New Confessions) and ones that already seem dated (Stars and Bars), but Restless finds him in good form. Boyd, as flexible as ever, turns his attention to the spy genre. We are presented with a double narrative, mother and daughter. The plot is hampered by a slightly overwrought literary device, the mother doling out her diaries at intervals, conveniently allowing the author to flip back and forth in time. Still, Boyd remains a wonderful writer. His characters are incisive, full blooded and captivating, even the ones we're not supposed to like. Boyd, like McEwan, manages the perfect blend of literature and thriller and Restless reads very quickly. That alone is a reason to buy it, but add in the Paris of 1939, spymasters and double dealings and Boyd is on to another winner.
43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating fiction about little-known World War II spy efforts. Oct. 23 2006
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
When Ruth, a single mother and teacher of English as a Second Language, goes to Middle Ashton to visit her mother, Sally Gilmartin, in 1976, she receives a surprise. When Ruth is ready to go home, Sally gives her a folder entitled _The Story of Eva Delectorskaya_. Ruth has never heard of Eva--until her mother stuns her by announcing, "I am Eva Delectorskaya." Sally believes that someone is trying to kill her, and she wants Ruth to help her find Lucas Romer, her former boss in a British spy agency, during World War II.

The novel which ensues from the additional folders Eva gives to Ruth alternates between Ruth's life in the 1970s and the life of Eva Delectorskaya from 1939 through 1942. A Russian émigré to Paris, Eva is recruited by British intelligence, and once she has been trained (and has removed all traces of a foreign accent from her voice), she is sent to Belgium, where she works for Agence d'Information Nadal, a front organization which plants disinformation which the allies hope the Germans will accept as truth. Later she goes to Holland with Lucas Romer, her boss, and eventually to Manhattan.

Ruth's life, far more plebeian than Eve's, revolves around her teaching of foreign students, her care for her son, her friendship with Hamid Kazemi, an Iranian student and engineer, and her involvement in activist politics. When Ruth succeeds in locating Lucas Romer, the two story lines come together in a grand climax.

Always a master of narrative pacing, Boyd keeps the story moving smartly, though Eve's story is far more interesting and more involving than Ruth's. His ability to recreate the atmosphere of Europe and the US in 1942 makes for lively reading as he explores some of the lesser known intrigues by British intelligence. Boyd has often made use of diaries and journals to advance his plots, and this formula works as the reader becomes fascinated by Eve's complex life as a spy. Unfortunately, the characters themselves are not very complex, and as a result, the reader remains at arm's length from the action. With its unusual plot twists and its focus on British spy activity within the US, however, the novel moves quickly and is fun to read. n Mary Whipple
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finest spy novel I've ever read. Jan. 8 2009
By Richard Snyder - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Cannot fathom the 4 stars reviews; especially the reviewer who states: "plot is hampered by a slightly overwrought literary device, the mother doling out her diaries at intervals, conveniently allowing the author to flip back and forth in time." The device is brilliant. You want to read straight forward and mundane, well, stick to Ludlum or Silva or whomever. The discerning reader will note the author's subtlety and craft. His slight of hand if you will. The slow way the substance of the tale is revealed. It's like being lost in a forest. You believe you know which path to take out. The sun is shining. You come upon a meadow here, a brook there. No, wrong way. It is only when all is revealed and you are safely out that you say, well, I knew where I was all the time. But, you didn't. Boyd never disappoints. I stumbled upon him long ago when I read The Ice Cream War. His novels are all dissimilar. He's vastly underrated because he's so accessible. I cannot wait to see what he gives us next.
45 of 53 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Needs more editing Feb. 1 2008
By P. L. Petersen - Published on Amazon.com
Restless: Two Stories in One

In Restless William Boyd gives us two stories in one: the stories of Ruth Gilmartin and Eva Delectorskaya. But sadly only one of the stories is fully developed. Ruth Gilmartin, a single mother, teaches English as a second language and lives in Oxford, England with her son Jochen. Her life gets complicated when her mother, Sally Gilmartin, gives Ruth her memoirs revealing herself as the British spy Eva Delectorskaya. Boyd structures the memoirs one chapter at a time into the novel. This results in alternating chapters of the two women's lives, with two viewpoints, two settings, and two time frames, the seventies and the forties. Ruth, along with the reader, becomes absorbed in her own mother's past. And what a Machiavellian past Eva had: a contrast to the routine existence Ruth lives.

Boyd's creative use of two storylines within one novel makes reading interesting. Eva's undercover story takes center stage. Each chapter ups the ante in violence and intrigue. Her entanglement with Lucas Romer, her boss, leads her to plant fake documents meant to encourage the U. S. to engage with the British in World War II. Boyd packs this thriller with mystery, drama, and devious manipulation, compelling the reader to search for answers. He builds a complicated plot for Eva's story, and withholds information as well as any mystery writer. By the time the story has played out he ties up all the pieces with finesse.

He is not as meticulous writing Ruth's story. He inserts plotlines and leaves them unfinished. What happened to Hamid's love for Ruth and his connection to the protests against the Shah, to Ludger, Ilse, and their connection to the Red Army? What about Detective Constable Frobisher? Why did Boyd build so many fascinating questions in Ruth's story and not resolve them? One writing theory is if the author puts a gun on the mantle in the first chapter, he better let the reader know why it was there by the last chapter. Boyd put too many guns on Ruth's mantle and we still don't know why in the last chapter he included them in the story. Though William Boyd is a talented writer, this careless oversight keeps the novel from being exceptional. Boyd needs to go back and edit.
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