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The Spy Game

3.15  ·  Rating Details  ·  226 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 31st 2009 by Bloomsbury USA (first published 2009)
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(showing 1-30 of 604)
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Aug 09, 2009 Judy rated it really liked it
Was Hilda a spy for the Soviet Union who returned to Russia before she could be unmasked and arrested or did she simply die in an auto accident? Eight year old Anna and her older brother, Peter, are told that their mother is dead, but there is no funeral, their father (who had a secret job during World War II in England and who met their mother in Berlin after the war) took them to the sea to stay immediately after their mother's death, and when they returned to their home all traces of their mo ...more
Dec 29, 2013 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british
2009 was a busy year for me, yet I still bought as many books as normal - the result being that I have several unread books from that year languishing on my shelves, this being one of them, despite my having read (and highly rated) Harding's other two novels. A dull novel that I was trudging through with little interest prompted me to finally pick it off the shelf, and I'm so glad I did. As beautifully written as I have come to expect from the author, this is a wonderfully layered examination of ...more
Apr 02, 2015 John rated it it was amazing
In 1961 as the Cold War raged, when Anna was eight and her brother Peter a couple of years older, their mother Caroline drove off into the thick fog surrounding their remote Home Counties home and never came back again. Later the children were told that Caroline, blinded by the fog, had driven into a tree and been killed. Peter, however, putting his mother's German accent together with the fact that just at that same moment there had been some sensational spy arrests -- the Krogers, Gordon Lonsd ...more
Apr 18, 2016 Jane rated it really liked it
“There are different kinds of memory, conscious and unconscious. There are memories that the conscious mind goes over repeatedly, that are recalled, observed, caught like a snapshot of the time, and oneself in it, one of the figures in the picture. Memories like these become like history, fact-filed for recall, detached from emotion. But there are others that come back without conscious thought and that are experienced again, more or less vividly, like dream versions of themselves.”

On a cold mor
Apr 26, 2014 Annette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Coincidentally, I read this straight after reading Audrey MaGee's The Undertaking which deals with similar territory. The writing is very different but the emotional power is just as strong and I would highly recommend reading the two together perhaps this one second as I have done, it works chronologically with the time frames both books deal with.

This is beautifully written and multi-layered book that gently shows you the story. It's such a joy to find writing like this that is subtle but cle
Sep 19, 2013 Diana rated it really liked it
This book is slim paperback and so it did not take me too long to read but I enjoyed every minute.

I thought her ability to get inside the mind of a child was excellent and also the relationship between the sister and brother. I don't remember being confused by the time switches as some other readers were. When I was a child I lived in Vienna, just after the second WW and I very well remember the division of the city between the four powers and the fear that was very common that it if you went i
Apr 13, 2009 Betty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
An unusual plot line, a little disconcerting at first until you really get into it. Georgina Harding demonstrates how non-verbal family relations can create false imagery to young children. The novel centers around the mysterious disappearance of the mother of two children and how they try to cope. They are told nothing about the disappearance, simply that she has died in an accident. There is no funeral, the last sight to them was of their mother driving off on a foggy, frosty morning as she ha ...more
Jun 09, 2009 Tori rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, first-reads
This was such a surprising book. I was expecting kind of an espionage story with lots of action. What I got was a slow-moving, thoughtful story that provided me with a lot to think about. I like both types of books, but since I wasn't expecting that out of this book, it was a nice treat! I won this book from Goodreads, and what a great prize it was - I might not have chosen it otherwise.

The story is about a little girl and her brother, whose mother dies in a car crash. Because that takes place i
Nov 10, 2009 Sara rated it it was ok
Recommended to Sara by: Mom
2.5 stars. This book was quite slow moving, and although I enjoyed parts of the story very much, it felt too vague and flimsy overall for me to fully enjoy it. The story follows a girl named Anna, whose mom supposedly dies in a car crash in 1962, when Anna is eight. On the news, there are all sorts of reports about spies, and Anna's brother begins to suspect that their mom did not die after all but instead was a spy and moved on to reinvent herself somewhere else.

I really liked the story about
May 29, 2009 Erika rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Anna remembers her mother leaving, and people saying she died, but she and her brother Peter didn't get to attend the funeral. They both think there is something more to the story, and this book is about how they grow up and try to figure out this mystery that is their mother.

She starts the book talking about the fog that she remembers so vividly from the day her mother left. I think this is an interpretation of the whole fog of their lives concerning their mom and their background. The whole t
Jun 04, 2009 Theresa rated it really liked it
Georgina Harding's The Spy Game is story of two small children dealing with the loss of their mother. Peter beleives his mother was a spy and little Anna is unsure what to beleive. This story is set in 1962 and the present, but clearly the author wants to address issues lingering from WWII. She has done so well and directly. Like a childs perspective the facts are clear even if the true meaning is a bit more muddled. From the descriptions of the family yard to the disconnection of the siblings, ...more
May 08, 2012 Tracy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, ebook, kindle

Wow. This was my response as I started it: Spies! Orphans! 60s Cold War Britain! What a perfect beginning ... and yet the book is even better than that.

Everything about it just sang to me, the questions of identity and roots and memory. The childhood obsession with spies and the belief that their deceased mother isn't really dead, but a spy in hiding, Peter and Anna's counterespionage attempts, and then the adult Anna slowly going about trying to find the answers. It's a slim book, it probably o
Jan 13, 2012 Fiona rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. It was just beautifully & evocatively written. The characters were well painted & very believable, it was also very moving.
It made me remember so many incidents from my own childhood & how believable fantasies can develop.
It also illustrates very well the problems caused by adults not telling children the facts. A friend of mine knew her Mother was ill when she was a child, but no one told her how ill she was & one day when she came home from school sh
Alexander Van Leadam
Dec 21, 2015 Alexander Van Leadam rated it really liked it
A delightful story of childhood: the los of the mother is cleverly coupled to the spy mania of the time (early 1960s) and to the post-WW II chaos in Germany. Quiet, matter-of-fact narration presents quite dramatic and tragic events in an understated manner, allowing the reader to follow the development of characters in an elliptic but convincing manner. Peter, the unruly, inventive brother (the one who devised the spy game) becomes a successful power lawyer. The mother is revealed to have change ...more
J. Ewbank
Nov 01, 2014 J. Ewbank rated it liked it
Shelves: novel
This was a different book. Georgia Harding has written a novel that might not be for everybody. However, for those who lived during the world war or want to know about the times, this book may be for you. I won't tell you too much about the plot because others will undoubtedly do this for you. It is a tale of a brother and sister whose German mother disappeared about the time spies were being found and prosecuted in the U.S., and they begin to wonder if their mother was one.

J. Robert Ewbank auth
Jun 13, 2009 Spencer rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 18, 2013 Ernie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult-book
The Spy Game
by Georgina Harding
ISBN- 978 1 4088 0100 0
Bloomsbury, 2010, 310pp

I seem to be reading a lot of fiction about abandoned children. This one explores how a father’s grief at the sudden death of his wife leads him to neglect the need for grieving by his young children. He does not take them to the funeral and this omission incubates a fantasy in ten year old Peter who becomes obsessed with the idea that his mother is not dead but lives on as a spy. Harding’s setting of her story in the s
Diane Wallis
Mar 29, 2011 Diane Wallis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 24, 2010 Veronica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I found it kind of odd that this book was built on exactly the same premise as Michael Frayn's excellent Spies: set in the late 50s/early 60s, two children (friends in Frayn's book, brother and sister in this) decide that mother is a German spy and start trying to track down the truth about her. In this book, the children's mother is German, met and married their father in Berlin, and simply disappears one foggy morning in 1961, at the same time as a spy scandal breaks. The children's attempts t ...more
Nicole Smith
While reading this book I realized that part of what I do while reading is to look for hidden gems - a passage that is beautiful, a quote, some great character development. One of the first gems I found in this book was this observation: "People did not change because you knew something else about them. They still looked the same. Only, if you thought of it, the way you saw them changed."

That observation and many others from the book were made more powerful to me because they were presented as t
Joop Liefaard
Aug 31, 2013 Joop Liefaard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Anna en Peter Wyatt groeien op in de Engelse Cotswolds. De Tweede Wereldoorlog is voorbij maar de Koude Oorlog woedt in alle hevigheid. Op een mistige ochtend in 1961 vertrekt de moeder van Anna en Peter van huis. Een vluchtige kus op Anna's wang is het laatste en ze verdwijnt in de mist om nooit meer terug te keren. De kinderen wordt verteld dat hun moeder is omgekomen bij een auto-ongeluk maar in plaats van naar een begrafenis te gaan, gaan zij met hun vader op vakantie. Karoline en Alec, de o ...more
Sep 08, 2014 verena rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: témoignages
Noter cette œuvre, quelle difficulté! j'ai toujours cette sensation de brouillard devant les yeux, je n'arrive toujours pas à savoir ce que je pense de ce roman. Comme beaucoup de lecteurs je ne m'attendais pas à ce genre de livre, mais bien à une histoire d'espions et de guerre froide.J'ai été quelque peu ébranlée face aux mémoires d'une petite fille dont la mère est décédée dans un simple accident. L'auteur démontre le nécessité que nous avons parfois de nous masquer la dure réalité des choses ...more
Alison 1965
Feb 01, 2016 Alison 1965 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I only read this book because it was chosen by my Reading Group, and I am so glad that I did. It is beautifully written, haunting and melancholy. I found it totally absorbing from the very first page. The title had a double meaning for me: The mystery surrounding the narrator's mother; but also the way the main characters relate (or don't!) to each other. This book seems to be very much about what is not said, and what is denied, hidden or disguised. It also leaves you with the impression that n ...more
Manchester Military History Society (MMHS)
Promises to be a great story. At the same time as the capture of a sleeper spy ring in the UK in the 1960s, a german born mother who disappears leaving her children believing she was a spy too.

The story moves to the present day with her now 50 year old daughter travelling Eastern Europe to pick up clues to her mothers previous life.

Although I loved the prose style in this but found the ending rather flat and disappointing.
J.R. Barker
I've given up. So far it's about a young girl who's having a normal life, gong on holiday etc and vaguely toying with the idea of her mother being a spy, although her brother's more taken with the thought than she is.
There's another spy story woven into it, seemingly unrelated so far, but having skipped ahead in shear desperation for plot progression I really can't see it going anywhere.
Jul 31, 2009 Ray rated it liked it
I was sent a review copy of this book by Goodreads which is pretty cool.

I actually enjoyed this book globally but not always page-by-page. It also took me weeks almost two months to finish despite being not very long. Largely this was because the opening was incredibly slow and steeped in too much childhood nostalgia for old and bad feelings.

The latter half of the book really picked up steam and the full emotional context of a daughter's search for her mothers' love (if you will) came into foc
"Als je een herinnering bewust op je in laat werken, groeien er woorden in, maar je weet nooit helemaal zeker of die woorden deel uitmaken van de herinnering of dat ze voortkomen uit je verbeelding." (p.275)

Met een eenvoudige taal weet Georgina Harding een sfeer te creëren waarvan je weet dat ze hoort bij dit verhaal. Aangrijpend. Beeldend. Beklemmend soms. Het lezen van 'Wie zij was' (The Spy Game) is een wandeling maken langs een open vlakte die opdoemt te midden van onbeantwoorde vragen en le
Apr 18, 2010 Carly rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No One
This book was so promising from the back cover, and then a huge disappointment. It is supposed to delve into the story of a mother and her disappearance and how she might have been a spy. That story pretty much goes nowhere, and then completely drops off at the end. Also, the whole thing is poorly written. At the beginning of the book, I thought the main character I was reading about was a boy, which was not the case. The book also switched from the main character being a child and an adult. Whe ...more
Jun 03, 2014 Danielle rated it liked it
Not as fast paced as I expected, but intelligent and enjoyable.
Jan 04, 2013 Jane rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I really liked the writing style and there were some lovely passages in this book. But I suppose it didn't really pull me along. I'm not against books in principle where nothing much happens for a while, but somehow there were parts of the book where I just didn't find enough to hold onto to make this into a 4 star read. If I had stopped reading half way through I wouldn't have minded too much not knowing what happened. However, I thought the premise was great and maybe I just had expectations t ...more
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Georgina Harding is an English author of fiction. Published works include her novels Painter of Silence (shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012), The Spy Game (shortlisted for The Encore Award 2011), and The Solitude of Thomas Cave.

She has also written two works of non-fiction: Tranquebar: A Season in South India and In Another Europe. She lives in London and the Stour Valley, Essex.
More about Georgina Harding...

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