Sometimes books mysteriously appear in my room, which, incidentally, looks like a special...moreYou can read more reviews at my blog, The Armchair Librarian.
Sometimes books mysteriously appear in my room, which, incidentally, looks like a special edition of Hoarders: Mad Librarian edition. If a book doesn't look familiar, there's a good chance it came from my mother, who has similar problems when it comes to stockpiling books. Last summer, I helped her clean out the garage and received about three large stacks of literary fiction; RESTLESS by William Boyd was just one of many, and I'm just now getting around to reading it.
RESTLESS is a spy thriller that takes place in two alternating timelines: 1970s and WWII. Our narrator is this annoying Englishwoman named Ruth who is a single mother with a five-year-old son who is the product of an adulterous affair she had in college. Okay. Anyway, Ruth is freaking out because her mother, Sally, appears to be going mad. She's convinced that Someone Is Out to Get Her, which is never a good sign.
Except...it turns out she might be right. Because Sally Gilmartin isn't the all-round Good Old-Fashioned English Lady she pretends to be, but a half-Russian spy whose real name is Eva Delectorskaya! She's writing out a memoir of her life, which she delivers to her daughter chapter by chapter, just in case she's killed. Which doesn't make sense, because she doesn't say who she thinks is going to kill her until the very freaking end, and obviously if someone were going to kill you, you wouldn't want to waste any time fingering them (no, not that way!). But I guess that wouldn't make a very compelling - or long - story. "Once upon a time, there was a spy. This is him. Now he's dead."
I started out liking RESTLESS a lot more than I did. I was never too keen about Ruth but Sally/Eva was a very compelling character. I loved her budding romance with Romer, her resourcefulness, how bad-ass she was. Things kind of got sketchy in the second half of the book, though. Also, it's a spy thriller so there is violence. For example, there's this pretty gruesome scene where someone gets a pencil shoved into their eye (and then a windshield wiper D:). Ewwww.
My problem with RESTLESS is that it goes on for too long. The romance between Hamid and Ruth is far too contrived; she treats him like shit. I also didn't like a lot of the nasty things that were said about women. For example, at one point Ruth refers to single mothers as "sluts." Um, no. There were jokes about women of color being slutty too at one point, and that was teeth-gratingly annoying, too. Maybe that's the author trying to stay to the times, or maybe it's because he's sexist- I don't know. But I know I didn't like it, and that was enough to cause me to dock a star from my enjoyment factor.
RESTLESS isn't badly written but it tries too hard to be erudite while at the same time trying to appeal to men with slideshow action scenes and to women with contrived romance.
It fails on all three counts. But it isn't a bad story.