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Exposure

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  4,909 ratings  ·  592 reviews
Virtuoso storyteller Helen Dunmore returns with a thrilling Cold War espionage tale in which the closest ties are called into question and nobody is quite who they seem.

It’s London, 1960. The Cold War is at its height, and a spy may be a friend or neighbor, colleague or lover. Two colleagues, Giles Holloway and Simon Callington, face a terrible dilemma over a missing top-s
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Hardcover, 391 pages
Published April 5th 2016 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published January 28th 2016)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,909 ratings  ·  592 reviews


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Maureen
Nov 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Not my usual ' breakneck speed ' type of thriller, but very good nonetheless. It was quite subtle, but that air of menace was there throughout. It's primarily a spy story set in 1960's London. Simon is a rather unambitious civil servant working at The Admiralty. He lives an unremarkable life with his wife Lily, and their three children. When a Top Secret file goes missing, Simon is arrested and charged with espionage. Lily and the children feature most prominently as they try to cope with this n ...more
Esil
Oct 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
4 high stars. Helen Dunmore gets into her characters' heads like very few other writers. She did it in The Siege and The Betrayal, which I had previously read. And she does it in Exposure with simple, intense and straightforward prose. Exposure is not a spy novel -- it would be foolish to read it hoping to find the conventions of that genre. Rather, it is a period piece and a character study. It's hard to say anything without revealing too much. The story is set in 1960s England during the Cold ...more
Diane S ☔
Oct 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cold War era, Russian spies and paranoia, such were the times. I was so young then but remember duck and cover, the fear of my parents over the threat of a nuclear war. Once again Dunmore has done what she does best, infuse a period of history with characters caught up in something bigger than themselves. How those tainted with the word spy were at risk and so were their families. The atmosphere in this book really took me back it was done so effectively.

So it happens with Simon, a young man who
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Andrew Smith
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
If you enjoy the intrigue of a good spy story but you've struggled with John le Carre’s complex storylines then this might just be your ideal book.

It's London in 1960 and the Cold War is in full flow. Admiralty employee and family man Simon Callington is asked to carry out a favour for an old friend, Giles. Having picked up a file from his friend’s home he’s immediately regretting having taken this action, but is it already too late? Simon’s job was secured for him by the aforementioned friend.
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Phrynne
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5000-2019
Helen Dunmore certainly knows how to write historical fiction. This book, set in an England when all Russians were suspected spies, everyone burned coal in open fireplaces, trains gushed forth smoke and you could actually buy things with a few pennies, has the exact atmosphere of the day.

It is hard to describe Exposure as a thriller. It is about spies but not much and it is certainly a slow burner. Mostly it tells of families and friends and the awful situations quite innocent people can find t
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Susan
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have loved Helen Dunmore’s novels for many years and so was delighted to have the opportunity to review her latest work, “Exposure.” It is November, 1960, and London is in the grip of the Cold War and spy fever. Lily Callington lives with her husband, Simon, in Muswell Hill. He is a rather unambitious civil servant at the Admiralty and Lily teaches part time and looks after their children; Paul, Sally and Bridget. The couple are happy with their peaceful life. Simon enjoys going train spotting ...more
Elaine
Dec 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I couldn’t have wished for a better start to my reading year than this captivating story of cover ups and double dealings set in the world of political espionage in 1960. I cannot quite believe I have just typed that because I don’t actually like spy stories but this read is not so much to do with the secrets that are being handed over, as the people caught up in the drama when things go wrong. In fact you don’t even find out what the secrets are because they are not important to the story.

It is
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Jx PinkLady Reviews ♡ @bookwormthoughts

A slow paced suspense with espionage and the exploration of what one is prepared to do for love. On the whole it was an ok read for me with elements I found intriguing. Character driven and very well written but I didn't always feel like the narrative carried the story arc forward and therefore it did not always greatly hold my attention.
Nigeyb
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Exposure is the first book I have read by Helen Dunmore, an author I was keen to sample having heard good things about her. This book lived up to my expectations.

The plot is set in 1960, at the height of the Cold War, and revolves around a missing file and an accusation of spying. The plot is not what drives the novel though, it is merely a device for exploring identity and secrets, and which lays bare the perspectives, backstories and psychology of a range of different characters.

Exposure is
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Sue
Nov 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition


Set yourself in a time zone of the 1960's when the Cold war was at its peak. Then you are in the mindset of how to read this story.

You don't know if your friend can be trusted or neighbour is who they say they are.
This has a spy 'taste' about it because of its era and time zone.

A file goes missing. Its Top Secret.
Lilly's husband Simon is blamed for this.
Here starts not only the nightmare for Simon, but for his wife and children and all those that know him.

Helen Dunmore is a brilliant author th
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Fiona
Jun 27, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, spy-fiction
This isn’t the most thrilling spy novel you’ll ever read. Instead, it simmers away steadily. The spy story itself is secondary to the focus on the effects the actions of others have on Simon Callington and his family. It’s set in the Cold War era. Simon, who works in the Admiralty in a minor position, is married to Lily who came to England as a child of Jewish lineage fleeing from Nazi Germany with her mother. Simon finds himself unwittingly caught up in espionage with devastating consequences f ...more
Katie Lumsden
Dec 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this one. Remarkable writing, a thoroughly gripping plot, fantastic characters and a wonderful exploration of love (and spies). A fantastic read.
Joy Stephenson
I was expecting this to be a spy thriller, which it isn’t, and so I found it very slow paced for the first 80 or so pages. Then however I became drawn into the characters’ lives and emotions and I was thoroughly engaged from about half-way through.
This novel is about relationships: parent-child, husband-wife, lovers, friends. It is set in 1960 and the ‘feel’ of the era seems exactly right.
Roger Brunyate
Jun 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gay-lesbian
The Home Front in the Cold War

Many of the notorious British spies unmasked during the Cold War (Burgess, Maclean, Philby, Blunt) were recruited at Cambridge University in the 1930s. Many (but by no means all) of the spies were also gay men at a time when homosexual acts were illegal in Britain; they were thus already accustomed to a life of deception, while their sexuality was a lever that could be used against them. Helen Dunmore's novel makes reference to real people and events, setting it fir
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Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
I’ve been a fan of Helen Dunmore ever since I read “The Siege” many years ago, still one of my favorite historical fiction novels.

Her great strength is the ability to create fully dimensional characters and build the plot around them. In “Exposure” the main characters are Simon and Lily Carrington who live in North London. They are at first glimpse a “typical” middle class family. She is a teacher and he works in “The Admiralty” in what appears to be a fairly mid-level position. Everything chan
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Cold War Conversations Podcast
Another great novel from Helen Dunmore.

Exposure is set at the heart of the Cold War in November, 1960. Simon and Lily Carrington live in North London. Simon works at the Admiralty, keeps his head down and has a relatively ordinary life. However, this is turned upside down when he is accused of espionage.

As with any Dunmore novel this is more about the people than the action and personal secrets are revealed as Lily and Simon’s life descends into a nightmare.

There’s some great characterisation h
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Drka
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book about secrets and lies and, ultimately, forgiveness. It is a book that is raw with fear and it vibrates with Lily's overwhelming need to protect her children and keep them safe from harm. Exposure falls within the spy novel genre but this book is not for those who like their action fast and furious. Instead, Dunmore takes her reader deep inside her characters and lays bare their innermost thoughts and fears. I loved being inside 11-year-old Paul's head as he sat his trial eleven-p ...more
Bianca
This has been my first Helen Dunmore novel.

At the centre of the story are the Callingtons, Simon and his German-born, Jewish wife, Lily and their three children. Simon works for the Admiralty. Lily works as a part-time teacher.

Simon gets into trouble and is accused of espionage, all this mess self-induced after retrieving a file from Giles' house, an old friend and colleague.

As Simon's predicament makes the news, Lily and the kids have to deal with the aftermath. Not an easy situation to cope w
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Rebecca
My first of Dunmore’s novels, read for my book club. This is nicely written in a style comparable to Kate Atkinson’s or Pat Barker’s. I was expecting a spy thriller, though, so found the book fairly, er, un-thrilling for much of its length. It’s more of a domestic drama about the aftermath of Cold War-era spying and secrets. Giles Holloway, a double agent for the Russians, falls down the stairs of his flat and winds up in hospital. He contacts Simon Callington, a colleague and former lover, to c ...more
Marina
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
What a wonderful writer Helen Dunmore was. ‘Exposure’ is a unique story of secrets and spies in mid 20th c England. Occasionally, it reminded me of The Railway Children but this is no children’s storybook!
Dunmore expertly manages multiple points-of-view and even made unlikeable characters sympathetic.
The baddies are a bit stereotypical (but perhaps rooted in real life) and her heroine is a bit too good (but perhaps that makes us underestimate her).
The story ends (as it has done throughout) lea
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Leah
Cold War espionage...

When fading Communist spy Giles Holloway falls drunkenly down his stairs and breaks his leg, he must somehow get the Top Secret file he has “borrowed” back to the Admiralty before anyone notices it's missing. So he turns to his old friend and colleague Simon Callington for help. But Giles is under observation and someone sees Simon collecting the file. And so Simon is sucked into a situation that threatens to destroy everything he holds dear.

It's almost impossible to write a
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Bookread2day
Dec 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The story is set in London in the 1960, the cold war is at its height.

Giles Holloway who is always up to his eyes in whisky. His mansion flat has a secret attic with a desk. He takes top-secret files home and places them in his briefcase.

Giles takes a tumble-down the stairs and smashed his leg badly. While he is in hospital what will happen to his top secret files that are in his briefcase?
Laura
Jan 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Reviewed on www.snazzybooks.com

Exposure by Helen Dunmore is a vivid, aborning story. It’s about spies and secrecy, but it’s not a thriller. It’s more of a slow but beautifully written tale about a family and their struggles, together and apart, as they come to terms with what Simon has been accused of.

Helen Dunmore writes beautifully, as ever. Even when there isn’t a huge deal going on, I was completely absorbed into the story and didn’t really want it to end. You get a real sense of the family’
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Ellie M
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, historical, 2017
A very solid 4* read. And again a story set in the Cold War (probably my favourite historical period of recent history). This is a novel about secrets.

The story opens with a woman, a wife and mother, burying a suitcase in her garden. It's a suitcase her husband was sent to retrieve from a colleague / friend's house. There are secrets inside which need to remain hidden. Her husband had to decide whether to take the briefcase back to his office (which would ultimately mean he would be implicated i
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Elaine
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
I had previously read - and loved - Dunsmore's Leningrad novels. This book, sitting on my Kindle for quite some time, suddenly seemed to fit into my mini-binge of books set in post-War/Cold War Britain with an espionage theme (Warlight and Transcription). Dunsmore is a great writer, and I can't really understand why she is not recognized as being on a par with, for example, Ondaatje and Atkinson and other great contemporary novelists. I'm sorry I'm only fully acknowledging this after her death.

E
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Helen Goltz
Nov 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was provided by NetGalley in return for an honest review.

A compelling take on a classic genre, this book will captivate you!

I am not traditionally a reader of spy novels so let me say upfront that "Exposure" is a great find for anyone who enjoys the crime, thriller, and literary genres. The focus is on the characters; their actions and reactions. Every character is so well-drawn and distinct with their set of strengths and weaknesses, that you know them, understand them and can see th
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Nigel
Nov 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, arc
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; London in the 1960s mainly.

This is the story of Simon, Giles and Lily (or maybe Lili). The writing creates the feel of an earlier time with concerns about fairly mundane day to day life coupled with the Cold War and national security. I'd rather not give away too much ab
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Karen Mace
Jan 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, netgalley
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in return for a fair and honest review.

This book is set in London in 1960 at the height of the cold war, and the writing style is so stylish and detailed that you are immediately drawn in and feel like you are a fly on the wall to the every thought and feeling of the main characters.

:Lily is a teacher in Muswell Hill, and mum to 3 children. Her husband, Simon works quietly as a civil servant in the Admirality and when a Top Secret file goes missing th
...more
Ali
Jan 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Simon Callington is a fairly unambitious middle ranking admiralty officer. It was Giles Holloway who got Simon the job, Giles a secretive, manipulative hard drinker, who Simon knew at Cambridge. Now, Simon is content enough to remain as he is, his happiness lying in his nice home in Muswell Hill, his wife Lily and their three children.

One night as Simon is comfortably seated by his fire, he gets a panic call from Giles. Giles wants Simon to help clear up a serious mess he has made. There’s a fil
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Stephen Goldenberg
Helen Dunmore was one of the first authors to attend our local literary festival in Parisot in south-west France and subsequently became a patron so we were especially saddened by her recent death. This novel is typical of her low-key yet powerful storytelling, focusing on the effects of dramatic events on ordinary people's everyday lives.
In this case, it's the Callingtons, Lily, Simon and their three children caught up in a spying scandal in 1960 London. We have already experienced through John
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I was born in December 1952, in Yorkshire, the second of four children. My father was the eldest of twelve, and this extended family has no doubt had a strong influence on my life, as have my own children. In a large family you hear a great many stories. You also come to understand very early that stories hold quite different meanings for different listeners, and can be recast from many viewpoints ...more

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