By William Boyd
At 28, Eva Delectorskaya was recruited into a new espionage unit of British intelligence. Nearly 40 years later, she is still looking over her shoulder.
“Once a crow (spy), always a crow,” her handler Lucas Romer said years earlier.
Joining a British secret service in 1939 made sense: it gave the Russian-born Eva a British passport, and it allowed her to continue the legacy of her murdered younger brother Kolia, who also had been working for Romer.
Nearly four decades later, Eva — now known as Sally Gilmartin — is convinced she is in the cross-hairs of old enemies. The only person she can trust to help is her daughter Ruth, a single mother going through the motions of working on a master’s thesis in history at Oxford and teaching English to foreign students.
When Sally Gilmartin presents her daughter with a thick manuscript titled, “The Story of Eva Delectorskaya,” Ruth is mystified. She’s stunned to learn that Eva Delectorskaya and Sally Gilmartin are the same woman.
This fast-moving story alternates between Eva’s story and Ruth’s life. The Nazis may have surrendered in 1945, but the foes of the past have long memories and even longer reaches. Knowledge can be a fatal possession.
In 1976, even Ruth’s life, spending tedious hours with foreign students exploring the complexities of English grammar, exposes her to demonstrations against the Shah of Iran, possibly infiltrated by Iranian secret police. Her son’s father, a married German professor, advocates the downfall of major political systems, and his brother may be involved with Baader-Meinhoff Gang.
Author William Boyd takes readers from Paris to London to Belgium to the United States as Eva leads multiple lives simultaneously. Absorbing and suspenseful, Eva’s story is considerably more interesting than Ruth’s. The two make a good point-counterpoint in how much the world changed between 1939 and 1976.
This book was made into a major TV movie by The Sundance Channel and the BBC starring Michelle Dockery, Michael Gambon, Charlotte Rampling, Hayley Atwell and Rufus Sewell.
Eva Delectorskaya is one of a growing number of female spies appearing in recent thrillers such as SAFE HOUSES, A TREACHERY OF SPIES, THE HUNTRESS and THE ALICE NETWORK.
About the Author: William Boyd CBE (1952 – )
Born in Accra, Ghana, to Scottish parents, William Boyd grew up in Ghana and Nigeria before being sent to a school in Scotland. His father was a doctor specializing tropical medicine and his mother a teacher who later ran a health clinic for the University of Ghana, Legon.
He earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Nice and a master of arts degree in English and philosophy at the University of Glasgow and finally Jesus College, Oxford. He wrote his first novel, A GOOD MAN IN AFRICA (1981), while a lecturer in English at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford. The novel won the Whitbread Award and the Somerset Maugham Award.
To date, he has written 15 books, including AN ICE CREAM WAR, which won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize; BRAZZAVILLE BEACH, winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; ANY HUMAN HEART, winner of the Prix Jean Monnet; and LOVE IS BLIND (2018) in addition to RESTLESS, winner of the Costa Novel of the Year.
He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2005 for services to literature, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and an Officier de l’Ordre des arts and des Lettres. has been given many honorary doctorates.
He met his wife Susan, a screenwriter, while both were at Glasgow University.