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Spies

Narrated by: Martin Jarvis
Length: 7 hrs and 26 mins
Categories: Fiction, Historical
3.5 out of 5 stars (25 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In the quiet cul-de-sac where Keith and Stephen live, the only immediate signs of the Second World War are the blackouts at night and a single random bomb-site. But the two boys suspect that the ordinary houses in the Close and their inhabitants are not what they seem. As Keith, the leader, informs the trusting Stephen, the whole district is riddled with secret passages, hideaways for any number of murderers, unsung war heroes, and secret agents. Then one day Keith announces that the Germans have infiltrated his own family.
©2002 Michael Frayn (P)2002, 2004 BBC Audiobooks Ltd

Critic Reviews

"A compelling story about secrecy and betrayal." (Booklist)

"As it plays out to a surprising denouement, this enigmatic melodrama will keep readers' attention firmly in hand." (Publishers Weekly)  

"Martin Jarvis's performance is intelligent, precise, and brilliantly nuanced. He captures all of Frayn's sardonic humor, as well as his more serious moments of philosophizing." (AudioFile)  

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Kc
  • 05-23-05

Gave up

This is no Copenhagen, the brillant play by Frayn. The two boys are impossibly, endlessly and tediously credulous, while one of them, the narrator, is at the same time unbelievably perceptive about the little village (wonderfully depicted -- but the book needs more than that) and its humdrum people. Not much seemed to be happening half way through, though one see where it is all leading, and no children's imagination could be that overheated. The reader, however, kept me going that far; he is wonderful. But I still gave up.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

What a beautiful piece of writing

What did you like best about this story?

What a beautiful piece of writing. The title is only slightly, wryly ironic as I found this to be a Rite Of Passage story, and a beautifully evoked one at that. To say that the bulk of the story is told in flashback would be to put it too crudely but technically speaking I suppose it it. It's as much about the excruciating nuances of the English class system, the general awkwardness of youth and the fallibility of memory itself as it is about the events themselves (a particular summer of WW2 era suburban England) , as observed once through the prism of the young Stephen and then again through the older, more bittersweet prism of the older Stephen. But this is no Waugh-esque cloying nostalgia, but something much more honest and real.

What does Martin Jarvis bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I would listen to Martin Jarvis read the telephone book.
(Do we even have telephone books anymore?)

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

WWII home front story

This story is intelligent, suspenseful, poignant and told from one of the most genuine "child's points-of-view" I've ever read. The reader is terrific and his ability to differentiate the characters is amazing. He never sounds childish but invests the reading with a child's determination and earnestness. I loved it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful listening

What made the experience of listening to Spies the most enjoyable?

This is a wonderful story, very well read.
It is the book that Ian McEwen wished he wrote!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Touching and interesting

Touching story, mostly recommended for listeners who appreciate plots surrounding civil life during World War II.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • PeterB - MK
  • 03-26-09

Very different

Just finished this and not what I had expected.

A very different book, gripping in a funny sort of way, enjoyed it and got totally engrossed in the plot.

The world as seen by a child's mind in the last war, difficult to explain without saying too much about the plot.

Would not suit everyone, as at times it requires patience, but recommended non the less.





4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • mj
  • 06-17-14

A great yarn - Boys!

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

I enjoyed listening to this book (it was for book club) and whilst I would never have chosen it, I enjoyed it.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Spies?

The smell of the hedge - I remember it well from my own childhood and knew what it was straight away.

What does Martin Jarvis bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

He has a great storytelling voice.

Do you think Spies needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

I think it ended well enough - I think all the ends were tied up so that a follow up would not be needed.

Any additional comments?

I would never have chosen this book and am glad that I got to it through a book club - a good way to discover new areas of interest.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • caya
  • 03-17-13

not my cup of tea

I found this tedious. I pushed on to the end and finished with relief. I bought this as. I loved one of his other book, skios. Funny as I notice a review of skios has said the exact opposite and preferred spies!

0 of 1 people found this review helpful