Restless

Winner of the Costa Novel Award 2006

It is 1939. Eva Delectorskaya is a beautiful 28-year-old Russian émigrée living in Paris. As war breaks out she is recruited for the British Secret Service by Lucas Romer, a mysterious Englishman and under his tutelage she learns to become the perfect spy, to mask her emotions and trust no one, including those she loves most. Since then Eva has carefully rebuilt her life as the very English wife and mother Sally Gilmartin — but once a spy, always a spy. Now she must complete one final assignment. This time though Eva can’t do it alone: she needs her daughter’s help.

 

Now a major two-part BBC One series starring Hayley Atwell and Charlotte Rampling, directed by Edward Hall (Spooks).

 

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‘Boyd maintains the tension right up to the end, with some enjoyable twists and turns … Atmospheric, intricately plotted and genuinely gripping’ Peter Parker,Sunday Times

‘A terrific Second World War spy thriller’ Henry Sutton, Daily Mirror

‘Captivating’ Siddhartha Deb, Times Literary Supplement

‘It is a tight drama, densely plotted and tremendously exciting’ Toby Clements,Daily Telegraph

‘A good, rollicking read … Boyd has certainly done his research: Restless pulls you deep into the obscure, forgotten intricacies of wartime espionage … will keep you turning pages until the end’ Marianne Macdonald, Observer

‘The world of spies, especially during the Thirties and Forties, has been so extensively and so cogently covered in both fiction and non-fiction that it is a considerable tribute to Boyd’s authorial skills that he makes it work … extremely readable’ Sunday Telegraph

‘The plot is the thing in this utterly absorbing page-turner. British fiction contains a rich tradition of literary thrillers, from Wilkie Collins through Graham Greene to John le Carré, and Boyd’s new novel sits firmly within it … Not only thrilling but poignant… Boyd is a first rate story-teller and this is a first rate story’ A.C. Grayling, The Times

‘Boyd creates a wonderful appearance of candor in a narrative that is actually packed with twists and double meanings … Boyd very successfully draws the reader into a tactical unfolding of clues that can be taken straight, or as a double-blind, or even a double-double blind … The plot is gripping, and he creates characters who are spies in every fibre of their being, creatures of dangerous times and a soul-destroying profession … Restless is enormously readable in every respect: a confident, intelligent, ambitious novel’ Helen Dunmore, Guardian

‘Well known as a mainstream literary novelist, Boyd now turns the spy thriller genre on its head. Boyd invests this novel not only with a credible style and emotional authenticity but also a full-throttle plot’ Iain Finlayson, Saga Magazine

‘In many ways Restless is the book that Boyd has been building towards for over two decades. While exquisitely literary in scope, tone and style, it is also hugely readable — a real page turner’ Henry Sutton, Esquire

‘Boyd is telling big, encompassing stories that are so authoritatively presented, they have the ring of historical fact … Effortlessly readable … Boyd’s description of wartime Europe and America is as sure as if he had spent a gap year in the early 1940s. Underplaying the emotion, sketching in detail rather than plastering the page with atmospheric context, he unravels the characters of Eva and Romer with confident insouciance. The coolness of his tone as events unfold makes it clear personalities are as central to this novel as its increasingly dastardly plot … Restless is a novel of slowly gathering power and unforgettable imagery. In the characters of Eva and Romer, Boyd makes it horribly, memorably clear that private lives are inextricably, and often cruelly, intertwined’ Rosemary Goring, Glasgow Herald

‘A terrific Second World War spy thriller’ Ticket

‘Heart-stoppingly exciting … a riveting tale of wartime derring-do’ John O’Connell, Time Out

‘Boyd’s reputation, won over a career spanning eight novels before this latest, is that of English fiction’s master story-teller … As a maker of richly imagined, and, yes, good, old-fashioned stories. A generator, above all else, of narrative energy … A gripping, well-paced narrative … His stories circle intelligently around fascinating themes … This is a novel made, insistently, from interpretations of individual pasts … and eminently skilful in its depiction of the way that all human pasts manage a strange trick: to be fixed and always out of reach, yet at the same time, somehow, always with us, and always changing … It’s a final few pages both page-turning and deft, leaving us with a moving feeling that it is our histories, and our ever-changing, private interpretations of them, that render us ultimately unknowable. Restless is that rare thing: a spy thriller from a first-rate narrative intelligence’ Tom Pilston, Independent on Sunday

‘Enjoyable … His evocation of the chaos of Europe and the apocalyptic fears of Britain in the very early 1940s is expertly done … This is all well-turned le Carré territory, and at times Restless appears to be written in homage to the master … Eva is a compelling figure’ Tim Adams, New Statesman

Restless does what all William Boyd’s novels do. It informs us a little about what humans are like … The stories dovetail seamlessly towards the end, thanks to Boyd’s narrative control … fascinating …Restless will not disappoint spy-fi fans … Restless is almost certainly coming to a cinema near you … Boyd, as a novelist who must make his own beloved characters speak and live convincingly, is hyper-aware of the fact that we do not truly know even our closest acquaintances. Restless illustrates this universal ignorance unflinchingly. But it also provides all the excitement and intrigue that one might expect from a spy novel. It is a noteworthy example of what can happen when literary novelists turn to genre fiction’ William Brett, Spectator

Extract

Restless
Chapter One

When I was a child and was being fractious and contrary and generally behaving badly, my mother used to rebuke me by saying: ‘One day someone will come and kill me and then you’ll be sorry’; or, ‘They’ll appear out of the blue and whisk me away — how would you like that?’; or, ‘You’ll wake up one morning and I’ll be gone. Disappeared. You wait and see.’

It’s curious, but you don’t think seriously about these remarks when you’re young. But now — as I look back on the events of that interminable hot summer of 1976, that summer when England reeled, gasping for breath, pole-axed by the unending heat — now I know what my mother was talking about: I understand that bitter dark current of fear that flowed beneath the placid surface of her ordinary life — how it had never left her even after years of peaceful, unexceptionable living. I now realise she was always frightened that someone was going to come and kill her. And she had good reason.

It all started, I remember, in early June. I can’t recall the exact day – a Saturday, most likely, because Jochen wasn’t at his nursery school – and we both drove over to Middle Ashton as usual. We took the main road out of Oxford to Stratford and then turned off it at Chipping Norton, heading for Evesham, and then we turned off again and again, as if we were following a descending scale of road types; trunk road, road, B-road, minorroad, until we found ourselves on the metalled cart track that led through the dense and venerable beech wood down to the narrow valley that contained the tiny village of Middle Ashton. It was a journey I made at least twice a week and each time I did so I felt I was being led into the lost heart of England — a green, forgotten, inverse Shangri-La where everything became older, mouldier and more decrepit.

Middle Ashton had grown up, centuries ago, around the Jacobean manor house – Ashton House – at its centre, still occupied by a distant relative of the original owner-builder-proprietor, one Trefor Parry, a seventeenth-century Welsh wool-merchant-made-good who, flaunting his great wealth, had built his grand demesne here in the middle of England itself. Now, after generation upon generation of reckless, spendthrift Parrys and their steadfast, complacent neglect, the manor house was falling down, on its last woodwormed legs, giving up its parched ghost to entropy. Sagging tarpaulins covered the roof of the east wing, rusting scaffolding spoke of previous vain gestures at restoration and the soft yellow Cotswold stone of its walls came away in your hand like wet toast. There was a small damp dark church near by, overwhelmed by massive black-green yews that seemed to drink the light of day; a cheerless pub — the Peace and Plenty, where the hair on your head brushed the greasy, nicotine varnish of the ceiling in the bar — a post office with a shop and an off-licence, and a scatter of cottages, some thatched, green with moss, and interesting old houses in big gardens. The lanes in the village were sunk six feet beneath high banks with rampant hedges growing on either side, as if the traffic of ages past, like a river, had eroded the road into its own mini-valley, deeper and deeper, a foot each decade. The oaks, the beeches, the chestnuts were towering, hoary old ancients, casting the village in a kind of permanent gloaming during the day and in the night providing an atonal symphony of creaks and groans, whispers and sighs as the night breezes shifted the massive branches and the old wood moaned and complained.

I was looking forward to Middle Ashton’s generous shade as it was another blearily hot day – every day seemed hot, that summer – but we weren’t yet bored to oblivion by the heat. Jochen was in the back, looking out of the car’s rear window -he liked to see the road ‘unwinding’, he said. I was listening to music on the radio when I heard him ask me a question.

‘If you speak to a window I can’t hear you,’ I said.

‘Sorry, Mummy.’

He turned himself and rested his elbows on my shoulders and I heard his quiet voice in my ear.

‘Is Granny your real mummy?’

‘Of course she is, why?’

‘I don’t know . . . She’s so strange.’

‘Everybody’s strange when you come to think of it,’ I said. ‘I’m strange . . . You’re strange.’

‘That’s true,’ he said, ‘I know.’ He set his chin on my shoulder and dug it down, working the muscle above my right collarbone with his little pointed chin, and I felt tears smart in my eyes. He did this to me from time to time, did Jochen, my strange son – and made me want to cry for annoying reasons I couldn’t really explain.

At the entrance to the village, opposite the grim pub, the Peace and Plenty, a brewer’s lorry was parked, delivering beer. There was the narrowest of gaps for the car to squeeze through.

‘You’ll scrape Hippo’s side,’ Jochen warned. My car was a seventh-hand Renault 5, sky blue with a (replaced) crimson bonnet. Jochen had wanted to christen it and I had said that b ecause it was a French car we should give it a French name and so I suggested Hippolyte (I had been reading Taine, for some forgotten scholarly reason) and so ‘Hippo’ it became – at least to Jochen. I personally can’t stand people who give their cars names.

‘No, I won’t,’ I said. I’ll be careful.’

I had just about negotiated my way through, inching by, when the driver of the lorry, I supposed, appeared from the pub, strode into the gap and histrionically waved me on. He was a youngish man with a big gut straining his sweatshirt and distorting its Morrell’s logo and his bright beery face boasted mutton-chop whiskers a Victorian dragoon would have been proud of.

‘Come on, come on, yeah, yeah, you’re all right, darling,’ he wheedled tiredly at me, his voice heavy with a weary exasperation. ‘It’s not a bloody Sherman tank.’

As I came level with him I wound down the window and smiled.

I said: ‘If you’d get your fat gut out of the way it’d be a whole lot easier, you fucking arsehole.’

I accelerated off before he could collect himself and wound up the window again, feeling my anger evaporate – deliciously, tinglingly – as quickly as it had surged up. I was not in the best of moods, true, because, as I was attempting to hang a poster in my study that morning, I had, with cartoonish inevitability and ineptitude, hit my thumbnail – which was steadying the picture hook – square on with the hammer instead of the nail of the picture hook. Charlie Chaplin would have been proud of me as I squealed and hopped and flapped my hand as if I wanted to shake it off my wrist.

 

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