'If you were a sleeper, how long do you think it would take
before you forgot who you really were? If you were living undercover
for years and years. Which person would be you?'
On a freezing January morning in 1961, eight-year-old Anna's mother
disappears into the fog. A kiss that barely touches Anna's cheek, a
rumble of exhaust and a blurred wave through an icy windscreen, and her
mother is gone. Looking back, Anna will wish that she could have paid
more attention to the facts of that day. The adult world shrouds the
loss in silence, tidies the issue of death away along with the things
that her mother left behind. And her memories will drift and settle
like the fog that covers the car.
That same morning a spy case breaks in the news - the case of the
Krogers, apparently ordinary people who were not who they said they
were; people who had disappeared in one place and reappeared in another
with other identities, leading other lives. Obsessed by stories of the
Cold War, and of the Second World War which is still a fresh and
painful memory for the adults about them, Anna's brother Peter begins
to construct a theory that their mother, a refugee from eastern
Germany, was a spy working undercover and might even still be alive. As
life returns to normal, Anna struggles to sort between fact and
fantasy. Did her mother have a secret life? And how do you know who a
person was once she is dead?
The Spy Game is a beautifully wrought novel about loss,
history, memory and imagination, and the way in which we shape these to
construct our own identities. It is a painful and tender reminder of
the importance of understanding the past and, in turn, the importance
of letting go.