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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

The Illusion Of Security

Exposure - Helen Dunmore

Set in the nineteen sixties, Exposure is the story of Simon, a civil servant in the Admiralty accused of espionage, and the ruinous consequences  this has for his wife and three children. Like other books by Helen Dunmore, the focus is on the brutality of ideology and the way that ordinary people are crushed within the political machine.


At the centre of the story is Simon's wife, Lily, a Jew who, as a girl, escaped the horrors of Nazi Germany only to be unwittingly ensnared in the  machinations of communist infiltration within British society. As the pressure mounts on Simon and Lily and on the children they so badly want to protect, the couple struggle, each in their own way, to retain their humanity.


It is not an easy read. Compassion is always on the brink of being overcome by cruelty. Yet Helen Dunmore's characters manage to triumph over a seemingly implacable enemy through stubborn resilience and an instinctive understanding of what  is most important in their lives. They have to contend with mean-spiritedness from some of those around them but they are also buoyed up by the quiet everyday decency of ordinary people.


This is a novel about illusions - the obscene ideal of a master race, the inhuman belief in the superiority of historical materialism over individual human lives and, above all the illusion of security, that most fragile of human possessions that is so easy to lose and so terribly difficult to regain.