3.7 19
by William Boyd

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"I am Eva Delectorskaya," Sally Gilmartin announces, and so on a warm summer afternoon in 1976 her daughter, Ruth, learns that everything she ever knew about her mother was a carefully constructed lie. Sally Gilmartin is a respectable English widow living in picturesque Cotswold village; Eva Delectorskaya was a rigorously trained World War II spy, a woman who carried…  See more details below


"I am Eva Delectorskaya," Sally Gilmartin announces, and so on a warm summer afternoon in 1976 her daughter, Ruth, learns that everything she ever knew about her mother was a carefully constructed lie. Sally Gilmartin is a respectable English widow living in picturesque Cotswold village; Eva Delectorskaya was a rigorously trained World War II spy, a woman who carried fake passports and retreated to secret safe houses, a woman taught to lie and deceive, and above all, to never trust anyone.

Three decades later the secrets of Sally's past still haunt her. Someone is trying to kill her and at last she has decided to trust Ruth with her story. Ruth, meanwhile, is struggling to make sense of her own life as a young single mother with an unfinished graduate degree and escalating dependence on alcohol. She is drawn deeper and deeper into the astonishing events of her mother's past—the mysterious death of Eva's beloved brother, her work in New York City manipulating the press in order to shift public sentiment toward American involvement in the war, her dangerous romantic entanglement.

Now Sally wants to find the man who recruited her for the secret service, and she needs Ruth's help. Restless is a brilliant espionage audiobook and a vivid portrait of the life of a female spy. Full of tension and drama, and based on a remarkable chapter of Anglo-American history, this is listening at its finest.

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Editorial Reviews

Ben Macintyre
Boyd has written a crackling spy thriller, but more than that, he has evoked the atmosphere of wartime espionage: the clubby, grubby moral accommodations, the paranoia, the tense sexuality…Boyd's first novel, A Good Man in Africa, was a glinting satire, while An Ice-Cream War combined history, comedy and tragedy to wonderful effect. Here he has used a more muted palette, with no humor, no literary embroidery and little emotion. The pared-down style, clipped and understated, perfectly fits the sepia setting.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
When Ruth Gilmartin learns the true identity and the WWII profession of her aging mother, Sally Gilmartin, at the start of Boyd's elegant ninth novel (after Any Human Heart), Ruth is understandably surprised. Sally, n e Eva Delectorskaya, a Russian migr living in Paris in 1939, was recruited as a spy by Lucas Romer, the head of a secretive propaganda group called British Security Coordination, to help get America into the war. This fascinating story is well told, but slightly undercut by Ruth's less-than-dramatic life as a single mother teaching English at Oxford while pursuing a graduate degree in history. Ruth's more pedestrian existence can't really compete with her mother's dramatic revelations. The contemporary narrative achieves a good deal more urgency when Ruth's mother recruits her to hunt down the reclusive, elusive Romer. But the real story is Eva/Sally's, a vividly drawn portrait of a minor figure in spydom caught up in the epic events leading up to WWII. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In his latest novel, Boyd (A Good Man in Africa) entwines two stories. One, set in England in 1976, focuses on the everyday preoccupations of Ruth Gilmartin, a single mother who teaches English to foreigners in Oxford. Ruth's life changes when her mother, Sally, begins to reveal her past to her daughter. In the early years of World War II, Sally, whose real name is Eva Delectorskaya, was recruited as a spy by British intelligence. Sent to New York in 1941, she spread black propaganda in an attempt to coax the United States into the war. On a mission in New Mexico, Eva was betrayed and had to kill a man to survive. Unable to trust her team, she escaped to Canada and eventually returned to England, where she lives in seclusion under a new identity, waiting for her betrayer to track her down. While some readers may be annoyed by the author's stylistic tics, particularly the profusion of paired adverbs (e.g., people speak "seriously, weightily" and shrug "hopelessly, helplessly"), others will enjoy this glimpse of wartime dirty tricks. For larger public libraries.-Ron Terpening, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Atmospheric novel about an older woman whose past career as a WWII spy has come back to haunt her. Ruth Gilmartin is a single mother of one in 1976 England. On a visit to Grandma's, Ruth's mother, Sally, informs her that her real name is Eva Delectorskaya, and that she was an agent of British Intelligence during World War II. Eva hands Sally a manuscript of her story, abruptly launching the duo and the reader into the past. Boyd (Any Human Heart, 2003, etc.) seems more eager to tell Eva's story than Ruth's. Not surprisingly, as the elder Gilmartin finds herself swept into a world on the brink of war in 1939. Recruited by the swarthy and mysterious Lucas Romer, Eva is trained in spycraft and joins Romer's team, specializing in disinformation. Propaganda is Eva's stock in trade, and she has a knack for it. Still, for all her talent, she finds herself attracted to her secretive boss. Boyd has obviously read a few espionage novels. Can any young woman resist James Bond? Ruth leads a far less glamorous life. Saddled with Jochen, her inquisitive son, she teaches English as a Second Language. Her adventures occur vicariously, through the lives of the foreign students who study with her. With a nod to irony, Ruth teaches people to blend into their surroundings. At first, her mother's revelation seems to be a sign of senility. As Ruth begins to investigate, the shadows of her mother's former life reveal themselves. There is some truth to this work of fiction, and the real-life events make for a fascinating backdrop. Boyd skillfully manipulates language as easily as Eva does. He handles the plot more roughly. Ruth is clumsy albeit untrained, and the other characters in her world are ratherthinly sketched. Yet Boyd fits the puzzle together neatly in the end. A bit light on action and intrigue, but a cool, collected effort.
From the Publisher
“Boyd has written a crackling spy thriller, but more than that, he has evoked the atmosphere of wartime espionage: the clubby, grubby moral accommodations, the paranoia, the tense sexuality.”
The New York Times

Restless is hard to put down. It’s entertaining, thought-provoking and educational.”
Edmonton Journal

“William Boyd has cleverly drawn from a rather obscure bit of espionage lore to craft a tale about how unknowable we really are to one another–even to those with whom we are seemingly most intimate.”
The Gazette (Montreal)

Restless is a brilliant story that sends the reader caroming between the 1940s . . . and the 1970s. . . . The book’s accurate history, intricate plot, complex characters and occasionally elegant diction make Restless not only a story with appeal for both sexes but also a potentially cinematic one.”
The Vancouver Sun

“A clever and touching dance through the ghostly, illusion-strewn world of invented identities.”
National Post

Praise for William Boyd:

“There’s hardly a writer around whose work offers more pleasure and satisfaction.”
The Washington Post

“A gutsy writer . . . William Boyd is good company to keep.”

“Mr. Boyd seems singularly blessed with both an innate love of storytelling and the talent to render those stories in swift, confident prose.”
–Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“A remarkably elastic, eclectic work. . . . Boyd has never been afraid to stretch himself, either thematically or stylistically.”
The Globe and Mail

“One of the most skilful and appealing writers at work today.”
The Atlantic Monthly

“Boyd has an exceptional ability to tell a really compelling story, in dense imaginative detail, about characters with complex, and convincing, emotional lives.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review

The New York Times Book Review Ben Macintyre
Against [a] background of moral ambiguity and laudable mendacity—ally spying on ally for the greater good—William Boyd has set his latest novel, his ninth, and his best since An Ice-Cream War . . . Boyd has written a crackling spy thriller, but more than that, he has evoked the atmosphere of wartime espionage: the clubby, grubby moral accommodations, the paranoia, the tense sexuality . . . Boyd's first novel, A Good Man in Africa, was a glinting satire, while An Ice-Cream War combined history, comedy and tragedy to wonderful effect. Here he has used a more muted palette, with no humor, no literary embroidery and little emotion. The pared-down style, clipped and understated, perfectly fits the sepia setting.
Chicago Tribune - Alan Cheuse
Britisher William Boyd's ninth novel, "Restless," is superbly written, has a hypnotic plot that unfolds in an intellectually interesting fashion, gives us compelling characters whose psychic twists and turns make them seem both real and fascinating, sets marvelous scenes in two time periods—England on the brink of World War II and the mid-1970s—offers several beautifully articulated locations (among them Oxford, London, New York and the American Southwest) and combines all of these elements into one of the most smoothly readable novels of the year..."Restless" seems at first to be a serious version of a genre novel that reads like a dream and moves along like a racing thoroughbred in its finest hour….a terrifically narrated spy story, takes on even more importance because of the way it unfolds, as a new and unnerving aspect of Ruth's present life. This takes the entire novel beyond the boundaries of genre fiction into the realm of the mainstream, in which we're all swimming.How pleasing that a novel that tackles such serious questions as the relation between past and present, old selves and new identities, love and work, and, of course, illusion versus reality can be such an enjoyable thing to read.
Washington Post John Dalton
Entertaining…Vivid and human. He weds the engaging personal lives of his characters to diverse and far-reaching episodes of 20th-century history in a way that feels simultaneously accurate and intimate…Restless is a gripping and smartly crafted spy thriller set against a fascinating and largely hidden episode in U.S.-British relations…An absorbing success.
Seattle Times Michael Upchurch
Restless is very like a genre novel: a World War II thriller, plus a little bit more, as it mixes meditations on mortality with questions of how well anyone knows anyone...Boyd artfully captures how, in BSC's hands, an invented news story would circulate via the wire services from the U.S. to overseas and back, until it began "accumulating weight and significance — more date-lines, more sources somehow confirming its emerging status as fact." His portrait of a neutral USA in 1940 and 1941, trying to tune out the war in Europe, rings true, as does much of his period detail.
Boston Globe Richard Eder
[Boyd] is master...of the most various kinds of fiction...The absurdities are the joy of Boyd's books, along with a juggling mastery of story and character, and a style that is both lean and generous...'Restless' is one more example of Boydean variousness, as well as large talent...It tells the breath taking and breath takingly gnarled story of Sally Gilmartin, a respectably settled old Englishwoman — country cottage, comfortable means, assiduously tended garden — who was a wartime spy.
San Francisco Chronicle - Timothy Peters
It's a particular pleasure when a superb writer takes up one of the genres, and the consistently superb William Boyd has done just that with his new novel...The quality of Boyd's prose and the insight he brings to the story make "Restless" resonate. Boyd has penned a fine tale here — told in his characteristically unobtrusive and elegant tone — and he explores the very idea of spying...Boyd is surely among the foremost of England's contemporary novelists.
Times Literary Supplement (London)
[An] utterly absorbing page-turner. British fiction contains a rich tradition of literary thrillers, from Wilkie Collins through Graham Greene to John Le Carré, and William Boyd's new novel, Restless, sits firmly within it…Eva's story is not only thrilling but poignant…the mystery at the story's heart [is] one of human nature as much as wartime espionage. Boyd is a first-rate storyteller, and this is a first-rate story.
Guardian (London)
The plot is gripping, and [Boyd] creates characters who are spies in every fibre of their being…Boyd registers the sensuous texture of life very precisely…Restless is enormously readable in every respect: a confident, intelligent, ambitious novel about the "bitter current that flowed beneath the placid surface of [Eva's] ordinary life.
Atlantic Monthly
In this espionage thriller and domestic drama by one of the very best prose stylists and storytellers in the English language, an eccentric English grandmother and garden enthusiast reveals to her daughter that she was a Russian émigré and a spy for Great Britain during the Second World War. Now she fears someone is trying to kill her.
LA Weekly - Brendan Bernhard
In Restless, the versatile and prolific British novelist William Boyd (Stars and Bars, Any Human Heart) has written a supple literary thriller about the years immediately before Pearl Harbor, when as many as 3,000 British secret agents, working out of Rockefeller Center, carried out an extraordinary propaganda campaign intended to convince both the average American and the U.S. government that it was the nation's duty to send its young men to fight for England....And by focusing on the initial American reluctance to join Churchill in battling the Nazis, the book also makes an intriguing companion piece to The Plot Against America...Boyd handles the historical details expertly - in earlier novels, such as The New Confessions and the wonderful Any Human Heart, he's run up and down the length of the 20th century - and he evokes the breadth and sheer audacity of Britain's covert operations in the U.S. in a way that will definitely keep readers turning the pages. As an exercise in genre, Restless brings a fascinating, shadowy sliver of history to light, and the movie's likely to be pretty good too.
Elaina Richardson
William Boyd's superb new novel, Restless, echoes its title in the way it segues between times (the Second World War and the protest-riven 1970s) and places (Britain, America, France, Germany). Boyd is a master when it comes to conjuring the mood and feel of a country. Africa has often been his stomping ground, and his interest in colonial outposts and global intrigue inevitably brings to mind Graham Greene. Tantalizingly well plotted, Restless gradually reveals the story of Sally Gilmartin, a former British spy who worked covertly to coax America into the Second World War. She fears her past is catching up with her, putting her once more at risk, and cajoles her single-mother daughter, Ruth, into helping her with a major piece of unfinished business. Ruth is a grudging player in her mother's drama, and Boyd has some fun with the gap between the life-and-death intrigue in Sally's past and Ruth's amateur sleuthing (time and again she leaps to the wrong conclusion about other people's motives), but as the threats intensify, mother and daughter discover more in common than genes. Restless achieves a coup of its own-blowing the lid off a little-known facet of recent history in the midst of this noir story of revenge.
(Cleveland) Plain Dealer Karen Long
William Boyd's smooth, assured ninth novel contains the most inventive, well-written murder I've read in a decade. More deliciously, the killing appears and disappears with Hitchcockian menace and control. "Restless" is a deceptively light, intricately plotted spy story.
Bloomberg News Hephzibah Anderson
[A] deftly executed novel...This solid page- turner flirts with the romance of espionage while probing deeper questions of trust and the limits of reinvention.
An unnerving examination of identity and duty, calculation and collusion. It is also a superior mother-daughter book, though probably not one that would play on 'Oprah.'

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Restless 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a nice quick read with well developed characters and a good historical plot. This was my third book from Boyd and was better thanBrazzaville Beach and much better than the unreadable Any Human Heart which was not good at all.
DEE37VM More than 1 year ago
Book was recommended to me by a friend and I put off reading it because, it didn't grab me from the title. I never had read anything from this author, so had no idea what it was and thought it was some drivel of frustrated love, was i off base. The intrigue of a spy novel played out over a global stage, but with a twist, as it includes a generational connection and surprise from a mother to her daughter and a villain to mutually dislike...Enjoyed the book from beginning to end...will definitely read more from this author. He held my attention by excellent story and character blending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Extraordinary. Highly recommend. On mt all time list of all time best books.
MissMaam More than 1 year ago
The plot of Restless is very interesting, especially because of its historical backdrop. The idea of the main character (Sally) having a secret identity seemed very promising at first and I was expecting non-stop straightforward action, a hefty dose of mystery and a heart-stopping conclusion. However, the book felt more like a love story than a thriller. The events that took place leading to the first big revelation felt hurried and contrived. Even the style with which some parts of the story were written sometimes sounded juvenile. Sally's story provided much of the action and excitement but whatever momentum the reader gets from reading Sally's story is lost when the story shifts to Ruth. There was just too much detail about Ruth's life that seemed irrelevant to Sally's story, which is the main theme of the book. The conclusion was also a bit of a letdown. The book was not bad but it was not great either.
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
British actress Rosamund Pike is probably best known for playing the gal who caught James Bond's eye in Die Another Day. While that performance certainly grabbed audience attention, she has numerous other noteworthy credits both on stage and in films. She does another star turn as she inhabits two narrative voices in the 9th novel by William Boyd. He's been called 'The finest storyteller of his generation,' and Restless again demonstrates how splendidly he can spin a tale. Set in Oxfordshire, England during 1976 our story opens with a bit of a shock - Sally Gilmartin gives her daughter, Ruth, a memoir she has penned. Ruth is amazed to learn that her mother is not at all who she believed her to be. In actuality, Sally Gilmartin is Eva Delectorskaya, A Russian who worked for the British Secret Service during World War II. Sally or Eva has guarded this secret well for almost 30 years. Now, she is revealing the truth about herself to her daughter not because she wishes to be open but because she fears for her life and Ruth is the one person in the world she believes she can trust. Ruth is not only astounded but disbelieving, wondering if her mother may be delusional at the onset of old age. Nonetheless, for her mother's sake she tries to find Romer the man who recruited Sally/Eva and with whom she had an affair. Restless is related in parallel stories, probably the most compelling are the accounts of Sally/Eva's enlistment, training, and experiences. Following the war she returns to England, adopts an identity and marries. She has every reason to believe her past is well behind her. Not so! Highly recommended. - Gail Cooke
MargoH 29 days ago
Fantastic This is an expertly-written award-winning novel with a masterfully crafted plot. Set in England in modern post-war times, an adult daughter finds out for the first time that her mother, a native Russian was recruited to be a British spy in World War 2 - before the Pearl Harbor attack brought the U.S. into the war. The chapters in the novel alternate between progressive descriptions of the mother’s experiences starting in 1939 and the daughter’s present day life as she becomes gradually aware of her aging mother’s past life. The supposed mission of this particular spy agency was to get the Americans to join the war effort, in hopes of shortening the war and terrors experienced by Londoners during the German bombing blitzes. I was fascinated by the deceit, treachery, and lies that were part of being a spy in those days – trusting no one, even each other (especially each other). The author must have done a staggering amount of research in order to present all the finer details of the history of that period of time. The plot is filled with excitement and suspense, and surprises occur right up until the end. There is love and hate, beauty and ugliness, courage and fear, and just about every kind of emotion imaginable. This is the kind of novel one keep thinking about even after finishing it.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Strange spy story and how one woman was unknowlingly used and betrayed by those giving her clandestine assignments.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Written story as her life as a wwll russian, a spy for england. flashbacks to granny's romantic lover ho hum never read this author before no le carre for sure
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
good plot
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It is a great book! I highly recommend it.