Based in 1960, this Cold War story is a mixture of politics, bureaucracy, spy story and about relationships. In fact I felt as if the emphasis was on family and love, regardless of whether it was hetero or homosexual.
I particularly liked the way Dunmore wrote the confrontational scenes between Lily and the person sent to interview her.
The misconception of people thinking that if you were born in a country it automatically means you can speak the language fluently, despite leaving the country as a young child.
Also the cold reality of naturalisation often only being a pretty bureaucratic word. Once a foreigner always a foreigner is a common reaction and the subconscious thought most people try to suppress
I actually think Lily made a subconscious decision to ‘forget’ her first language. Too many uncomfortable images. memories and anger. As if forgetting her origins would help in the remodelling of her self. She is still very paranoid about being treated differently because of her religion. Lilly looks for the anti-Semite in everyone. Completely normal for survivors and I would say almost a persecution complex, but then perhaps Lily isn’t so paranoid after all.
When Simon is accused of treason and spying Lily finds she has already landed right in the middle of this mess, even before any accusations had started flying. She acts instinctively in an effort to protect her family.
Throughout the turmoil and embarrassment of the accusations Dunmore has woven the two loves of Simon into the fabric of the story. His past and his present, his hidden desires and his open conformity. In their own way the two loves save Simon.
I liked the combination of emotion versus political chess playing, of betrayal versus protection and the backdrop of the minefield of a post-war world.