A Turkish spy is living on a Greek island spying for the Ottoman Empire in 1908. He sends small little reports about the comings and goings of the island, and while he thinks and understands that no one reads these reports, he’s vigilant and exact in his reporting. He has fallen in love, and when a curious and mysterious and deceptive Englishman shows up on the island, things begin to spiral for the spy.
So this is a novel that I like a lot in concept and at times, really liked elements. For a short novel, I felt like it lose steam quite quickly. Part of the reason might be because my mind is mush right now, but I also think the book relies heavily of artifice and writerly tricks to keep it going. But I am not convinced these tricks are folded into the novel well enough to either hide them or use them for deeper elements. For example, in using a writer writing as narrative trope usually involves a longer discussion of the act and importance of writing, and I don’t think that works as much here. The other issue has to do with the narrative voice itself. I don’t know who is being given voice here. I haven’t always been the biggest Barry Unsworth fan, and that’s part of the disappointment as well. If you described any one of his novels to me, and this is my third I’ve read, I would be thrilled and excited. But then as soon as I start reading, that anticipation falls apart.