Without a doubt, Michael Frayn can be credited as being a writer with immense technical skills and superb plot construction for his novel Spies.
Spies has the potential to be a successful novel. However, its intelligent plot is put forward in the style of an A level textbook, as opposed to an enjoyable novel.
The first chapter is designed to hook the reader to continue reading the novel. Despite its short length of three and a half pages, the idea of the narrator being drawn towards a certain area by a particular smell "when that sweet reek comes" falls far short of an exhilarating opening. The title of the book, Spies, could commonly be associated by the reader with images of men creeping through darkness , rather than the smell of a common plant, which, to further insult the readers expectations of the novel, is not even named in the first chapter. From this point, Frayn’s novel can only be credited with causing irritation to the unsatisfied reader, as opposed to providing them with any enjoyment. As Frayn rightly puts it at the end of the chapter, the whole concept is “too ridiculous”.
From ridiculous, the novel progresses into a dull chapter two which takes a further twenty-four pages of description to set the scene for all the characters in the novel. This includes Stephen, the main protagonist and his best friend Keith. Due to the differing nationalities between these two characters, Stephen being German, and Keith being English, Frayn has set up these protagonists in polar opposition. As a result, most of the description of one character is repeated again in opposition when describing the other character. For example: “too-long grey flannel school shorts” are worn by Stephen, with Keith wearing shorts that are “not too long”.
This in effect, produces a description repeated twice to simply demonstrate the differences between the two characters. Would an additional sub-plot to demonstrate the characters differences of been more appropriate… it most defiantly would have been of greater interest to the reader. Moreover, the differences between the two characters is demonstrated using everyday examples, such as transport to school. This certainly allows the novel to be extremely realistic. Although many readers, searching for imagination in the books they read, may view Frayn’s approach as to ordinary to read.
Frayn regally invites his readers to consider the situation Stephen has been placed in by the use of ellipsis and rhetorical questions. These are notably successful techniques, although they could be said to be over used by Frayn during the novel, which, by sticking to these techniques throughout, produces a predictable feeling after reading several chapters of the novel.
Michael Frayn’s novel “Spies” can be credited for its use to detailed description, and excellent use of devices to hook the reader into the novel. However, credit for these devices can be distributed rather like an exam question: a piece of writing which includes all the correct ideas, with the absence of any excitement. Spies can be read for respect of Frayn’s writing techniques, but its content, although pleasant could not be viewed as enjoyable.