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3.59 based on 43 ratings & 11 reviews on


There is no such thing as an ordinary life. But Kenneth Brill's is more extraordinary than most. By the time he is arrested for espionage towards the end of the Second World War he has an incredible story to tell.

Under interrogation he describes his unusual childhood, shares the decadent details of his training as a painter at the prestigious Slade School of Art in the 1930s and explains just why he was so very friendly with the prostitutes of London's Soho underworld; he narrates his heroic actions as a camouflage officer before El Alamein, when he helped pull off one of the greatest acts of deception in the history of warfare, and accounts for his part in a night-time break-in of the royal residence of Buckingham Palace.

This is a life lived to the full, whether as son, friend, lover, teacher or pupil. The only question is: whose side is he really on?

'A huge, complex novel, at turns both blackly funny and bleakly moving, driven by truly original characters' Daily Mail

'Clever, subtle, and rewarding' Times Literary Supplement

In the media

Such narrative breadth finely accommodates Mr Woodward's incisive prose: he negotiates the strange topographies of the past with a tender, childlike curiosity
Country Life
Clever, subtle, and rewarding . . . an ambitious investigation into the nature of truth . . . ingenious
Times Literary Supplement
A vividly drawn tale of war, art and sexuality