TALK TO ME ABOUT ENGLAND by Paul Ferris

TALK TO ME ABOUT ENGLAND

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From that overemphatic title right down to a corny fade-out, Ferris undermines this gracefully written, quiet espionage tale (in the Graham-Greene mode) by repeatedly popping up to overstate his theme. Newsman Francis Jarre, detected and convicted four years ago of being a British-Intelligence lackey, has just returned to England from a Polish prison--only to find that he's blacklisted on Fleet Street, a stranger to his son, and unwelcome in his wife's bed. All this he can bear, but when Jarre learns that his former boss at British Intelligence is the lover who has alienated his wife's affections, he is ripe for disloyalty. ""England is a country that forges very powerful loyalties and then smashes them,"" and this is Jarre's second smashing; the first was his family's ostracization during World War II when his patriotic father registered as a conscientious objector. So Jarre, cajoled by a Russian agent, agrees to sneak a radio module (inside a TV) onto his brother's Welsh-coast tugboat, thus monitoring nearby NATO nuclear-sub exercises. Jarre's half-hearted, panicky attempt to carry through on this traitor's assignment (poignantly, his young son is along) is effectively double-edged. But the ensuing revelations about further British Intelligence ruthlessness, leading up to Jarre's moment-of-truth--will loyalty to Mother England triumph?--heaps too much national resonance (""England's illusions are enough to make you weep"") onto an essentially thin strand of story. Still, admirers of stylish, leanly moody narratives (sparked with acerbic repartee) will find considerable reason to forgive Ferris his meandering plot and thematic placards.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1979
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan