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Spies by Michael Frayn

There have been so many novels recently drawing on or purporting to draw on memories of a childhood under apartheid that we may be inclined to assume that this kind of inverse nostalgia is a peculiarly South African phenomenon. Even Barbara Trapido, who has lived most of her adult life in England, has chosen to set her latest novel in the South Africa of her youth. And yet, of course, the childhood-underapartheid novel is only a local variant of a form that is as universal as childhood itself, invariably and paradoxically implying that the child’s world is the adult world writ large. Michael Frayn’s Spies, then, is another example of the childhood-recollected-inadulthood genre, of the sub-genre Second World War; but…