'Spies' is described as 'beautifully crafted' and I have to agree. Even when I wasn't enjoying what I was reading, which for a large part of this novella I was not, it is stil impossible to deny that it has been formed with a glorious technique.
Until the last 60 pages of Spies I found the overt simplicity of the childhood Stephen's narative rather grating. However, from this point onwards the adult Stephen plays an almost unbroken lead role in narating the story and once he does, the beauty of the ideas really begins to show.
It is astonishing to anyone who has grown up that Frayn manages to remind us of aspects of childhood that we had forgotton despite his vastly superior age.
It is only in considering the role of the narrator in a story that we can really understand why Frayn was justified in winning the Whitbread prize. The realisation that characters themselves have not changed, merely the Stephen's (the narrator) perspective (and therefore our perspective) is a remarkable transition from the regular narrative method of the omnipotent narrator, one who is unaffected by the narrative, despite playing an integeral role in it. Frayn's perspective on narrative here, and equally his attention to detail is what saves this novel from what might have been a disapointment to what is ultimately, a masterpiece.