The Imitator Review: Not the WWII Spy Thriller I Was Expecting

May 3, 2021 by Bec | 3 stars, Books, Reviews

The Imitator Review: Not the WWII Spy Thriller I Was ExpectingThe Imitator by Rebecca Starford
Published by Allen & Unwin on 2nd February, 2021
Source: Publisher
Genres: Historical, New Adult
Amazon | Publisher | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia
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"We trade in secrets here, Evelyn. There's no shame in having a few of your own. Our only concern is for who might discover them."

Out of place at boarding school, scholarship girl Evelyn Varley realises that the only way for her to fit in is to be like everyone else. She hides her true self and what she really thinks behind the manners and attitudes of those around her. By the time she graduates from Oxford University in 1939, ambitious and brilliant Evelyn has perfected her performance.

War is looming. Evelyn soon finds herself recruited to MI5, and the elite counterintelligence department of Bennett White, the enigmatic spy-runner. Recognising Evelyn's mercurial potential, White schools her in observation and subterfuge and assigns her the dangerous task of infiltrating an underground group of Nazi sympathisers working to form an alliance with Germany.

But befriending people to betray them isn't easy, no matter how dark their intent. Evelyn is drawn deeper into a duplicity of her own making, where truth and lies intertwine, and her increasing distrust of everyone, including herself, begins to test her better judgement. When a close friend becomes dangerously ensnared in her mission, Evelyn's loyalty is pushed to breaking point, forcing her to make an impossible decision.

A powerfully insightful and luminous portrait of courage and loyalty, and the sacrifices made in their name.

The Good Things

  • Historical New Adult standalone set right at the beginning of the second World War.
  • It had the feel of a coming of age novel. Evelyn is in her early 20s, just left university, and trying to find her place in the world (something I related to a lot). All while working in counterintelligence for MI5 in London.
  • Evelyn’s actual undercover work was some of my favourite parts of the novel. I wish we got to see her spend more time infiltrating different groups and uncovering information.
  • There was a really interesting range of characters that appeared throughout the story.
  • The story flips back and forth between 1948 and events in 1939/1940 which was interesting. Seeing Evelyn after the war made me more interested in seeing how events unfolded to get her to where she was in 1948 and kept me reading.

The Not-So-Good Things

  • When I looked this book up on Goodreads, the summary implied this was a thriller… it wasn’t a thriller at all, not even any real action. And because I went in with the wrong expectations, a lot of it fell flat for me.
  • It was really slow and I struggled with it at the beginning. There was a lot of descriptions that slowed the pace down.
  • We barely got a look at the counter-intelligence work Evelyn did. She doesn’t even move to that part of MI5 until halfway through the book.
  • Overall I was bored and disappointed there wasn’t more high stakes, suspenseful action and espionage. I don’t mind a character driven novel, and exploring the effect intelligence work had on Evelyn was interesting. But like I said, I was expecting a different story.


While I liked this book overall, I also was a bit disappointed because I went in with unrealistic expectations. I thought I was getting a WWII spy thriller, not a character driven novel. Still, it was interesting to explore how the counterintelligence work affected Evelyn’s character and relationships.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Thank you Allen & Unwin for providing a copy of this book in for honest review! The Imitator is available in bookstores now!

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Bec is an Aussie blogger and reader who loves all types of novels. Fantasy, sci fi, and historical are my usual go-to genres. If I’m not binge reading, I’m usually gaming, trying to take decent photos for bookstagram, or freaking out about silly things.

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