Agent Sonya by Ben MacIntyre

Ben MacIntyre has written several books about World War II and Cold War spies.  They are all excellent and Agent Sonya does not disappoint.  MacIntyre has a talent for finding intriguing stories about real people in extraordinary situations.  Sonya, real name Ursula Kuczynski,  worked for the Soviets beginning in the 1920s in China and continuingContinue reading “Agent Sonya by Ben MacIntyre”

Good Company by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Joy. Pain. Choices. Love. Family. Secrets. In her second novel, Sweeney does it again.  She shows us a family; she shows us ourselves; she shows us an imperfect world with imperfect people who somehow manage to love each other and mean it.  When Flora finds Julian’s wedding ring in an old filing cabinet, the ringContinue reading “Good Company by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney”

The “feisty female” in historical fiction

I have been reading Susanne Alleyn’s excellent book about writing historical fiction. Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders (2015) recently; though I find it helpful, interesting, and often quite humorous, there is one idea I would like to push back on just a bit–the feisty female.  Alleyn writes that too often authors give their historical charactersContinue reading “The “feisty female” in historical fiction”

Throwback Thursday: The Year Before the War

Originally reviewed in 2017… I started using NPR’s book concierge and decided to begin with this sweet, sad story of the run-up and beginning of World War I in Britain containing a cast of characters who are by turns loveable, laughable, pitiable, and enviable.  Beatrice Nash is the new school mistress in the village ofContinue reading “Throwback Thursday: The Year Before the War”

A Spy Named Orphan: the Enigma of Donald MacLean by Roland Philipps

Another volume of Cold War riches from recently declassified files!  This entry follows the life of Donald McLean, one of the Cambridge Four Five.  Written by an insider, Philipps is the grandson of Roger Makins, former boss of Donald MacLean and the last person from the Foreign Office to see him before he disappeared andContinue reading “A Spy Named Orphan: the Enigma of Donald MacLean by Roland Philipps”

Fallen Founder: the life of Aaron Burr by Nancy Isenberg (2007)

Isenberg is probably more famous for White Trash (2016), but this 2007 volume is a fantastic addition to the many books about the American founders.  Gordon Wood argues in Revolutionary Characters that Burr is most useful as an anomaly, because he sheds light on the “real” founders. While admitting that Burr was cast as theContinue reading “Fallen Founder: the life of Aaron Burr by Nancy Isenberg (2007)”