Staff Picks Book Review - Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz Williams

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz WilliamsRarely does a reader get the pleasure of experiencing a character such as Ruth Macallister. The driving force behind New York's Hudson Modeling Agency, Ruth is as confident, sarcastic, and stubborn as any man she might encounter in her Cold War era world. This is put to the test when government agent Sumner Fox comes in to inquire when Ruth last heard from her sister Iris. Very different from the pragmatic Ruth, Iris has become entangled with former U. S. diplomat Sasha Digby who has defected to the Soviet Union and taken Iris and their children with him. Students of Cold War politics will recognize similarities to the Cambridge 5, a spy ring of Soviet sympathizers which operated in the United Kingdom during the World War II and the ensuing Cold War.

Our Woman in Moscow is much more than a spy thriller. In her author's note Williams describes learning about the Cambridge 5 as the thing that got her interested in the idea of a spy ring novel, but she also wanted to explore how the stress of keeping those secrets from even their closest loved ones would affect the persons involved. Holding it all together, however, is Ruth and her first-person narration which acts as a private conversation with the reader. Lines like "So whatever people might say about me, and they say a lot..." or "Where was I? My mind's wandering a bit." go beyond the usual style of first-person narration to the breaking down of what dramatists call the fourth wall. Ruth’s narration comes across almost as gossip, sly nudges to the reader along with essential plot details. If you do get a chance to pick up Our Woman in Moscow, I'm sure you will agree Beatriz Williams enjoyed writing her central character as much as we enjoy meeting her.


Lit Chat Interview with Beatriz Williams at Regency Branch Library!


Her Last Flight: A Novel by Beatriz Williams

In 1947, photographer and war correspondent, Janey Everett arrives at a remote surfing village on the Hawaiian island of Kauai to research a planned biography of forgotten aviation pioneer Sam Mallory, who joined the loyalist forces in the Spanish Civil War and never returned. Obsessed with Sam's fate, Janey has tracked down Irene Lindquist, the owner of a local island-hopping airline, whom she believes might actually be the legendary Irene Foster, Mallory's one-time student and flying partner. Foster's disappearance during a round-the-world flight in 1937 remains one of the world's greatest unsolved mysteries. 

The Soviet Sisters: A Novel of the Cold War by Anika Scott

Sisters Vera and Marya were brought up as good Soviets; obedient despite hardships of poverty and tragedy, committed to communist ideals, and loyal to Stalin. Several years after fighting on the Eastern front, both women find themselves deep in the mire of conflicts shaping a new world order in 1947 Berlin. When Marya, an interpreter, gets entangled in Vera's cryptic web of deceit and betrayal, she must make desperate choices to survive, and protect those she loves. Nine years later, Marya is a prisoner in a Siberian work camp when Vera, a doyenne of the KGB, has cause to reopen her case file and investigate the facts behind her sister's conviction all those years ago in Berlin. As Vera retraces the steps that brought them both to that pivotal moment in 1947, she unravels unexpected truths and discoveries that call into question the very history the Soviets were working hard to cover up. Epic and intimate, layered and complex, The Soviet Sisters is a gripping story of spies, blackmail, and double, triple bluff. With her dexterous plotting and talent for teasing out moral ambiguity, Anika Scott expertly portrays a story about love, conflicting world views, and loyalty and betrayal between sisters.

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn

An unforgettable World War II tale of a quiet bookworm who becomes history's deadliest female sniper. Based on a true story. In 1937 in the snowbound city of Kiev (now known as Kyiv), wry and bookish history student Mila Pavlichenko organizes her life around her library job and her young son, but Hitler's invasion of Ukraine and Russia sends her on a different path. Given a rifle and sent to join the fight, Mila must forge herself from studious girl to deadly sniper, a lethal hunter of Nazis known as Lady Death.

The Huntress: A Novel by Kate Quinn

From the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling novel, The Alice Network, comes another fascinating historical novel about a battle-haunted English journalist and a Russian female bomber pilot who join forces to track the Huntress, a Nazi war criminal gone to ground in America.

In the aftermath of war, the hunter becomes the hunted...

Bold and fearless, Nina Markova always dreamed of flying. When the Nazis attack the Soviet Union, she risks everything to join the legendary Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment wreaking havoc on the invading Germans. When she is stranded behind enemy lines, Nina becomes the prey of a lethal Nazi murderess known as the Huntress, and only Nina's bravery and cunning will keep her alive.

A Spy Named Orphan: The Enigma of Donald Maclean by Roland Philipps

Donald Maclean was one of the most treacherous spies of the Cold War era and a key member of the infamous "Cambridge Five" spy ring, yet the full extent of this shrewd, secretive man's betrayal has never been explored, until now. Drawing on a wealth of previously classified files and unseen family papers, A Spy Named Orphan meticulously documents his extraordinary story.

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