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A Covert Affair: Book summary and reviews of A Covert Affair by Jennet Conant

A Covert Affair

Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS

by Jennet Conant

A Covert Affair by Jennet Conant X
A Covert Affair by Jennet Conant
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  • Published Apr 2011
    416 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

Bestselling author Jennet Conant brings us a stunning account of Julia and Paul Child's experiences as members of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in the Far East during World War II and the tumultuous years when they were caught up in the McCarthy Red spy hunt in the 1950s and behaved with bravery and honor. It is the fascinating portrait of a group of idealistic men and women who were recruited by the citizen spy service, slapped into uniform, and dispatched to wage political warfare in remote outposts in Ceylon, India, and China.

The eager, inexperienced 6 foot 2 inch Julia springs to life in these pages, a gangly golf-playing California girl who had never been farther abroad than Tijuana. Single and thirty years old when she joined the staff of Colonel William Donovan, Julia volunteered to be part of the OSS's ambitious mission to develop a secret intelligence network across Southeast Asia. Her first post took her to the mountaintop idyll of Kandy, the headquarters of Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, the supreme commander of combined operations. Julia reveled in the glamour and intrigue of her overseas assignment and life altering romance with the much older and more sophisticated Paul Child, who took her on trips into the jungle, introduced her to the joys of curry, and insisted on educating both her mind and palate. A painter drafted to build war rooms, Paul was a colorful, complex personality. Conant uses extracts from his letters in which his sharp eye and droll wit capture the day-to-day confusion, excitement, and improbability of being part of a cloak-and-dagger operation.

When Julia and Paul were transferred to Kunming, a rugged outpost at the foot of the Burma Road, they witnessed the chaotic end of the war in China and the beginnings of the Communist revolution that would shake the world. A Covert Affair chronicles their friendship with a brilliant and eccentric array of OSS agents, including Jane Foster, a wealthy, free-spirited artist, and Elizabeth MacDonald, an adventurous young reporter. In Paris after the war, Julia and Paul remained close to their intelligence colleagues as they struggled to start new lives, only to find themselves drawn into a far more terrifying spy drama. Relying on recently unclassified OSS and FBI documents, as well as previously unpublished letters and diaries, Conant vividly depicts a dangerous time in American history, when those who served their country suddenly found themselves called to account for their unpopular opinions and personal relationships.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Thoroughly researched, fluid and compelling." - Kirkus

"If readers are looking for an engaging account of Jane Foster, the socialite-turned-spy, and her OSS friends, then this is well worth reading. Those who are expecting to learn about Julia Child and her husband would be better served by My Life in France." - Library Journal

"The adventurous young OSS recruits spring to life throughout this meticulously researched, authoritative history." - Publishers Weekly

"A Covert Affair is an absolutely top-class work of the true-spy genre; elegantly written, authentic, exceptionally sophisticated, and not at all what you might expect of a book with a picture of Julia Child on the cover. This ain't about cooking." - Alan Furst, author of Spies of the Balkans

This information about A Covert Affair was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Jennet Conant Author Biography

Jennet Conant is the bestselling author of four critically acclaimed books about World War II. Conant spent her childhood listening to personal stories from her grandfather, James B. Conant, who was the main administrator of the Manhattan Project and President of Harvard University for 20 years. This connection, along with her training in journalism, led her to the dramatic stories about the invention of RADAR, the development of the atomic bomb, and a British spy ring in Wartime Washington.

Conant's first book and New York Times bestseller, Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science That Changed the Course of World War II, tells the largely forgotten dramatic story of eccentric Wall Street mogul and amateur scientist Alfred Loomis, who brought together many ...

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