Title: Sleeper Agent:
The Atomic Spy In America Who Got Away
Author: Ann Hagedorn
Genre: True Spy Story
Rating: 3 of 5
Future Release Date: July 20, 2021 (Thank you to the author and publisher for a free eARC via NetGalley. This in no way affects the content of my review.)
This book promised to be “perfect for Ben Macintyre fans.” I loved Macintyre’s A Spy Among Friends and The Spy and the Traitor, so I had high expectations. They were not met.
This isn’t a terrible book, and if I hadn’t ever read a Ben Macintyre true spy story I may have given this a higher rating. However, this is definitely second-tier compared to him. The presentation is dry, the reconstruction of many events is not very tight/detailed, and the Amazon blurb gives away practically all the important information. I feel like the author just didn’t have enough available information about this spy to write a compelling book. On a positive note, it does provide interesting glimpses into the Manhattan project and the Red Scare.
I don’t usually mind a dry history book, but Macintyre has spoiled me when it comes to spy stories, and so this one just didn’t cut it for me.
Title: Doctor Zhivago
Author: Boris Pasternak
Genre: Modern Russian Classic
Rating: 3 of 5
My rating on this semi-autobiographical modern classic reflects my own personal taste more than the quality of the writing. The only thing I really appreciated about this book was the historically important portrayal of the difficulties and horrors of life in Russia/USSR from the October Revolution through WWII.
Aside from the historical value, this just wasn’t my kind of book. I do not enjoy adulterous love stories and that is a central thread to this somewhat plotless book. Description of events takes a backseat to flowery/poetic description of landscapes, feelings, and philosophies. Characters are known by a bewildering profusion of names (as in many Russian novels) and interact with each other through a slew of amazingly convenient coincidences.
While this didn’t really work for me, your mileage may vary. If you’re the kind of reader who places a premium on “sublime” language, you will probably love this book.
(Also, I am using this for my 20th Century Classic category at the Back to the Classics Challenge)