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Red Joan [Hardcover]

Jennie Rooney
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
Price: 9.09 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Paperback 5.59  
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Book Description

7 Mar 2013
BBC Radio 4 Extra Book at beachtime. Joan's voice is almost a whisper. 'Nobody talked about what they did during the war. We all knew we weren't allowed to.' Joan Stanley has a secret. She is a loving mother, a doting grandmother, and leads a quiet, unremarkable life in the suburbs. Then one morning there is a knock on the door, and suddenly the past she has been so keen to hide for the last fifty years threatens to overturn her comfortable world. Cambridge University in 1937 is awash with ideas and idealists, yet unworldly Joan feels better suited to a science lecture and a cup of cocoa. But a chance meeting with the glamorous Russian-born Sonya and her charismatic cousin Leo blurs the edges of the things Joan thought she knew about the world, and about herself. In the post-War world of smoke and mirrors, allegiance is a slippery thing. Working in a government ministry with access to top-secret information, Joan is suddenly faced with the most difficult question of all: what price would you pay to remain true to what you believe? Would you betray your country, your family, even the man you love?

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus (7 Mar 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0701187573
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701187576
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.4 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 296,361 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A meditation on the secrets we keep... Red Joan's strength lies in the complex personal relationships that underpin the spying game... A powerfully-written exploration of the far-reaching consequences that even the smallest-seeming actions can have" (Kaite Welsh Literary Review)

"A brilliant spy novel, with an unlikely culprit and a deft, involving plot...tense, beautifully pitched and very moving novel" (Eithne Farry Marie Claire)

"Sensitive spy thriller. Finely detailed and resolutely sensitive. This excellent period novel still carries some considerable resonance in the age of Bradley Manning" (Andrzej Lukowski Metro)

"If you loved William Boyd's Restless, you'll enjoy this" (Viv Groskop Red)

"Compulsive reading... Rooney's approach it to make this a very personal story for Joan. There's love, loss, betrayal, friendship and secrets galore and it gives a believable insight on how one, normal person might be let to betray her country. The true mark of the story is that you find yourself thinking that you might have done exactly what Joan did in those circumstances" (The Bookbag)

Book Description

'A gripping, emotional and expertly plotted spy novel of the Cold War, inspired by a real story. Beautifully written and clever' KATE MOSSE

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Red Joan 24 Mar 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Based on the real life story of Melita Norwood, an eighty seven year old woman who was unmasked as the KGB's longest serving British spy in 1999, this is a flawless novel. Joan Stanley is a loving grandmother, living quietly in the suburbs, but she has a dark secret and it is about to come and haunt her. When she reads of the death of her old acquaintance Sir William Mitchell, she realises "they" have finally come for him, after all these years. If they came for him, they will come for her and, indeed, she is soon arrested and interrogated by MI5.

This novel swops effortlessly between the present, and Joan's interrogation, and flashbacks to her earlier life and her meeting with exotic Sonya Galich at Cambridge in 1937. We read of Sonya and her cousin, Leo, a known communist sympathiser. Joan is a naive young girl, but a totally sympathetic character. Everything that happens to her is realistic, from her crush on Leo to her wartime work in atomic research, working with Professor Max Davis. Throughout the entire book, Joan has a very personal viewpoint - good and bad, individual responsibility and love for the people she knows. One of the most poignant relationships is actually between Joan and her son, Nick, and her guilt at disrupting his life and her desire to protect him. In the end, you feel Joan may have been misguided, guilty or innocent, but she is basically a good person. This is a moving and intelligent book, beautifully written and totally believable. It would be an excellent, thought provoking novel for reading groups and I recommend it highly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Spy in the Name of Love 18 Mar 2014
By Kate Hopkins TOP 500 REVIEWER
Jenny Rooney's third novel is loosely inspired by the story of Melita Norwood, unmasked in her eighties as a spy for the Russians. Rooney's heroine Joan Stanley is a respectable widow in her 80s, returned to the UK after decades in Australia. One morning her tranquil existence, painting watercolours, gardening and going to ballroom dancing classes, is interrupted by the arrival of intelligence officers, who've found out that in the 1940s Joan provided Russian intelligence officers with highly confidential information? Why? The story flits between Joan's present-day interrogation, attended by her adopted son, a QC who had no idea about his mother's past, and Joan's own youth. The child of a socially-committed schoolmaster father, and a mother whose experiences in World War I had given her a horror of violence, Joan grew up in the turbulent 1930s, and won a scholarship to read Natural Science at Newnham College Cambridge in 1937. There, she led a placid, hardworking life - until she met glamorous Russian emigree Sonya and Sonya's charismatic cousin Leo. These two attempt to convert Joan to Communism - soon she finds herself drawn towards the movement, not from political belief, but from her deep attraction to Leo. However, Leo remains oddly evasive, even as the pair draw closer, and during World War II vanishes to Canada. After graduation, Joan, with Leo's encouragement, gets a job in a team who are carrying out research into the possibilities of nuclear power (for weapons, but also for future energy sources). She rather enjoys her work - and the attentions of the charismatic professor heading the project - but then Leo gets in touch, to suggest that she might help the comrades and the future of mankind by handing over some of the secret information from her research to the Russians. Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Red Joan 27 Dec 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Really enjoyed this clever book that loosely based itself on a recent true spy story. Very well written and worth reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Red Joan 10 Aug 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
excellent book. Very surprising I had not heard of her. very intriguing could not put it down until I had finished the book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly interesting read 1 Aug 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Such an interesting read, linked to actual events in the not too distant past. Would have awarded 5 stars but just a little slow moving
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Red Joan 18 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A fast paced, historical novel set at the time of WWII and the modern day exploring the relationship between the allies and the communists and women's role within the war. Well worth reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The antidote to spy stories 6 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very loosely based on a real person, Melita Norwood, but Rooney uses her considerable skills as a novelist to create an original character and really get inside her head to explain her doubts and motivations and what led her to become a spy.Totally different in style from 'Inside the whale' which I also read recently and enjoyed greatly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping 9 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was sucked into this gripping account that moved effortlessly between the present and war torn Britain. The writing was crisp and it cleverly exposed the moral dilemma of those engaged in the development of the nuclear bomb.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A piece of history
This tells the tale of Marxist sympathizers conned into thinking Russia was the way after WW2. A great tale of foolish youth and the impact it can have on your life
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Yawn
I was enticed by an interesting premise and encouraged to read on after a promising first chapter but it went rapidly downhill after that. Read more
Published 2 months ago by profilea2
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice read
As an elderly woman, Joan is interrogated about her part in sharing secret's with Stalin's Russia during the war many years prior. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Kym Hamer
4.0 out of 5 stars Red Joan
For a hardback book its condition is ok but not of the best quality.I loved reading it though, a very good book
Published 4 months ago by Elisabeth Johnson
2.0 out of 5 stars Pale pink
After the interesting opening pages of this book I was disappointed in the lack of passion and lack of character development. Read more
Published 4 months ago by andy
2.0 out of 5 stars A missed opportunity
A British woman who spied for the Russians in the Cold War is apprehended only when she is in her 80s following the suicide of an eminent academic. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Curmudgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars Alovely sojurn into the recent past
It was lovey to spend time with Joan growing up, finding her feet and experiencing love and loss.............. Read more
Published 5 months ago by tdelarosa
2.0 out of 5 stars Not so good
An interesting view of the times, but the story was quite miserable and it certainly isn't one I'd read again.
Published 6 months ago by Tessie
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