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Red Joan Hardcover – 7 Mar 2013

4.2 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus (7 Mar. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701187573
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701187576
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 3.5 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 539,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"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

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By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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Format: Paperback
British author Jennie Rooney was first inspired to write this story of spies within the British intelligence service when she read a newspaper article in 1999 about Melita Norwood, age eighty-seven, who had just been unmasked as the "most important and longest-serving Soviet spy of the Cold War era." Ms. Norwood's interview with the press and her appearance on television in the wake of this revelation was, according to Rooney, "rather economical with the truth, and not hugely remorseful," and Rooney had a hard time imagining the circumstances under which a seemingly innocent worker for several British labs would have willingly passed documents and research notes to Russia in the frantic race to develop nuclear weapons. She also wanted to understand why and how Norwood could betray her own country and still live quietly and comfortably, in the country whose secrets she had so treacherously revealed.

The result is a thoughtful and provocative novel, not a biography, in which a character named Joan Stanley leads a life somewhat similar to that of Melita Norwood in its external details, though the author asserts strongly that "Joan Stanley is not intended to be a representation of Melita Norwood." Likewise, she says, the character of Sonya Galich, who "controlled" Joan Stanley's spying, is similar in some ways to the real Ursula Beurton, Melitta Norwood's friend, whose code name was Sonya, though Sonya Galich is not based on Beurton's real life. Klaus Fuchs, a very real spy, collected information from British, American and Canadian labs, and the novel's fictional character Kierl behaves similarly, passing information to Russia, until Kierl, like Fuchs, is caught and convicted of spying in 1950.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fantastic book about the complexities of relationships and doing things you wouldn't consider yourself capable of. It is well written and Joan is a very human character. The depiction of life at Cambridge still holds elements of familiarity with today. Gripping reading.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Well written , flows nicely and intriguing . However a touch of a naive woman got me feeling less sympathetic to her character . However that's what a good story is about I suppose - making you care about the characters .
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Format: Hardcover
Joan Stanley is an eighty-five-year-old grandmother living in south-east London. One morning she reluctantly answers the door to find the Security Services have come to question her about her past after all these years.

The dual time narrative structure of the novel is employed very effectively here, with the now elderly Joan recounting her story to the MI5 operatives, so that we move from the present to the past and back with her as we read.

We are transported back to 1937, Joan Robson is a student at Cambridge, where she meets and befriends Sonya Galich and her cousin Leo. Her friendship with them will shape her life. They are supporters of communism and Joan becomes involved with their activities though never commits herself wholly to the cause. When World War Two begins, Joan is recruited to work with scientists in a laboratory on the `Tube Alloys' project - developing an atomic weapon. Over the coming years, as old friends leave and re-enter her life, and the war comes to a close with events she had hoped never to see, her character and her loyalties will be severely tested.

This spy novel which spans the period from the late 1930s to the time of the Cold War was inspired by a true story of a British spy who was unmasked after many years as having worked for the Soviets.

Red Joan boasts a gripping narrative and a compelling lead character. The intrigue builds and I found the progression of the plot towards the ending fascinating. I was engrossed and intrigued by Joan; she is at once an intelligent yet naïve character.
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