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A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS Hardcover – Bargain Price, April 5, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 395 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439163529
  • ASIN: B0055X4NA0
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #885,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Julia Child's passion for French cuisine began when she and her husband, Paul, moved to Paris in 1948. The couple met in Ceylon in 1944 when both were in the Office of Strategic Services, precursor to the CIA, and they married two years later. To tell their story, Conant (The Irregulars) combed through numerous archives to fill in the deep backgrounds of their OSS friends. Opening with OSS origins and the 1943 OSS recruits, the narrative follows the WWII trajectory of Julia Child, who volunteered for a post at the OSS base in India. At Mountbatten's mountaintop headquarters, the team included Julia, Paul, and the flamboyant Jane Foster. With the end of WWII, Jane flew to Java to record the war crimes testimonies of American POWs, while Paul and Julia's romance heated up in China and France. The couple fell under suspicion when Jane was targeted with accusations of espionage, having "left a trail of Communist ties the FBI followed like breadcrumbs" (though Conant found no conclusive evidence that Jane was a Soviet spy). The bulk of this book is mostly about Jane, making the title somewhat misleading, but Conant's vivid tapestry of the 1940s skillfully interweaves interviews, oral histories, memoirs, and recently unclassified OSS and FBI documents with unpublished diaries and letters. The adventurous young OSS recruits spring to life throughout this meticulously researched, authoritative history. (Apr.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review

“Conant has written a book full of fascinating material about wartime and postwar America and how they intersected....Conant doesn't disappoint in her picture of the whirlwind life of the OSS, created very much in the image of its founder, the maverick William J. Donovan. Her glimpses of how he overcame bureaucratic rivalries and turf wars are as exciting as her picture of life in the field, complete with dengue fever, cobras and scorpions.” —Los Angeles Times

"A Covert Affair is a skillfully told tale of espionage, combining just enough background information with the right amount of boisterous anecdote to make the reader feel simultaneously amused and informed.” —Salon.com

"The value of Conant's anecdotal approach is... in its depiction of ordinary relationships in extraordinary circumstances--of the way friendships, feuds and romances develop in strange and secretive settings." The New York Times Book Review

“Thoroughly researched, fluid and compelling” —Kirkus

“A well-researched, entertaining, and fast-paced read” —Library Journal

“It is a wallop of a story, people engaging in the sorts of international dangers that is the stuff of the movies… all jungles and cities and intrigue and risk, with an exquisite attention to detail that illuminates the OSS and its players.” —Portland Oregonian

“A brilliantly researched and written account… a well-researched and well-written account of this period in American history….Conant, a terrific writer, conducted voluminous research and crafted a fascinating story that reads as though she was actually there.” The Seattle Times

More About the Author

Jennet Conant is the author of the 2002 New York Times bestseller Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science That Changed the Course of World War II. A former journalist, she has written for Vanity Fair, Esquire, GQ, Newsweek, and The New York Times. She lives in New York City and Sag Harbor, New York.

Customer Reviews

I have only 1/3 of the book read but have been very disappointed so far.
Vicky Langston
Unfortunately, over 80% of this book isn't about Julia and Paul Child; it's about Jane Foster, one of their colleagues in the OSS.
Deborah C.
If you haven't read anything about this subject before you may enjoy this book.
riskdoctor

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By A reader on July 16, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The best part of this book is the inclusion of a fictional agency dedicated to battling Cthulhu.
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91 of 100 people found the following review helpful By The Dixsonian on April 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is not about Julia Child and Paul Child. The inside flap of the dust cover breathlessly states "Bestselling author Jennet Conant brings us a stunning account of Julia and Paul Child's experiences", but fully eighty percent of the book recounts the story of an OSS colleague of the Childs, Jane Foster. Foster was a drunken, flighty, trust-fund- supported party girl who was also an American Communist that spied for the Soviets. Some of the rare mentions of the Childs are made to simply state their impressions of Foster.

For those who stick it out, you will read many slanted assertions, made over and over again, that "someone as flighty as Jane Foster could not have been engaged in espionage for the Russians." Not until the Appendix (which follows an Epilogue) is the reader informed that multiple sources of released Soviet intelligence confirm Foster was in the Soviets employ.

Apparently the author and/or the publisher wanted Foster's story to be widely disseminated and judged the late Julia Child's popularity offered a prime opportunity for bait and switch.
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43 of 48 people found the following review helpful By WGMS fan on April 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I agree with the previous reviewer, and wish I had read that review before I bought the book (I did buy it from Amazon). It is interesting, but it is definitely the story of Jane Foster, with Julia and Paul as minor supporting characters. I recommend that other potential readers wait to buy it when it comes out in a cheap paperback edition.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By G.I Gurdjieff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
My son gave me this book assuming that I would enjoy it as much as "Julia and Julie". Not so. I expected to hear about Julia McWilliam's and Paul Child's romance and courtship under the backdrop of their employment with the OSS (the precursor to the CIA). I was expecting big spy stuff clashing with romance, gastronomy, and the Childs' trying to conceal their relationship from the higher ups. Face it, if you use 'covert' in a title someone has to be concealing something. Right? In this case, the answer is WRONG. In reality, the bulk of this book was devoted to a co-worker of theirs named Jane who was a trust fundy jazz baby type, who was rocking with the Soviets after WWII. Having just read a book about a similar type of woman who consorted with the Soviets in pre-WWII Germany for at least noble reasons, I really wasn't into the idea of instant replay with this book.
As it stands, this book is not absolutely without merit. It details Jane Foster's shenanigans on the Soviet payroll and is supported by sketchy declassified documents, but the story only heats up for me during the late '40's and early '50's when the red scare was amping up and a lot of people were under the scrutiny of the U.S. government including Jane Foster. Through the wonder of the internet, I did a search on Jane and found that she managed to garner some press back in the day and was even the subject of another book published in 1983.
Bottom line is that if you are interested in the Childs and their brush with high profile national security, this book really isn't about them and only manages to supply fleeting glimpses of their personalities and personal habits. The title is a fraud and was used as a ploy to sell this book coming off the Julia & Julie success.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Augusta Giffen on May 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I agree with other reviewers - the book is only marginally about Julia McWilliams' and Paul Child's OSS experiences - the book is about Jane Foster. I would not have purchased the book if I had realized how misleading the book jacket is - wait for the paperback edition.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By H. Prince on June 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Imagine that you have written a book about Jane Foster. It has some interesting material, but it's very unstructured, and needs a few months of editing. You go to a publisher, and they say, who the heck is Jane Foster? Your book mentions Julia and Paul Child a few times, and the Childs are hot! So forget about the editing. It's the marketing that counts! Just write an opening chapter making it seem like the book is about the Childs, and we will come up with a clever misleading title to cash in on the craze! Won't that be great? In a moment of weakness, you acquiesce. Now you're sorry you ever listened to such morons, but you're kinda stuck. Maybe next time you'll pay more attention to that little voice that was asking whether this was really a good idea.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Janemb35 VINE VOICE on August 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Alright, this is not really the nuts and bolts of Paul Child and Julia McWilliams' romance, although it is a useful thread to contain the rest of the narrative. Among the topics are life in the State Department during the 40s and 50s, one sort of investigation done by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, an OSS colleague, Jane Foster, and a whole roster of other folks. In the first chapter we learn the horrors of an investigation by McCarthy's minions. The real story begins in Chapter 2 as we learn about induction into the OSS, the bombing of Pearl Harbor,a Grand Tour of Germany and the USSR in 1935, Jane's madcap marriage to a Dutch diplomat returning to his post in Java. Their story is lost in the narrative from here on, but it is a good story, a good read. It is interesting to note that Julia McWilliams Child had an incredibly responsible job monitoring all sorts of highly confidential information. This is a delightful book, and it is worth reading.
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