- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (August 21, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1524732141
- ISBN-13: 978-1524732141
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #195,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Red, White, Blue: A novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 21, 2018
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“Finally, the perfect spy novel for the post–9/11 era. Carpenter’s Red, White, Blue brilliantly evokes the world of American espionage in a time of crisis, as the struggle to fight terrorism conflicts with longer-term views of American interests and agents find themselves trapped within conflicting loyalties to friends, to assets, to family, and to country. Thrilling, provocative, and powerfully moving.”
—Philip Klay, author of Redeployment
“Red, White, Blue is a beautifully written, utterly gripping, and haunting story of espionage. Both timely and relevant and, in the tradition of the best spy novels, it is about secrets, deception, betrayal, and lies, the cruelest dilemmas of human nature.”
—Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of The Romanovs and The Moscow Trilogy
"Carpenter… brilliantly uses the conventions of spy fiction to expose the duplicity and betrayals in people’s lives. In her chilly, unsparing dissection of the trickle-down effect the muddied morality of bureaucracies has on private lives, Carpenter reveals the influence of Joan Didion. Carpenter’s mesmerizing follow-up to her acclaimed war novel, Eleven Days, is as deeply affecting as it is razor sharp."
—Kirkus Review (Starred)
“Lea Carpenter has written the perfect post-modern spy novel, a story of espionage but also of love and secrets. A stunning mix of prose and suspense: Imagine Joan Didion meets Alan Furst.”
—Janine di Giovanni, author of The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Iraq
“Why does the stuff of espionage lie so close to essential matters of the human heart? Love, loyalty, lies, betrayal—Lea Carpenter plumbs the depths of all these in this brilliant, very possibly flawless book. I can think of no novel in recent memory that blends the personal and intimate so truly with power and conflict on the grand geopolitical scale. Red, White, Blue is a marvel and a masterpiece.”
—Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
“Red, White, Blue is that rarest of rare literary jewels: a genre-bending masterpiece of brilliant story-telling that combines breathtaking skill with exquisite artistry.”
—Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War
“With the elegant restraint of an intelligence operative herself, Lea Carpenter unwinds the complex relationship between a daughter and her secretive father. Her book delves into the obscure culture of the CIA, but even deeper into the way that a man’s necessarily hidden life impinges on his child’s sense of coherence. This is a riveting and disturbing account of attachments that can never be fully resolved, a book about dignity and discretion and their oblique relationship to intimacy.”
—Andrew Solomon, PhD, author of Far From the Tree
About the Author
LEA CARPENTER graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton and has an MBA from Harvard Business School, where she was valedictorian. She is a Contributing Editor at Esquire and has written the screenplay for Mile 22, a film about CIA's Special Activities Division, directed by Peter Berg and starring Mark Wahlberg and John Malkovich, coming out in July. She is developing Eleven Days for television with Lucy Donnelly (Grey Gardens) and Gideon Raff (Homeland). She lives in New York.
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“Red, White, Blue” by Lea Carpenter, revolves around Anna. Anna’s father, Noel was a CIA operative. Anna’s mother, Lulu, left them when Anna was six. The structure of the novel involves two narratives; one from an unnamed (male) former colleague of Noel’s who is telling Anna the “story” of her father. The other is an omniscient point of view of Anna’s life. The structure works beautifully for Carpenter’s mysterious and moody tale, and the switching back and forth is clean and provides for a perfectly paced story to unfold.
Much of the enjoyment of the novel is the “inside baseball” information about the CIA. In the afterward Carpenter states that she was given absolutely no classified information, so presumably she built her story on information that she found in, what seems to be, painstakingly detailed research. The strong feeling of authenticity certainly enhances the novel and the reader’s experience, while some of the information and political descriptions regarding China are often disturbing.
Carpenter skillfully sets up a central mystery regarding Noel, which challenges Anna’s beliefs and memories about him. The propulsive narrative’s short sections sweeps the reader up in the suspense and intrigue just as a well-done film or TV show does for a viewer.
I’m not sure that the plot is more important than the “tone” and “mood” of the novel, but I will say that the ending does not clarify everything, and not all readers will be comfortable with that.
Enjoy movies and books about espionage, spies, family, and the CIA? This could be the book for you.
There are two alternating stories told here that intersect and complete this book.
One is the voice of Anna who was raised by her single dad. Her mother left them when Anna was a young girl. Her dad is a banker and rasies Anna the best he can. Theirs is a tight and loving relationship. To her horror and ultimate grief, her dad passes away the night before Anna is to be married. Wow --
The other story is narrated by a CIA case officer. He contacts Anna and in his way tells her about her dad -- and there is plenty to tell, most of which is news to Anna. Her dad had an entire life that Anna is totally unaware and clueless about. Through this contact, Anna's memory and love of her dad is a bit questionable. And what about his death? What is going on?
I tried so very hard to love this book but for me it was just simply okay. The writing is excellent; author Lea Carpenter must have spent endless hours researching facts to write this story. I did enjoy how the story jumped back and forth between narrators; that is always a format I truly love and Ms. Carpenter pulled it off wonderfully.
I am in the minority here; this is a very well received book. I am the weirdo! I think if you enjoy books regarding the government, its many secrets, and the people involved - both on a personal and operational level -- I am sure this is a book you would truly enjoy.
The opening structure of this book--brief sections (sometimes single paragraphs) written in a rich and evocative manner suggesting there's more meaning than found on the surface--immediately demonstrates that the presentation of the story is as important as the plot. The relatively meager plot--the daughter of a CIA officer is visited by a field agent who shares information about her father's past, all set in the context of her husband being elected to the US Senate--is used as a framework for the story but is clearly not what this book is "about." Through alternating brief snippets of Anna's story and a first-person recounting by the case officer, Carpenter shows how the work of a CIA agent mirrors elements from all of our lives.
Issues of trust, intimacy, and following one's moral compass have enormous (though only hinted at) ramifications for Anna's father Noel, while Anna has similar issues building her marriage--while her husband transitions from being a musician to a senator--and trying to piece together her father's life from a mysterious video. We see the similarities between the phrases case officers develop with their assets and those spouses develop with each other; how CIA agents "move things around" and how individuals do the same in their own lives; and how often we feel like we're playing roles instead of being truly honest, much as case officers do in their work. Carpenter's use of metaphors and repeated motifs throughout the book strengthen these connections between the professional intelligence officer and civilians in a subtle and thought-provoking manner.
This book is both compelling and frustrating in its opacity. The frequent repetition of themes suggests broad concepts that aren't as clear as one might prefer, there are elements hinted at and never explained, and the ending is an oddly-sedate and--in my opinion--unsatisfying roller coaster [How can a roller coaster be sedate? By including widely-disparate emotions that aren't fully experienced or explained over the course of a few pages]. There's a wish for a reveal that ties elements together, demonstrates the underlying foundation the reader senses must be there, or shines a light on the shadows Carpenter has so effectively shaded throughout the book. But that reveal is missing. There's a resolution that apparently explains everything to Anna, but not to the reader.
Is this similar to what CIA officers experience? Lack of clarity about their job or its meaning? Confusion about the meaning of what they saw and experienced? An awareness that there's more to the story than they can ever know? Probably. But a story that effectively creates an experience isn't necessarily one that's satisfying to read.