“In the past years’ fascination with Julia Child (following her delightful autobiography, My Life in France, Julie Powell’s Julie & Julia, and the Nora Ephron film), I heard rumors of a clandestine history behind Julia and Paul’s romance. The Far East, propaganda, classified files, overseas love—Conant delves into those legends and proves their truth.
However, the Childs’ careers in America’s first intelligence community (and their romance) is only about a third of this well-researched account of the OSS. The other two thirds are devoted to America’s operations in the Pacific before and directly after WWII and the devastating repercussions of McCarthyism in the Cold War era.
I couldn’t get enough of Conant’s research into worldly, artistic Paul Child and his relationship with the younger and innocent Julia McWilliams. Paul’s letters to his brother in the US chronicle a series of swoons and heartbreaks worthy of Romeo before Juliette; and through all the praise of petite OSS minxes, Julia is Paul’s stalwart friend and comforting companion. When the end of the war and pressures at their China post bring them together as a couple, it was a resolution worthy of a Meg Ryan movie (in the best way). Throughout the book, I marked loving passages from their correspondence which depict mature love in all its staunch glory.
I missed Julia and Paul’s tender touches in the rest of the book, but didn’t have time to dwell on that lack because I was so enthralled by the revolutionary fervor, political backstabbing, and larger-than-life adventures of two other amazing OSS women, Betty MacDonald and Jane Foster. The vivid characters and entertaining anecdotes bring to life the tensions in US policy in the Pacific and the horrors of the Red Scare.
For a hearty slice of World War II and Cold War history served in a delectable sauce of personal drama, dig right in. As Julia herself would say, Bon appétit!” —Tegan, Queen Anne Books. Buy A Covert Affair from Queen Anne Books.