Agent Sonya

Crown. Sept. 2020. 400p. ISBN 9780593136300. $28. HIST
Macintyre (writer-at-large, The Times of London) portrays the life of the astonishingly unexpected woman at the center of a 20th-century true spy story. Ursula Kusczynski, born in Berlin in 1907, was a dedicated Jewish Communist. That alone would have placed her in the middle of the tumultuous 20th-century history of Germany. As Macintyre explains, Kusczynski also was a spy for the Soviet Union: running agents, building radios, and transmitting coded messages in China, Poland, Switzerland, and England before, during, and after World War II. All the while her neighbors thought she was an everyday housewife raising three children. She even survived “retiring” from the KGB, and went on to have a successful career, using a pseudonym, as an East German novelist. Using prodigious research from MI5 and Bundesarchiv files, along with family documents and the cooperation of her children, Macintyre has written an insightful portrait of an amazing life.
VERDICT This fast-paced historical account reads like a novel, with surprising twists and turns, and will thrill readers until the very last page. Readers who enjoy the writings of Neal Bascomb or Candice Millard, and fans of historical fiction will relish this book.
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