The Vixen

Harper. Jun. 2021. 336p. ISBN 9780063012141. $25.99. F
It’s the steamy summer of 1953, the year the Rosenbergs are executed for spying. Our hapless hero, Simon Putnam, a Jewish boy from Coney Island, has just graduated from Harvard with a degree in Icelandic folklore and, predictably, no job prospects. But his uncle, famous literary critic Madison Putnam, snags him a junior editor gig at a boutique publishing house run by Warren Landry, a WASP-y former OSS spy during World War II. He taps Simon to work with Anya, the beautiful—dare we say, vixenlike—author of a novel portraying Ethel Rosenberg as a sexy Mata Hari type. Simon, whose mother knew Mrs. Rosenberg, wants to rewrite the book with a more nuanced story line, but he’s falling in love with Anya. Plus, Landry’s publishing house is broke, and sales from this trashy spy novel could keep it afloat.
VERDICT Prose’s (Lovers at the Chameleon Club) exuberant, lighthearted novel immerses the reader in 1950s ambience, yet it’s full of winks and nods to the current political climate. Simon, our overheated narrator, pulls us along as he stumbles into Cold War intrigue, and we’re never sure which way the plot will turn until literally the last sentence. What a delightful read!
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