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Clever Girl: Elizabeth Bentley's Life in and Out of Espionage

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Clever Girl: Elizabeth Bentley's Life in and Out of Espionage Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Communists vilified her as a raging neurotic. Leftists dismissed her as a confused idealist. Her family pitied her as an exploited lover. Some said she was a traitor, a stooge, a mercenary, and a grandstander. To others she was a true American heroine — fearless, principled, bold, and resolute. Congressional committees loved her. The FBI hailed her as an avenging angel. The Catholics embraced her. But the fact is, more than a half century after she captured the headlines as the "Red Spy Queen," Elizabeth Bentley remains a mystery.

New England-born, conservatively raised, and Vassar-educated, Bentley was groomed for a quiet life, a small life, which she explored briefly in the 1920s as a teacher, instructing well-heeled young women on the beauty of Romance languages at an East Coast boarding school. But in her mid-twenties she rejected both past and future and set herself on an entirely new course. In the 1930s she embraced communism and fell in love with an undercover KGB agent who initiated her into the world of espionage. By the time America plunged into World War II, Elizabeth Bentley was directing the operations of the two largest spy rings in America. Eventually, she had eighty people in her secret apparatus, half of them employees of the federal government. Her sources were everywhere: in the departments of Treasury and Commerce, in New Deal agencies, in the top-secret OSS (the precursor to the CIA), on congressional committees, even in the Oval Office.

When she defected in 1945 and told her story — first to the FBI and then at a series of public hearings and trials — she was catapulted to tabloid fame as the "Red Spy Queen," ushering in, almost single-handedly, the McCarthy Era. She was the government's star witness, the FBI's most important informer, and the darling of the Catholic anticommunist movement. Her disclosures and accusations put a halt to Russian spying for years and helped to set the tone of American postwar political life.

But who was she? A smart, independent woman who made her choices freely, right and wrong, and had the strength of character to see them through? Or was she used and manipulated by others?

Clever Girl is the definitive biography of a conflicted American woman and her controversial legacy. Set against the backdrop of the political drama that defined mid-twentieth century America, it explores the spy case whose explosive domestic and foreign policy repercussions have been debated for decades but not fully revealed — until now.

Review:

"In this compelling and comprehensive biography, Kessler masterfully explores and exposes the myriad, competing facets of Bentley's tumultuous life." Carol Haggas, Booklist

Review:

"Overwritten and slack, but of some interest to students of the Cold War era and American radical movements." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Kessler...has written a spellbinding tale of a woman who fell prey to her idealism and was then swept up in the furor of the Red Scare....Recommended." Library Journal

Review:

"Clever Girl vividly traces the dramatic life of New England blue blood Elizabeth Bentley." Elle

Synopsis:

A portrait of the Soviet spy-turned-FBI informant describes her work at the head of two Russian spy rings in America, decision to expose Communist agents in her own government, and contributions to American political life.

Synopsis:

Communists vilified her as a raging neurotic. Leftists dismissed her as a confused idealist. Her family pitied her as an exploited lover. Some said she was a traitor, a stooge, a mercenary, and a grandstander. To others she was a true American heroine — fearless, principled, bold, and resolute. Congressional committees loved her. The FBI hailed her as an avenging angel. The Catholics embraced her. But the fact is, more than a half century after she captured the headlines as the "Red Spy Queen," Elizabeth Bentley remains a mystery.

New England-born, conservatively raised, and Vassar-educated, Bentley was groomed for a quiet life, a small life, which she explored briefly in the 1920s as a teacher, instructing well-heeled young women on the beauty of Romance languages at an East Coast boarding school. But in her mid-twenties she rejected both past and future and set herself on an entirely new course. In the 1930s she embraced communism and fell in love with an undercover KGB agent who initiated her into the world of espionage. By the time America plunged into World War II, Elizabeth Bentley was directing the operations of the two largest spy rings in America. Eventually, she had eighty people in her secret apparatus, half of them employees of the federal government. Her sources were everywhere: in the departments of Treasury and Commerce, in New Deal agencies, in the top-secret OSS (the precursor to the CIA), on congressional committees, even in the Oval Office.

When she defected in 1945 and told her story — first to the FBI and then at a series of public hearings and trials — she was catapulted to tabloid fame as the "Red Spy Queen," ushering in, almost single-handedly, the McCarthy Era. She was the government's star witness, the FBI's most important informer, and the darling of the Catholic anticommunist movement. Her disclosures and accusations put a halt to Russian spying for years and helped to set the tone of American postwar political life.

But who was she? A smart, independent woman who made her choices freely, right and wrong, and had the strength of character to see them through? Or was she used and manipulated by others?

Clever Girl is the definitive biography of a conflicted American woman and her controversial legacy. Set against the backdrop of the political drama that defined mid-twentieth century America, it explores the spy case whose explosive domestic and foreign policy repercussions have been debated for decades but not fully revealed — until now.

About the Author

Lauren Kessler is the author of ten books, among them the Los Angeles Times bestseller The Happy Bottom Riding Club: The Life and Times of Pancho Barnes and Stubborn Twig: Three Generations in the Life of a Japanese American Family. Kessler directs the graduate program in literary nonfiction at the University of Oregon. She lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780060185190
Subtitle:
Elizabeth Bentley, the Spy Who Ushered in the McCarthy Era
Author:
Kessler, Lauren
Publisher:
Harper
Subject:
General
Subject:
Women
Subject:
Military - World War II
Subject:
United States - General
Subject:
Communism
Subject:
Intelligence service
Subject:
Criminals & Outlaws
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Publication Date:
August 5, 2003
Binding:
Hardback
Language:
English
Pages:
384
Dimensions:
9 x 6 x 1.06356 in 23.49 oz

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
History and Social Science » Military » Espionage
History and Social Science » US History » 20th Century » General

Clever Girl: Elizabeth Bentley's Life in and Out of Espionage Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$18.50 In Stock
Product details 384 pages HarperCollins Publishers - English 9780060185190 Reviews:
"Review" by , "In this compelling and comprehensive biography, Kessler masterfully explores and exposes the myriad, competing facets of Bentley's tumultuous life."
"Review" by , "Overwritten and slack, but of some interest to students of the Cold War era and American radical movements."
"Review" by , "Kessler...has written a spellbinding tale of a woman who fell prey to her idealism and was then swept up in the furor of the Red Scare....Recommended."
"Review" by , "Clever Girl vividly traces the dramatic life of New England blue blood Elizabeth Bentley."
"Synopsis" by , A portrait of the Soviet spy-turned-FBI informant describes her work at the head of two Russian spy rings in America, decision to expose Communist agents in her own government, and contributions to American political life.
"Synopsis" by , Communists vilified her as a raging neurotic. Leftists dismissed her as a confused idealist. Her family pitied her as an exploited lover. Some said she was a traitor, a stooge, a mercenary, and a grandstander. To others she was a true American heroine — fearless, principled, bold, and resolute. Congressional committees loved her. The FBI hailed her as an avenging angel. The Catholics embraced her. But the fact is, more than a half century after she captured the headlines as the "Red Spy Queen," Elizabeth Bentley remains a mystery.

New England-born, conservatively raised, and Vassar-educated, Bentley was groomed for a quiet life, a small life, which she explored briefly in the 1920s as a teacher, instructing well-heeled young women on the beauty of Romance languages at an East Coast boarding school. But in her mid-twenties she rejected both past and future and set herself on an entirely new course. In the 1930s she embraced communism and fell in love with an undercover KGB agent who initiated her into the world of espionage. By the time America plunged into World War II, Elizabeth Bentley was directing the operations of the two largest spy rings in America. Eventually, she had eighty people in her secret apparatus, half of them employees of the federal government. Her sources were everywhere: in the departments of Treasury and Commerce, in New Deal agencies, in the top-secret OSS (the precursor to the CIA), on congressional committees, even in the Oval Office.

When she defected in 1945 and told her story — first to the FBI and then at a series of public hearings and trials — she was catapulted to tabloid fame as the "Red Spy Queen," ushering in, almost single-handedly, the McCarthy Era. She was the government's star witness, the FBI's most important informer, and the darling of the Catholic anticommunist movement. Her disclosures and accusations put a halt to Russian spying for years and helped to set the tone of American postwar political life.

But who was she? A smart, independent woman who made her choices freely, right and wrong, and had the strength of character to see them through? Or was she used and manipulated by others?

Clever Girl is the definitive biography of a conflicted American woman and her controversial legacy. Set against the backdrop of the political drama that defined mid-twentieth century America, it explores the spy case whose explosive domestic and foreign policy repercussions have been debated for decades but not fully revealed — until now.

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