Our Woman in Moscow
reviewed by Blaine DeSantis
blaineseclecticbookshelf | Goodreads
If you have never read any of the books by Beatriz Williams you will wonder what took you so long. And if you are a longtime fan of the author you’ll be unable to wait to get your hands on her newest works.
Our Woman in Moscow is a book that is based, in part, on the Cambridge Spy Ring that notoriously passed along secret information to the Soviet Union before many of those same people defected to the USSR. And why espionage and spy novels have become sort of old hat, I find that Beatriz Williams has put a new and fresh take on this fascinating time period in her newest historical fiction book.
To begin with, the story is told in alternating chapters by two sisters: Ruth Macalister and Iris Macalister Digby, with a few chapters written from the point of view of a KGB agent in Moscow. Not only do the chapters alternate between the sisters’ points of view, the book also rocks back and forth between 1940, 1948 & 1952.
Ruth Macalister is a former model turned modeling agency executive, while sister Iris is married to Sasha Digby, a former US diplomat who is an avowed Communist and whom from the very beginning you figure is not all he appears to be. All three of these characters meet while the brother of the Macalister’s is posted in Rome prior to the outbreak of WW2. Dinner parties and social gatherings abound and eventually after the outbreak of the war Ruth returns to New York, while Iris remains and marries Sasha and follows him on his diplomatic postings throughout the world. After the war Sasha defects to Russia and Iris follows her husband.
These are all the basic facts one needs to know other than that one day both Ruth and her aunt receive postcards from Iris asking that Ruth come to Moscow to help Iris with her fourth pregnancy. Iris has had three full term children, all with difficulties, and two miscarriages and eventually, despite the rift that occurred when Iris defected, Ruth is talked into going to aid her sister thanks to Sumner Fox, an FBI agent who goes along and poses as Ruth’s husband.
The book traces the sisters’ relationship, the events that led to Iris following Sasha to Russia, Sasha’s spying for the Russians, and the efforts of Ruth and Sumner to extract Iris from Russia. It is a well written book, that brims with details the author has gleaned from extensive research into the Cambridge spy ring, and some of the individuals who were part of that and whose names and experiences we no longer remember.
Character development is really well done in Our Woman in Moscow, especially with using the alternating chapter viewpoints, and using a period of 12 years so readers feel we know these characters so very well. But there are twists and turns and it makes the book a fast and enjoyable read. Our Woman in Moscow may be one of the top historical fiction offerings of 2021, and you want to get onboard for this wonderful work by Beatriz Williams, filled with strong women characters who will captivate readers of all ages and genders.
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