The true story of the most important female spy in history, a high-ranking Soviet intelligence officer who went from surveilling the Nazis to the West during her 1940s stint in the English village of Cotswolds, where she seemed to fit right in as a married and unassuming mother of three.
We have at last, in Ben Macintyre’s Agent Sonya, the tale of a fully fleshed-out female spy. Not a femme fatale with a tiny pistol in her purse ... a real-life heroine worthy of his gifts as John le Carré’s nonfiction counterpart ... It boggles the mind how a woman with so many domestic responsibilities—a husband and two children—could find time for spy drops and transmitting coded messages. But Sonya was the consummate multitasker, now cooking dinner, now cooking up explosives to blow up railways. Domesticity was the perfect cover ... The flat-footedness and sexism of the British secret services is one of Macintyre’s entertaining subplots ... Macintyre gives an enthralling account of the territory that exists between devotion to the cause and sheer love of the game. But hovering over this tale is a question that Macintyre deals with only in passing ... Sonya excused brutalities far too lightly, and never disavowed the faith. She sacrificed everything—family, friends and morality—for a dream built on lies.
Kuczynski’s remarkable life is the subject of Ben Macintyre’s latest book, a biography-cum-history that comes with a gripping narrative, a beguiling protagonist and a sensational denouement. The manner in which Kuczynski survived the extreme hazards of living life on the edge will keep you glued to your armchair ... Macintyre’s page-turner is a dazzling portrait of a flawed yet driven individual who risked everything (including her children) for the cause. Drawn from unpublished memoirs and letters, plus Kuczynski’s voluminous writings, it reveals an idealist addicted to danger. Above all it is the portrait of a lucky survivor.
It’s an appealing story, well suited to Ben Macintyre, the popular author of fast-paced books about mid-century spies ... Reading this book, I could see the film it will become. His is a genre well-suited to the excitement of the story but it’s ultimately too focused on the individual to address the moral travails of the 20th century satisfyingly. Because he’s gone for cinematic speed, Macintyre doesn’t always pause to ask questions. Most importantly, why was she so fervently committed and why did she keep going for so long? ... Along the way, Agent Sonya is fascinating as a window on to a set of convictions relatively common at this time among communists.