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 Drawn from unpublished memoirs and letters, plus Kuczynski’s voluminous writings, it reveals an idealist addicted to danger.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.
When Ben Macintyre’s name is on the cover you know you are in for a thrilling ride. He’s a master at unearthing the daring and deceits hidden deep in that extraordinary half century in which Britain fought first Nazi Germany and then the cold war ... But in Agent Sonya, he has pulled off his most remarkable trick: he leaves us admiring, and even cheering for, the woman at the heart of his story, someone who not only wanted to destroy our democracy but helped Russia get a nuclear bomb. She is the strongest character of all in Macintyre’s bestselling series of wartime tales ... I raced through the pages to keep up with the plot. But this really is fact not fiction, made all the more gripping by the photographs that have survived from almost every part of Sonya’s career.
... a lively account of Kuczynski’s remarkable career ... Inevitably, as the reader should keep in mind, much of Kuczynski’s life is filtered through her autobiography, which was written in East Germany under the scrutiny of censors by a woman whose survival depended on lying about many of her activities ... temperate judgments add value to Agent Sonya, a fascinating portrait of a Soviet spy who never recanted her belief in communism, even as the system for which she had risked her life disintegrated.
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 ... 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.
Macintyre...tells this convoluted, multi-layered story with the sensibilities of a novelist, making every character uniquely compelling while keeping suspense high and the narrative charging ever forward. In this must-read for fans of spy novels, truth becomes more exciting and astonishing than fiction.
... [a] rousing tale ... In his latest entertaining nonfiction spy thriller, Macintyre tracks Sonya’s numerous audacious exploits during her prolific career. Drawing from her diaries, correspondences, and extensive interviews with her two adult sons, the author crafts a narrative that serves as both an engrossing historical tale and a compassionate portrait of Sonya as a complex woman with distinctly modern sensibilities for her time ... An absorbing study of a remarkably accomplished 20th-century spy.