A novel set in the glamorous world of 1950s New York publishing; the story of a young man tasked with editing a steamy bodice-ripper based on the recent trial and execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg—an assignment that will reveal the true cost of entering that seductive, dangerous new world.
No one states problems more correctly, more astutely, more amusingly and more uncomfortably than Francine Prose. If there were a George Bernard Shaw Prize for Crisp Compassion and Amused Disappointment in the Species, Prose would have won it many times over ... Prose writes sentences that make me laugh out loud. Her insights, the subtle ones and the two-by-fours, make me shake my head in despair, in surprise, in heartfelt agreement. The gift of her work to a reader is to create for us what she creates for her protagonist: the subtle unfolding, the moment-by-moment process of discovery as we read and change, from not knowing and even not wanting to know or care, to seeing what we had not seen and finding our way to the light of the ending.
... witty, recursive, and complex—one could say meta—but also heartfelt. Sincerity has rarely been this much fun ... This novel completely captures the flannel suit decade ... If this novel’s ending seems too tidily wrapped up, and it does, it’s a small misstep in this accomplished work of fiction.
The most surprising thing about The Vixen...is how laugh-aloud funny it is ... It is a testament to Prose’s mastery as a storyteller that what emerges is a penetrating look at the underside of comedy—namely, how the human condition can be so predictably cruel and paranoid. And yet, this is also a book steeped in the warmth of Jewish family life, post–World War II ... the underlying heartbeat of The Vixen isn’t political so much as literary—a book within a book that keeps the narrative thrumming ... Francine Prose’s higher purpose as a novelist is fully realized in this delicious coming-of-age story in which everyone is afraid, anyone can be accused, and disinformation runs rampant. This novel also comes at a perfect time in American history, as hard-won voting rights are being suppressed and the fabric of democracy itself torn apart. Prose deftly reminds us of a chapter from nearly 70 years ago, during the Red Menace hysteria, when the government could jail and kill a couple for passing on secrets to the Soviets. Or, in Ethel’s case, for typing them up for her brother.