A Covert Affair

A Covert Affair

Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS

Book - 2011
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Bestselling author Jennet Conant brings us a stunning account of Julia and Paul Child's experiences as members of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in the Far East during World War II and the tumultuous years when they were caught up in the McCarthy Red spy hunt in the 1950s and behaved with bravery and honor. It is the fascinating portrait of a group of idealistic men and women who were recruited by the citizen spy service, slapped into uniform, and dispatched to wage political warfare in remote outposts in Ceylon, India, and China.

The eager, inexperienced 6 foot 2 inch Julia springs to life in these pages, a gangly golf-playing California girl who had never been farther abroad than Tijuana. Single and thirty years old when she joined the staff of Colonel William Donovan, Julia volunteered to be part of the OSS's ambitious mission to develop a secret intelligence network across Southeast Asia. Her first post took her to the mountaintop idyll of Kandy, the headquarters of Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, the supreme commander of combined operations. Julia reveled in the glamour and intrigue of her overseas assignment and lifealtering romance with the much older and more sophisticated Paul Child, who took her on trips into the jungle, introduced her to the joys of curry, and insisted on educating both her mind and palate. A painter drafted to build war rooms, Paul was a colorful, complex personality. Conant uses extracts from his letters in which his sharp eye and droll wit capture the day-to-day confusion, excitement, and improbability of being part of a cloak- and-dagger operation.

When Julia and Paul were transferred to Kunming, a rugged outpost at the foot of the Burma Road, they witnessed the chaotic end of the war in China and the beginnings of the Communist revolution that would shake the world. A Covert Affair chronicles their friendship with a brilliant and eccentric array of OSS agents, including Jane Foster, a wealthy, free-spirited artist, and Elizabeth MacDonald, an adventurous young reporter. In Paris after the war, Julia and Paul remained close to their intelligence colleagues as they struggled to start new lives, only to find themselves drawn into a far more terrifying spy drama. Relying on recently unclassified OSS and FBI documents, as well as previously unpublished letters and diaries, Conant vividly depicts a dangerous time in American history, when those who served their country suddenly found themselves called to account for their unpopular opinions and personal relationships.
Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, c2011.
ISBN: 9781439163528
Characteristics: 395 p., [16] p. of plates :,ill., ports. ;,25 cm.


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Jan 26, 2013

I read a few pages and skimmed the rest. As others have said, it is NOT about Paul and Julia Child and it is NOT well written. Major disappointment. Anyone interested in the Child's should read "My Life in France" instead.

Nov 03, 2012

Only about 50% of this book is actually about Julia and Paul Child. The balance is about Jane Foster and others at the OSS. Never the less I learned alot about the OSS, post WWII Asia politics, and the disgusting Red scare hearings led by Sen McCarthy.

Jun 27, 2011

I finished this book with mixed emotions. It is a compelling and well-written account, however it focuses more on the McCarthy era of the 1950's than on the war-time activities of the OSS. Furthermore, the story of Paul and Julia Child is secondary to the exploits of Jane Foster, an OSS colleague turned expatriate who may or may not have been a Soviet spy. The title of the book is a misleading attempt to capitalize on the famous Child name. In addition, Paul and Julia Child emerge as intellectual and political snobs; they reveled in the company of anyone whose point of view they agreed with, but had only disdain for those who disagreed with them. Finally, the book is in desperate need of a good line editor--a shocking number of typos, cliches, and grammatical errors litter the pages.

debwalker Apr 28, 2011

Recounts the couple's experiences in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II and the early stages of the Cold War

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