Book Reviews

Book Review: A Woman of Intelligence

By Karen Tanabe

Published July 2021

384 Pages

In the years after World War II, Katharina (Rina) West lands a job as an interpreter at the UN.  She’s single, independent, and loving it.  Then she falls in love and marries doctor Tom Edgeworth.  Once children arrive, at her husband’s insistence she leaves her job to become a full-time mother.  They may be wealthy and have a good address in Manhattan, but it doesn’t take long for Rina to realize she’s living in a gilded cage.

When she’s asked to spy on a former college boyfriend by the FBI during the McCarthy-era Red Scare, she’s hesitant but takes the opportunity to do something for herself, to reclaim the woman she was before motherhood.  But the stakes are raised when her husband becomes suspicious and she becomes too attached to both her targets and one of the agents.  Can she balance both lives at the same time, or will she have to give one up?

“A Woman of Intelligence” interpreted by Wombo Dream

I’d been meaning to read this book for some time and finally made room for it in my TBR.  I won’t say I was disappointed – there is a lot to love in this book.  The historical fiction aspect of it is incredible.  The styles, the dialogue, and the attitudes all felt spot on.  And wow, attitudes toward motherhood and for women’s opportunities in general have come a long, long way.  I wanted to be angry at her husband for his outlook on how Rina should behave, but he was simply a product of his generation and social status.  I applaud it all – especially since having two young children at the same time hasn’t gotten much easier but at least mothers today can get a sitter without having a psychiatrist called in.  I also really liked Rina as a character.  She was totally honest and witty and I understood her dilemma (to some extent, having been a stay at home mom for a while myself.)

However, I had a hard time really getting into this book.  I’m not sure if there was too much emphasis on her single life or if there were things that weren’t necessary (namely, the romance.  It came out of the blue and there was enough of a story without it.)  So I apologize for being vague, but I honestly can’t point to why this wasn’t holding my attention.  It wasn’t until about the 60% mark that I really got into the story and didn’t find it easy to put the book down.  I wish it had been that riveting from the beginning.

In the end, I settled on 3.5/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐+

Until next time, thank you for visiting.


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