Three Books I'm Reading Now, 5/3/21 Edition
Updated: May 4
The Books I'm Reading Now
I'm listening to The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher's memoir focused on the early Star Wars years (and, largely, on Harrison Ford); I'm reading Agent Sonya, Ben Macintyre's nonfiction book about a famous female Russian spy during the Cold War; and I'm reading The Invisible Woman, historical fiction from Erika Robuck based on the life and work of World War II-era spy Virginia Hall.
Which books are you reading and enjoying these days, bookworms?
01 Agent Sonya by Ben Macintyre
Agent Sonya: Moscow's Most Daring Wartime Spy is made up of vividly recounted behind-the-scenes peeks at Cold War intrigue from Ben Macintyre. Macintyre also wrote the fantastic Spy and the Traitor, which was one of my Six Favorite Nonfiction Books of the Year last year and which I also listed on the Greedy Reading List Six Compelling Nonfiction Books that Read Like Fiction.
Ursula Burton lived a quiet life with her children and husband in a small English village. She spoke with a slight accent and kept largely to herself--but she was actually a high-ranking Soviet intelligence officer sending and receiving secret wireless signals, managing a network of agents across Europe, and maintaining her rabidly dedicated Communist views. The unassuming-seeming mother and wife was actually a legendary spy who evaded capture by China, the Nazis, MI6, and the FBI. She was known by the code name Sonya.
Macintyre is gifted at pulling facts from diaries, records, and correspondence to craft compelling nonfiction. So far I prefer The Spy and the Traitor, possibly because Ursula is not a particularly sympathetic figure or because Spy allowed for even more detail, given that the subject of that book was a double agent, and MI6 records made Macintyre's story more rich, but this is still really interesting reading.
If you like reading about female spies, you might like the Greedy Reading List Six Books about Brave Female Spies.
02 The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
The Princess Diarist was Fisher's last book, published in 2017 and based upon the diaries she kept as a young woman stumbling into her iconic lifetime role as Princess Leia.
Fisher is candid, funny, charmingly offbeat, and she's mastered the art of honest self-examination. I love listening to her fantastically raspy voice as she reads her memoir in audiobook form, and I'd love to spend time listening to her no matter what she might be discussing.
Here, Fisher considers: the phenomenon of Star Wars, which drew her into its unprecedented whirlwind when she was just nineteen; her middle-aged embracing of Comic-Con, her passionate fans, and the odd familiarity they feel with her because of their love for Leia; and her youthful obsession and affair with the gruff (and married) Harrison Ford--who is a main topic of her teenaged diaries.
If you love Carrie Fisher, you might also like A Star is Bored, a fictionalized celebrity-focused book written by Carrie Fisher's former personal assistant, Byron Lane. It was fun but also poignant, and I loved it.
03 The Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck
The Invisible Woman is a historical fiction book about the life of real World War II-era spy Virginia Hall. Erika Robuck makes Hall appealingly realistic, with faults, desires, idealism, and an astounding baseline level of bravery that leads to realistically messy and sometimes tragic situations and occasionally glorious victories.
Hall, a leader and trainer of the French Resistance despite the physical limitations of her false leg (which she gained following a shooting accident), has been entrenched in enemy territory for longer than most agents survive. She's beginning to wonder if good can possibly overcome evil in this interminable war, but her ragtag group of brave civilian resistors might be the inspiration she needs to keep going.
If you like reading about female spies, you might like the books on the Greedy Reading List Six Book about Brave Female Spies, which I also mentioned above in the peek at Agent Sonya.