A Woman of Intelligence

A Novel

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Pub Date Jul 20 2021 | Archive Date Aug 03 2021


"Captivating." ––The Washington Post

Named a Best Book of Summer by Good Morning America • BuzzFeed
PopSugar • BookRiot • LifeSavvy • CT Post

From "a master of historical fiction" (NPR), Karin Tanabe's A Woman of Intelligence is an exhilarating tale of post-war New York City, and one remarkable woman’s journey from the United Nations, to the cloistered drawing rooms of Manhattan society, to the secretive ranks of the FBI.

A Fifth Avenue address, parties at the Plaza, two healthy sons, and the ideal husband: what looks like a perfect life for Katharina Edgeworth is anything but. It’s 1954, and the post-war American dream has become a nightmare.

A born and bred New Yorker, Katharina is the daughter of immigrants, Ivy-League-educated, and speaks four languages. As a single girl in 1940s Manhattan, she is a translator at the newly formed United Nations, devoting her days to her work and the promise of world peace—and her nights to cocktails and the promise of a good time.

Now the wife of a beloved pediatric surgeon and heir to a shipping fortune, Katharina is trapped in a gilded cage, desperate to escape the constraints of domesticity. So when she is approached by the FBI and asked to join their ranks as an informant, Katharina seizes the opportunity. A man from her past has become a high-level Soviet spy, but no one has been able to infiltrate his circle. Enter Katharina, the perfect woman for the job.

Navigating the demands of the FBI and the secrets of the KGB, she becomes a courier, carrying stolen government documents from D.C. to Manhattan. But as those closest to her lose their covers, and their lives, Katharina’s secret soon threatens to ruin her.

With the fast-paced twists of a classic spy thriller, and a nuanced depiction of female experience, A Woman of Intelligence shimmers with intrigue and desire.

"Captivating." ––The Washington Post

Named a Best Book of Summer by Good Morning America • BuzzFeed
PopSugar • BookRiot • LifeSavvy • CT Post

From "a master of historical fiction" (NPR), Karin...

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ISBN 9781250231505
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Featured Reviews

An enjoyable read about a fascinating time in our country's history. I've read a lot of WW1 and WW2 historical fiction, but this particular time period is not one I've read much from, but found it to be a very interesting backdrop for an ageless story about a woman struggling with how marriage and children change her identity. Definitely recommend.

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A Woman of Intelligence sounded so good that it topped my TBR pile over the weekend, and I immersed myself in a Mad Men like atmosphere while I read about Katharina Edgeworth, a wealthy mother of 2 little boys, wife of a prominent doctor from a prominent family and...CIA spy? Katharina is bright and capable, but no match for an active baby and toddler, a husband who insists on a certain way of parenting while he spends most of his days and nights following his passion at the hospital, an overbearing mother-in-law, and no mommy friends. It sounds like a lonely, frustrating and unfulfilling existence, until Katharina meets her potential handler. She keeps his number in her pocket like a last ditch out, transferring it from skirt to skirt and almost wearing away the numbers. It takes a horrifyingly embarrassing drunken party to push Katharina to call, and somehow she manages to become an operative, moving information and charming an old college lover who now appears to work for the KGB.
It might sound like a preposterous plot, but Tanabe makes Katharina's story incredibly believable, and keeps you turning pages, pulling for her, and wondering how this all can conclude. Will things be wrapped up tidily? Will readers need a sequel? Will we be surprised? Read and see--it is totally worth it!

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This is a fantastic work of historical fiction about a woman who is trapped by a male-dominated society. Before her marriage, Katharina was a successful career woman, working for the UN. Now she is relegated to the role of wife and mother and expected to be satisfied and compliant. When the opportunity arises for her to become a spy for the FBI, Katharina jumps at the chance to do meaningful work, work that doesn't put her in a box marked "female". There were several times while reading this book that I became furious at the level of sexism Katharina had to endure. A Woman of Intelligence is well written, thought-provoking, and a nail-biter. If you enjoy feminist historical fiction, give this one a go.

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When Katherina Edgeworth marries her handsome pediatric surgeon, she gives up an independent lifestyle to become a 1950’s housewife.

Before her marriage, Katherina works as an interpreter at the newly formed United Nations Building in New York. She loves the challenge of her job, her friends, and an exuberant nightlife, but then she meets Tom Edgeworth and falls in love.

Though more chaotic, what with the commitments required by Manhattan’s upper class and her daily commute, Katherina makes it work until she becomes pregnant and is forced to give up her career.

Trapped by a life she doesn’t want, Katherina accepts the opportunity to escape the bonds of motherhood- if only for a few precious hours- to become an undercover spy for the FBI. A man she once knew intimately in college is a high-ranking official in the Soviet Union and Katherina is tasked with gaining his trust as a courier delivering ‘stolen‘ US documents to the KGB.

Danger lurks around every corner, but Katherina has never felt more alive. With tensions rising at home, an illicit attraction tempts her to make a decision that will change her life forever.

This story highlights the expectations of housewives in the 1950’s, but more than that, it puts a spotlight on post war strain, the fear of communism, and racial tension.

Altogether an absorbing read!

“I voluntarily read an ARC of this book which was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.”

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A Fifth Avenue address, parties at the Plaza, two healthy sons, and the ideal husband: what looks like a perfect life for Katharina Edgeworth is anything but. It’s 1954, and the post-war American dream has become a nightmare.
This was a historical novel that takes place in New York City in the early 1950's. Rina Edgeworth is married to her rich husband Tom who is also married to his job as a pediatric surgeon. He comes from old money and he thinks his wife should be doing a better job as a mother of two young children, Gerrit and Peter. Before her marriage she was a translator at the United Nations but now she is just a mom and she doesn't feel like she's good at being a mom. When a stranger approaches her with a proposal to help the FBI find out information about a former lover that is a Soviet spy Katharina says yes,
The writing is exceptional for women's fiction. I truly enjoyed this book!

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Very clever, engaging and transporting. We get a gorgeous picture of that era, of money and elegance, plus the pulse-pound of spywork. Lots of logic here, which makes this an enjoyable spy adventure, and Tanabe writes some fabulous dialogue.
Thank you to NetGalley and to the publisher for the review copy. Very generous of you.

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It is so refreshing to have characters that are neither completely enthralled with motherhood nor pretending that motherhood is the end-all of the dreams and goals that make their life complete.

"It’s this motherhood thing that is making you look so cadaverous,” she said, giving me another once-over. I shrugged. “Small children are terrible, Katharina. Everyone knows it, but nobody says it out loud. It makes us look weak and cowardly. Unfeminine.”

It is truly frustrating that society still expects motherhood to make us fulfilled and to never complain about our children, or how exhausting it is mentally and emotionally.

I related with Katharina so much; post-partum depression, missing my career, not having "a village" to raise children on the hard days, a husband always working, and completely clueless on what it takes to survive daily. I'd take this woman for cocktails immediately.

Buy this novel. Seriously. Pour a martini and lock yourself in the bathroom. Make the spouse deal with the kids while you read this.

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I could not put this book down! What an incredible main character! I love books about strong females, especially historic novels. A spy thriller with an educated woman at it's center, in New York City, what more can you want?

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Katharina, an affluent mother of 2 young children wrestles with her place in life after leaving an exciting career translating for the United Nations post WWII.. Given her language translation skills and international experience, Katharina then finds herself being pursued by the FBI to be a courier of Communist documents in effort to catch a spy. The tension develops as she develops renewed vigor being a working woman in the early 1950s, keeping secrets from her rich and powerful husband, and leaving her children in the care of others.

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Phenomenal read as you follow the main character on her journey of transitioning from Upper East Side mom to FBI corespondent. The writing was beautiful and I really felt connected with the character as I watched her go through her downward spiral of alcohol, depression and disruptive marriage. Definitely would be interested in reading more from Karin Tanabe.

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