Monday, February 23, 2004

Clever Girl: Elizabeth Bentley, the Spy Who ushered in the McCarty Era by Lauren Kessler was excellent. Elizabeth Bentley was a New England woman who became a communist and eventually a high ranking spy for the Russians before turning herself in to the FBI and naming names. We sometimes forget that amidst all the McCarthy psychotic accusations that occurred, there were actually a large number of spies that had unparalleled access to state secrets. This biography is about those people - the spies - not the over-heated mob of allegations of being a communist sympathizer. Elizabeth herself is fascinating. She was a highly educated woman who spent time abroad, a loner, an alcoholic, a manipulator, at times both dependent and fiercely independent. She defies easy labels. She turned to the FBI for many reasons: fear of getting caught, fear of the Russians who saw her as expendable, grief over her lover's death... hardly the true patriot they hailed her as. She had an exciting, insane life that has been largely obscured by history's focus on McCarthy and his ilk. I know I don't remember her name from any of my history classes.

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