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A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS

3.01 of 5 stars 3.01  ·  rating details  ·  555 ratings  ·  199 reviews
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 ide...more
ebook, 416 pages
Published April 5th 2011 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2011)
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Disappointed by cheap lure to garner readers in this rehashing of WWII, OSS, and red hunt in the State Department. I know, I know, just because I paid attention to the Washington Post et al, I might know more than the average fan of Julia Child's TV shows. But it offends that old photos of Julia and Paul Child, as well as the tag line: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS, would be USED, used, used to sell a boring book. It was mudraking, muckraking, in the worse sense of the word to drag the r...more
Wayne McCoy
The first thing you should know, is that the subtitle of this book is a little misleading. While Paul and Julia Child are in a fair amount of the book, this book is mainly about Jane Foster. The book also covers a fair amount of time after all of these folks have left the OSS.

Having said that, this is a fascinating, well-researched read. Jennet Conanat has written many books on the subject of covert operations during WWII, so she knows what she is writing about. While it is non-fiction, the nar...more
Jenny Brown
I enjoyed this book, though like everyone else, I quickly figured out it had little to do with the Childs. It gave me great insight into the way that the US, appeasing its imperialist Allies, the French, Dutch, and, most notably, the English, mistreated the native people in SE Asia that had helped them fight the Japanese. That treatment made it quite logical these peoples would not only struggle for their independence after the war, but hate the US, too.

For example, I had no idea that after the...more
This is not really a book about Paul and Julia Child, although it provides a look at life in the OSS and some aspects of World War II. This is a mildly interesting book about a woman named Jane Foster who worked for the OSS in Asia during World War II and was suspected of being a spy for the Soviet Union during the 1950s "McCarthy era," when the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC) was searching for Communist spies and sympathizers under every rock, especially in U.S. government agencies...more
Erik Graff
Dec 01, 2011 Erik Graff rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Erik by: Kelly Kingdon
Shelves: biography
This book isn't very much about either Julia or Paul Child, it's about Jane Foster, a friend of theirs from their days in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. Foster was implicated in a rather amateurish Soviet spy ring after the war, persecuted by the U.S. State Department and F.B.I., and forced to live in France to avoid extradition and arrest. Whether or not she was a Communist, whether or not she knew she was supplying information to the U.S.S.R., is the mystery which drives...more
They say not to judge a book by its cover. In this case, you should also be wary of judging it by its title, jacket summary, and overall presentation. This book is fine for what it is: a history of the Office of Strategic Services and a chronicle of both the Red Scare and the Jane Foster spy drama. Unfortunately, through it's own promotion and marketing, the book claims to be something much different - a story about Julia and Paul Child - which it really is not.

Although Paul and Julia Child both...more
This book was unsatisfying in so many ways, I'm not sure where to begin. Most importantly, the book is about Jane Foster and the Red Scare. It is not about Paul and Julia Child nor about service in the OSS. Erase the Childs, tighten the research, tone down the "author presence" and it might be a decent book. Otherwise, it illustrates how to write pages and pages about someone's wartime service in a sensitive position without discussing much of any relevance. As for the author's claim to have pou...more
Gail Strickland
The title is somewhat misleading as for the majority of the book, Julia and Paul make only cameo appearances. Most of the book is taken up with Jane Foster who served with both Childs in the OSS during WWII and then was hounded in the 50's by McCarthy and his cronies. If you've read "My Like in France" by Julia, you've already read Julia and Paul's story. That all being said, I still enjoyed this one; the war in China gets short-shrift in most histories of WWII (I can only think that's a hang-ov...more
The sub-title of this book is misleading. The book isn't so much about the Childs as about Jane Foster. So if you are expecting a biograhy of the Childs, you are going to be disappointed.

I knew that the Childs met during WW II, and knew that Julia Child had done some top secret hush-hush work. Conant goes into great detail about OSS operations, focusing mostly on the Foster. There is a reason for this. The book opens with Paul Child being investigated and questioned about possible Communist acti...more
Jane Foster, later Mrs. George Zlatovski, was an enigma. A daughter of wealth, she had lived in Southeast Asia learning the customs and language. When WW2 began, she willingly joined the OSS (often referred to as the pre-CIA) where she could put her knowledge to good use. Paul Child and Julia McWilliams (the future Julia Child) were also employees of the OSS. They became friends with Jane.

Jane was a woman of intense feelings and little tact. She was fearless in her causes which would later come...more
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This book provides a unique look into this part of WWII and espionage. It is well written and gave me insight into the characters lives at this point in history. I learned more about this period. The McCarthy trials were described very well from the view of those accused. I consider this book a must read for those interested in this part of history and how it affected the lives of those involved.
Mar 14, 2014 Spiros rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those with a penchant for eccentrics
A fairly well-written account of the activities of some of "Wild" Bill Donovan's Office of Strategic Service recruits in the Asian theater, how they got there, and what happened to them after the War. It's interesting reading about a cadre where the word "Intelligence" can be used without irony, which isn't to say that some of their schemes weren't downright harebrained (Gregory Bateson's plan to dye the Irrawaddy yellow, foiled when it was discovered that the Naval dye needed salt water to acti...more
Fredrick Danysh
Julia Child is known for her cooking show and cookbooks. During World War II, she and her husband Paul were members of Wild Bill Donavan's OSS and after the war Paul continued to work for the State Department. This is the story of their service during the war and of Paul's investigation under Senator Joseph McCarthy.
I was greatly disappointed in this book. It was
hardly about Julia Child at all. The narrative was unfocused, mainly about two women with interesting romantic lives who were members of the OSS with some post-war politics, the
evils of McCarthy and a bit about the Childs thrown in.
This book could have been a little bit better blurbed. The focus of the title is really Jane Foster and how knowing her and being friendly with her affected the Child's. About half way through I found myself getting frustrated with the focus on Jane Foster and the lack of information on Julia and Paul. If I'd had more realistic expectations regarding what the title was about I would have been happier with it (and possibly given it another star.)

The work this group did was definitely interesting...more
David Orphal
This interesting and entertaining book would be more accurately titled, "Jane Foster: Julia and Paul Child's more interesting friend."

Because Julia Child is a household name, and because it is fun to watch the look on people's faces when one mentions "...when Julia Child was a spy during WWII..." One can see why the author wanted to focus this book on the famous TV chef.

However, Julia and her husband are merely recurring characters in this story, which is disappointing only because it was their...more
I hunted down this book in the spring after a long, long search.....and since then, have been reading away in spurts...and, what better day to finish it than a dull, rainy one - it was dull.
I wanted and got not enough of the early days of Julia and Paul Child's life together. What I got was a lot of history and more writing about the people that surrounded Julia and Paul, than what I wanted, which was more about their very interesting love story.
Sometimes, a book just ends up being disappointing...more
Meagan Healy
Aside from the misleading title, this book was right up my alley, providing historical context for many things: biographical stories, spies, artists, propaganda, World War 2 in the Pacific, the Conflict between Communism and Nationalism and Colonialism/Imperialism ... And a greater understanding of the roots behind the Red Scare in America.

It also provided a look at at least two visual artists' propaganda work during the WW2. This inspired me to track down more information on propaganda art. Alw...more
I thought this would be about Paul and Julia meeting and falling in love while cloaking and daggering. I was wrong. Most of the book is about Jane Foster and the OSS in southeast Asia during WWII. There is very little about Paul and Julia and no cloak and dagger; she is a record keeper, and he is a graphic designer. Both work for the OSS and during this time Julia learns to love living overseas and to appreciate "foreign" foods. And falls in love with Paul who is more interested in the younger,...more
As all reviews note, this book is not solely focused on the Childs, but more a group biography of OSS personnel in Asia, with Jane Foster as the focal point of the story. After finishing the book there is a feeling of "bait and switch," even though Julia and Paul's work alone (she as filer and he as war room designer) would not have had as much interest if the secret operations agents hadn't provided such a swirling background of intrigue and a web of relationships that affected their post-war l...more
Barry Hammond
You somehow don't think of PBS French Chef, Julia Child, as being a spy but both her and her husband, Paul, were covert operatives for the OSS (forerunner of the CIA) during World War II.

Written by journalist and best-selling author Jennet Conant, the granddaughter of former high commissioner for West Germany, James B. Conant, under whom they served while in Bonn in the 1950's,the book details their early covert lives in the far east, their unlikely romance, the events which led to Julia's beco...more
It really is a pet peeve of mine when a book does not match its title. (I am aware that this is not always the fault of the author, and that the author has limited if any control over the cover, so I am not laying this at the feet of the author. Editors and publishers, please take note!) This book definitely falls into that category.

The book really touches on Julia only in passing- its main focus is on the OSS in Southeast Asia, a handful of OSS agents and their lives during and after the war,...more
Lianne Burwell
I was a little surprised by A Covert Affair. From the description, I would have thought it was all about Julia Child and her husband during WWII. And don't get me wrong; there is a fair bit about it. But the story is more about another member of the OSS, Jane Foster, and the accusations that she was a Soviet spy in the Cold War years, with some asides into the McCarthyism of the era.

Don't get me wrong; I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and I don't blame the author for the miscommunication on the co...more
A Covert Affair: The Adventures of Julia and Paul Child in the Oss – Jennet Conant
3 stars

The title of this book is misleading. The book is only peripherally about Paul and Julia Child. This is possibly the best thing that can be said about this uneven book. I could have gone without intimate excerpts of Paul Child’s letters which expounded on his ideal of the perfect woman. The parts of this book devoted to the growing Paul/Julia romance are uninteresting and frequently embarrassing.

The begin...more
Kate  K. F.
This book was an absolute mess that was written with compelling language. I would read a novel by this author as she's good at creating setting and interaction but not another nonfiction book as she writes nonfiction like a novel. The subtitle of this book is a misnomer as others have said, three chapters out of the entire book deal with Paul and Julia's Child's life in specifics and most of it comes from their own words, which Conant rehashes and puts into her own style. If you wish to read abo...more
Lisa C
I've become very impressed with Julia Child over the last few years, and she's something of a hero that I really know very little about. I really wanted to love this book, and it was definitely interesting, but two-thirds of the way through, and neither Paul nor Julia have made much of an appearance. I can understand from the perspective of the author why that might be -- the majority of the writing centers around two of their female friends who were also recruited into the OSS. The author left...more
This is a fascinating book, but I felt it was less about Julia and Paul Child than about their friend and OSS (Office of Strategic Services) colleague, Jane Foster. I think that the author touted the Childs because she knew it would draw readers (like me) in. I have read a lot of books about WWII, but most of them deal with the Holocaust and the war fought in Europe. It was interesting and eye-opening to learn more about the war in Asia and the covert operations, as well as the living conditions...more
Good grief, this book took me forever to finish. Honestly, it was a book club choice from the beginning of the year, and I only finished it from sheer stubbornness, because it was not so good, but not so dreadful that I wanted to add it to my list of Books I'm Never Going to Finish No Matter What, Sorry.

One, this is not about Julia Child and Paul Child, so please stop lying. Because that's what drew me in, and when the book just went on and on and on about Jane Foster, I got really very annoyed...more
At age 35, I suddenly discovered non-fiction. No one was more surprised than me, except maybe the librarian who kept asking how my research paper on Henry VIII was coming along. It appears that I've entered a new phase of Julia Child-obsession, fueled by seeing Julie and Julia (half of which was a really good movie) and bumping into her name everywhere.

Other reviewers indicated disgust that the book wasn't really about Julia and Paul Child, despite the subtitle and their massive pictures on the...more
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Jennet Conant is an American non-fiction author and journalist. She has written four best selling books about World War II, three of which have appeared on the New York Times Best Seller list.

Born in Seoul, South Korea and raised in Asia and America, she received a BA degree in Political Theory from Bryn Mawr College in 1982, and double-majored in Philosophy at Haverford College. She completed a...more
More about Jennet Conant...
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