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

3.03  ·  Rating Details  ·  700 Ratings  ·  231 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 idealistic me ...more
ebook, 416 pages
Published April 5th 2011 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,883)
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May 23, 2011 Garnette rated it did not like it
Shelves: a-chore-to-read
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
Apr 03, 2011 Wayne McCoy rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jenny Brown
Mar 08, 2012 Jenny Brown rated it really liked it
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
Mar 28, 2011 Lisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 it was ok  ·  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
Aug 29, 2012 Joanna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2012
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
Jul 20, 2011 Lili rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: from-the-library
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
Jun 09, 2011 Gail Strickland rated it liked it
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
May 08, 2015 C rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
People reading this book because they think it is going to be about Julia and Paul Child are going to be somewhat disappointed, and in that sense the book cover and description are somewhat misleading. This is unfortunate, because the story as a whole is quite interesting, highlighting two connected stories: the role of the OSS in Asia in the second world war and the McCarthy anti-Communist hearings from the perspective of a number of people, of whom Julia and Paul Child are only two and not eve ...more
Sep 06, 2014 Katie rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Jun 24, 2011 Jeanne rated it really liked it
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
Jan 02, 2015 Preston rated it really liked it
Great read about the life and times of Julia Child and Paul Child.
Wonderful insight into the foreign service during the post war decade.
Shows how a strong, powerful, and intellectually capable woman excelled and thrived in World War II.
My favorite takeaway - how she supported Paul after WWII in his career while exercising and developing her passions, then after he retires, he supports her in her cooking and television career.
The book also provides valuable insight into Allied, specifically U.S
Mar 25, 2016 Ashley added it
This book was a wonderful glimpse into the lives of Americans abroad during WWII and McCarthy-ism... I guess depending on what pendulum you swing on, this book is either scary that it was happening, or you're glad that the damn hippies got what was coming to them...if you're latter stay away from me please... Deemed too intelligent to NOT be Anti-American, Paul and Julia were the butt of some ridiculous accusations... Being FAR TOO young to have tangible ties to the era explored herein, I find t ...more
Apr 03, 2011 Luanne rated it it was amazing
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.
Richard Foster
Apr 28, 2015 Richard Foster rated it it was ok
As others have already observed, while the book does discuss Julia and Paul Child's experiences they play only a minor role. It mainly concentrates on Jane Foster (one of their acquaintances from the OSS). Even without the erroneous expectation that Julia and Paul would play a more significant part I think I would have been disappointed by this book, and wish I had checked on here before wasting time on it because it "sounded interesting". While the book appears to be well researched and contain ...more
Mar 14, 2014 Spiros rated it liked it  ·  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
Nov 22, 2015 April rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is really book about Jane Foster, and I feel that the author is doing the exact same thing she is accusing the FBI of doing: making a larger connection between Ms. Foster and the Childs than there really was for her own purposes. It's a well-researched, well-written if not terribly unique account of the Red Scare in the 1950s, but it's not about the topic it is advertised as being about nor the topic I wanted to read. I did finish it, but I confess to some skimming through the lengthiest of ...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.
Dec 12, 2012 Susan rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
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.
Terri Anderson
Apr 12, 2015 Terri Anderson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I must admit that I was somewhat disappointed that there was not more about Julia and Paul Child in the book. However, I was happy to learn so much about the formation of the OSS and its earliest recruits. What a fascinating crew and time period! What a sad commentary on the events and lack of integrity during that era. World history would have progressed so differently if the advice of these early intelligence agents would have been followed. We'll never know what kind of world we would have to ...more
Mark Palmer
Oct 30, 2014 Mark Palmer rated it it was ok
This book should really be subtitled: "The Adventures of Jane Foster (with an occasional mention of Paul and Julia Child)". Really, very little of this book concerns the Childs and for that I'm very disappointed. While it does follow Paul and Julia through their OSS years and after, the primary focus of the book is Jane Foster, their OSS friend and maybe Communist spy. If you want to learn more about the OSS and how post-war McCarthyism affected American citizens, this book is for you. If you wa ...more
Jul 24, 2014 Rosa rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2014
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
Diane Schneider
Dec 17, 2015 Diane Schneider rated it really liked it
The book's cover and synopsis imply that this book will be about Julia and Paul Child and their adventures in the OSS and involvement in the subsequent Cold War hysteria. While these topics are definitely covered, the book centers primarily on Jane Foster, a friend of the couple's while in the OSS and a victim of McCarthy's crusade. Misleading cover art aside, this book is a fascinating look at intelligence in the Asian Theater, and offers an excellent look at how America's anti-Communist polici ...more
David Orphal
Sep 12, 2014 David Orphal rated it really liked it
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
Aug 20, 2014 Leslie rated it it was ok
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
Meagan Healy
Jul 17, 2015 Meagan Healy rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 05, 2013 Ellen rated it liked it
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
Oct 08, 2014 Cheryl rated it really liked it
Shelves: adultlit
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
Nov 04, 2011 Barry Hammond rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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 about Jennet Conant...

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