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

3.04  ·  Rating Details ·  753 Ratings  ·  240 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
Hardcover, 411 pages
Published April 5th 2011 by Simon & Schuster (NYC) (first published 2011)
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May 23, 2011 Garnette rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Shelves: biography-memoir
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
Aug 29, 2012 Joanna rated it it was ok
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
Erik Graff
Dec 01, 2011 Erik Graff rated it it was ok
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
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
Sep 06, 2014 Katie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 24, 2011 Jeanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Nov 02, 2016 Kate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-books
I read this for one of my book groups and started it without knowing too much about it. The title is somewhat misleading as the book is really more about Paul and Julia Child's colleague, Jane Foster. Their story is told at the beginning and the end of the book, with a more general story about the OSS in Southeast Asia during and after World War II. The premise of the story was interesting, but the details were mind numbing at times. Jennet Conant writes well, and while I am a huge fan of The Fr ...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.
Apr 03, 2011 Luanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 12, 2012 Susan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Great for what it is but extremely disappointing for what it is not. It's not a book about the Childs falling in love during their time with the OSS as it is billed. It is actually a story about Jane Foster. In fact, for the first several chapters you'll be wondering where Julia even is in this Indochinese confusion. Yes, there are bits about her courtship by Paul later in the book, but they are almost tertiary characters compared to Jane.

If you can get over your disappointment to embrace Jane'
Mabeth Lesser
The cover is very misleading. It is about the early days of the OSS and the McCarthy era. The Childs
Are a side story. Jane Foster is really the main story.
Virginia Citrano
I wanted so much to like this because of the story and the personalities involved. But the writing just kept getting bogged down.
Alice Harbin
This book requires determination to finish. It tickled me to learn of the "real" Julia Child as a young, single woman working in the Office of Secret Services. However, the book is more about the role of OSS during WWII in the Pacific and later about the McCarthy era, than about the romance between Julia and Paul Child. Jane Foster's possible espionage activities are thoroughly discussed, but never resolved. It is sad to say that Jane's intelligence and love of "the high life" led to her dangero ...more
Margie Gibson
Oct 21, 2016 Margie Gibson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent--and frightening--description of the McCarthy era. The focus was primarily on Jane Foster, a friend of Julia's and Paul's from their OSS days. Foster had joined the Communist Party in the 1930s and had dabbled in the Party. It was Paul's association with Jane in the OSS that led to the accusations against him while he was working in Germany in the 1950s. The book doesn't add much to the Child's story, but is worth reading just for the insight into how anti-Communism ran amok in the ...more
Kate  K. F.
Aug 19, 2013 Kate K. F. rated it liked it
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
May 14, 2016 Miki rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I actually listened to the unabridged audio book version (read by Jan Maxwell) during a long (really long, the unabridged edition runs 14 hours) road trip. Also, this is once again a time when I wish I could give half stars, as I would probably give this 3.5 stars.

A few observations:
- Although the book claims to be about Julia and Paul Child, the bulk of the action and whole central part of the book is about Jane Foster, another OSS agent, who is later the focus of a probe into a Soviet spy ring
Aug 10, 2013 Kris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't give it more than three stars for one very good reason: this book has very little to do with Paul and Julia Child. It's mainly concerned with Jane Foster, a friend of the Childs who they met in the OSS.
Now, this book is a very good VERY interesting tale of a woman who wanted adventure, joined the OSS, and found more than she bargained for. Jane is impulsive and impassioned, which doesn't often suit the US government. The book traces her from her OSS days, to post-war Asia, and beyond, w
Lianne Burwell
Mar 09, 2015 Lianne Burwell rated it really liked it
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
Barry Hammond
Nov 04, 2011 Barry Hammond rated it really liked it
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
Lisa C
Sep 01, 2012 Lisa C rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 20, 2012 Lisa rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
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,
Dec 11, 2013 Michelle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
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
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.

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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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