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The Charm School

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  28,172 Ratings  ·  1,150 Reviews
Something very strange -- and sinister -- is going on in the Russian woods at Borodino. In a place called Mrs. Ivanova's Charm School, young KGB agents are being taught by American POW's how to be model citizens of the USA. The Soviet goal -- to infiltrate the United States undetected. When an unsuspecting American tourist stumbles upon this secret, he sets in motion a CIA ...more
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Published April 1st 2001 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 1988)
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Approximately twenty to twenty-five years (lets say from about 1986-1994) ago I was a big fan of Nelson DeMille.I would purchase his newest novels when they appeared on the shelves and I searched for his older novels (pre-1986) in my favorite used bookstores. Eventually I changed and DeMille's books changed and I drifted away,but the fond memories remained.

The Charm School was one of my favorites.I read it in 1989 when I was twenty-one. I remember it being an intelligent and observant novel wit
Jun 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When a young American tourist (Gregory Fisher) picks up a U.S. POW on the run while touring Russia, (in his Pontiac Grand Am) the excitement begins and doesn't stop.

This intense and fast-moving spy thriller brings the evil of the Soviet Union to life during the Cold War with well-defined characters, loads of KGB treachery and a horror of a secret deep in the woods.

Perhaps a little wordy at times, and I did not care much for the female protagonist, but the brave Colonel Hollis and his sarcastic w

Dec 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A spy-mystery from Demille, when Demille was a younger writer still developing his sarcastic wit. Even then, he could make a seemingly improbable story believable and highly entertaining. For anyone over 40 who remembers the tail-end of the long and mistrust-filled Cold War, this book will resonate.

As usual, DeMille weaves an imaginative story involving characters you love, spies in the late 1980's, the American Embassy in Moscow, a bit of Russian history, Vietnam MIAs, a training school for Sov
Cautious Reader
Aug 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is one of those that you wish could be made into a good movie. Oh wait a second… have you see a new TV series The Americans? I bet the idea for The Americans came from The Charm School. You know… the idea of Russian spies infiltrating the US, pretending to be Americans? Scared already? By the way, The Americans is one clever TV show that is such a rarity in our modern TV world.

If you like spy novels, you might love The Charm School. I am not a big fan of anything spies related. Unless
Jan 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cannot begin to guess how many times I have read this book; a conservative guess would be a dozen. This is one of the very few books that I could reread immediately upon finishing. This is a book about the cold war, set in Moscow and featuring a plot twist so amazing that in its setting it would have been horrifying. In 2017 you will recognize it to some degree as the the plot of the show "The Americans"

The story begins with a young American who has decided to spend his post MBA vacation driv
2.5 but deserves to be rounded down to 2 rather than up to 3; my first DeMille book and convinced me to NEVER read him again.

This is a harsh rating for a relatively well written book; for pulp, the use of language and research doesn't get much better than this. However, the author (and his self importance and conceit), the characters, the characterization of the USSR, the work's long winded-ness, and its portrayal of relationships annoyed me so much as to push my rating over the edge.

#1: It real
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This is one doozy of a spy novel! Especially for those of us who grew up during the Cold War and remember how mistrustful we were of the Russkies.

I read this in print many years ago and just recently listened to the audio version. I've read several of this author's novels in the John Corey series, but this stand alone trumps them all. I believe it was his first novel (??), and I think it's his best.

Sam Hollis and Lisa Rhodes work at the American embassy in Moscow. They stumble upon information
Kate Woods Walker
Dec 01, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Turgid exposition that describes every plodding step our hero makes, hamhanded propaganda, one cardboard woman who would be right at home on Mickey Spillaine's lap, Soviet villains who display every Reagan-era leitmotif Americans were conditioned to despise (until we turned the tables in the Bush era and became the torturing, anti-due process monsters we once fought)--what's not to loathe about this book?

Author Nelson DeMille did manage to create a bit of mounting suspense, with some nifty wri
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 starts. The Charm School is a good roller coaster ride. Set the the late 1980's Soviet Union when spying and espionage were going full force. Starts with a bang and doesn't let up until the end. Full of surprises and kept my interest throughout.
Welcome to Mrs. Ivanova's Charm School, a top secret "facility" where they teach Russian spies to pass themselves off as Americans to even a real American. Then off to the US of A with a fake identity (Non-Russian, of course) where they would live as American citizens and would pass on the state secrets to their homeland and gradually, would get a virtual hold on the entire country. Who would teach them? The MIAs (missing in action) from the Vietnam War who were captured and flown illegitimately ...more
Jan 05, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
I don't think I've given one star before but this book was such a disappointment I can't possibly do anything else. I've read and enjoyed a couple of other thrillers by this author, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and persisted with this stinker -- but my perseverance was not rewarded. I realize it was written in the late 1980s, but even so the evil Russians and the noble Americans (complete with flaws of course, since shucks, nobody's perfect)were caricatures from a comic book in the 195 ...more
Jennifer Lane
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this years ago and found it so suspenseful that I couldn't put it down. The Charm School is a hidden "camp" in Russia where captured Americans are forced to teach KGB agents how to act American so as to blend in and spy in the U.S. Nelson DeMille is one of my favorite authors and he weaved a chilling action story taking place in the heart of the Cold War. I need to read this again!
Alfred Haplo
Recommended for people who:

-Are existing DeMille fans
-Love the premise in the TV series, “The Americans”
-Love Demille's Up Country (2002) based in after-war Vietnam (different country, different enemy, less firepower but similar character composition, emotionally more compelling. A favorite).
-Are not deterred by 650 to 800 pages (depending on edition) but a gripping, fast read nonetheless
-Like Cold War espionage, thriller spy stuff circa early 80’s
-Enjoy witty dialogues laced with sarcasm, some
Nov 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
* One of the last Cold War novels of the Cold War period. Published in 1988, the book, with its POW/MIA theme--and its setting in a mighty USSR--is situated more comfortably in the decade of Rambo than in the political reality of the late eighties/early nineties. In '89, the Berlin Wall came down and in '91, the Soviet Union was officially dissolved. In this context, it's amusing, in a way, and quite impossible to take seriously. Fortunately, this is fiction and none of that really matters. Exce ...more
Arun Divakar
Espionage stories set during the premise of the cold war are probably the most alluring of all backdrops that thriller writers can think of. Two of the world's super powers while in all external appearances behaved like bosom buddies hid daggers beneath their smiles and behind closed rooms plotted how to outwit each other. While this was going on the world would have lived in perennial trepidation of an impending holocaust. But then in 1991, the USSR vanished and the soviet bloc suddenly ceased ...more
R.L. Anderson
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best Cold War thrillers ever! A real page turner that I couldn't put down. Also very educational, as it describes details of the lives of American diplomats working in a US embassy in a hostile (at the time) nation, the old Soviet Union. One little detail that sticks in my mind is the mention that US diplomats are some of the most patriotic Americans you could ever hope to meet--but yet they are just not "into" the popular culture. Hmmmmm.... That sounds strange, doesn't it? Well--the ...more
Dec 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The unlikely premise of this thriller is so scary and diabolical that it draws you into the book like a magnet. What if there was a school in Russia that trained Russians how to be Americans? What if those "Americans" were mainstreamed into our society to "report back" to Russia? What if the instructors @ this supposed "Charm School" were POWs from the Vietnam War? This is a 536 page book that I could not put down. I loved the fact that the characters' behaviors were impossible to predict. Also, ...more
☼♄Jülie 

Aug 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my most favorite books ever. It was my introduction to espionage and romantic suspense. A real thriller that should stand the test of time.
Gerald Sinstadt
Jun 29, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
Nelson DeMille, a versatile author whose Long Island adventure yarns make good reading, is proud of The Charm School, pointing out in an introduction that it has been in print since 1988. The setting is the Soviet Union of that era. Colonel Sam Hollis, an attaché at the US Embassy in Moscow, is in fact a spy. Ill-advisedly - not to say improbably - his attraction for Lisa Rhodes, a member of the Information Staff, leads him to allow her to become his espionage side-kick. They investigate a myste ...more
May 27, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After finishing the book, I've decided I liked it... It's another one of those "takes forever to get somewhere" kind of reads. Overall it's good but s l o w. There is a lot of superfluous text that made me skim through paragraphs (and pages) just to get to a pertinent part. It left me wishing it were condensed, moved faster and focused on the plot rather than adding so much needless information. I felt it was about 100 pages too long. The first 200 pages were painfully slow...but once the plot r ...more
As excitimg as a Friday night trip to the landromat and watching your clothes dry. Rarely do I not finish a book. This has consistently good reviews, but I just couldn't get into it. I quit at 30%--275 pages. Even at that point he still hadn't gotten into the plot and was still introducing major characters. Readers have said that this is a page-turner from beginning to end. I just didn't see the page-turner part, unless you were turning them just to skip.

The premice seemed interesting enough...i
Jul 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
L'ho letto in italiano anche se l'edizione italiana non esiste, non c'è nei book store. Misteri della rete.
E' un spy story del 1988, quindi scritto prima della caduta del muro. E infatti c'è tutta l'URSS del KGB, così come l'immaginava l'occidente.
Il mistero della scomparsa di un ragazzo americano scatena la ricerca di un'oasi "statunitense" vicino a Mosca, ma tutto si svolge con estrema discrezione per non compromettere i colloqui distensivi tra le due superpotenze.

Questo libro sembra archeolog
Jan 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be a very engaging Cold War story set in Russia & shadowing the embassy lives of Sam Hollis, Lisa Rhodes, and Seth Alevy. An American tourist named Gregory Fisher alerts the embassy that he has come in contact with Major Jack Dodson, an escapee from Miss Ivanova's Charm School, the impressively successful espionage "school" where Russians are taught to become Americans and are used to gather intelligence in America. After Fisher turns up dead, Hollis is on a mission to find a ...more
Jill Zwerling
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not s fan of espionage books but I love this author so I picked it up! Amazing how timely and scary this book is at this moment in our current state of affairs with Russia
Makes me wonder if this could really be a possibility and maybe it is. I actually would.not be surprised
The book had just enough humor and romance to keep my interest and Russian culture to get a sense of how frightening /sad their world is.

Apr 24, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
What an American wet dream!
0 stars for character development, 0 stars for realism, 0 stars for story-telling, 1 star for the idea of a Charm school which I did find interesting.
Kathy (ebookkat)
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A lady in my local book club recommended “The Charm School” to me. I had my doubts that I would like it since I have not read many spy thrillers plus the book has a lot of pages. To my surprise it did not take long and I was hooked. It was a page turner from start to finish. Lots of twists and turns. I am so glad the book was recommended to me!
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Forgot I read until I saw on a friends list. Great mystery and story for summer
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, 2017
I loved this book. It is the first time I have read something by Nelson DeMille and I will be reading more of his work.

Set in Russia during the cold war this story follows a couple of American Agents. Following a series of events including the death of an American tourist in Russia, they discover an unusual school. Russian agents are being trained in the ways of being American in order to infiltrate America and obtain information.

It is an intriguing story that is well told and filled with cultur
Henri Moreaux
When I initially came across this book I was not overly thrilled with the blurb and at 671 pages it's a bit of a commitment. However, after having read the General's Daughter & The Gold Coast by this author I thought I'd give Charm School a chance, and I can say I'm glad I did. The author paints a vivid landscape of cold war Russia which shines through the pages, the story is good with plenty of developments throughout the novel. Lots of spy (KGB vs CIA) action within and a few interesting c ...more
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The Charm School - What's with the high ratings? 54 264 Nov 03, 2017 01:14AM  
suitable for pre-teens? 6 30 Oct 26, 2017 10:38PM  
Mansfield Public ...: The Charm School Review by Julia Joseph 1 8 Aug 05, 2013 09:48AM  
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Nelson Richard DeMille was born in New York City on August 23, 1943 to Huron and Antonia (Panzera) DeMille, then moved with his parents to Long Island. He graduated from Elmont Memorial High School, where he played football and ran track.

DeMille spent three years at Hofstra University, then joined the Army where he attended Officer Candidate School and was commissioned a Lieutenant in the United S
More about Nelson DeMille...
“Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” 1 likes
“never ceased to amaze him how a discredited philosophy and a repressive nation still attracted idealists.” 0 likes
More quotes…