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A Woman of Intelligence

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A Fifth Avenue address, parties at the Plaza, two healthy sons, and the ideal husband: what looks like a perfect life for Katharina Edgeworth is anything but. It’s 1954, and the post-war American dream has become a nightmare.

A born and bred New Yorker, Katharina is the daughter of immigrants, Ivy-League-educated, and speaks four languages. As a single girl in 1940s Manhattan, she is a translator at the newly formed United Nations, devoting her days to her work and the promise of world peace—and her nights to cocktails and the promise of a good time.

Now the wife of a beloved pediatric surgeon and heir to a shipping fortune, Katharina is trapped in a gilded cage, desperate to escape the constraints of domesticity. So when she is approached by the FBI and asked to join their ranks as an informant, Katharina seizes the opportunity. A man from her past has become a high-level Soviet spy, but no one has been able to infiltrate his circle. Enter Katharina, the perfect woman for the job.

Navigating the demands of the FBI and the secrets of the KGB, she becomes a courier, carrying stolen government documents from D.C. to Manhattan. But as those closest to her lose their covers, and their lives, Katharina’s secret soon threatens to ruin her.

384 pages, Hardcover

First published July 20, 2021

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About the author

Karin Tanabe

8 books716 followers
KARIN TANABE is the author of six novels, including A Hundred Suns and The Gilded Years (soon to be a major motion picture starring Zendaya, who will produce alongside Reese Witherspoon/Hello Sunshine). A former Politico reporter, she has also written for The Washington Post, the Miami Herald, the Chicago Tribune, and Newsday. She has appeared as a celebrity and politics expert on Entertainment Tonight, CNN, and CBS Early Show. A graduate of Vassar College, Karin lives in Washington, D.C.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 851 reviews
Profile Image for Liz.
2,023 reviews2,526 followers
June 13, 2021
2.5 stars, rounded up
The first chapter of A Woman of Intelligence reminded me why I never wanted my own children. The thought of being a stay at home mother strikes me as one of Dante’s circles of hell, especially if I had given up an exciting job to be one. Or had Tom as a husband. As the book blurb says, Katharina is “trapped in a gilded cage”. As she thinks to herself “ I had forgotten that freedom was the most glamorous thing anyone could possess.” So, needless to say, I initially bonded with her. But it wasn’t enough to keep me engaged.
The book lagged at times. Way too much time was spent on Katharina’s wardrobe, with the author throwing in every designer name imaginable. But this was a time and topic (the Cold War) which I’ve rarely read about and I wanted to learn more. Tanabe didn’t really deliver. I wanted her to delve more into the Communists’ attempt to infiltrate the US. Government. In short, I wanted more facts. I had other problems with this book. Was I expected to believe that this fiery, intelligent, independent woman would become a total door mat upon the birth of her first child? The husband was such a caricature of the 1950s husband it became laughable. And, once again, a historical fiction author thinks she’s obligated to throw in a romance.
So, I felt that Tanabe wasted the opportunity to write a more meaningful novel.
My thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advance copy of this book.
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,125 reviews30.2k followers
July 23, 2021
I’ve been wanting to read a book by Karin Tanabe for a long time, and I think I’ve picked up most of her backlist over the years because of that. I’m so grateful I’ve finally read one!

The year is 1954, and Katharina Edgeworth is living the life. She lives in Manhattan on Fifth Avenue with her two beautiful sons and dashing husband. It’s not that simple, though, and it rarely is.

Katharina is the daughter of immigrants with an Ivy League degree, and she speaks four languages. Prior to marrying, she was a translator at the United Nations. Her husband is a pediatric surgeon, leaving her career behind her when she married. Due to her unique credentials, the FBI asks her to become an informant, and the target is someone from her past. She grabs the opportunity and runs with it.

Karin Tanabe uses beautifully descriptive writing. Katharina is a super complex character, and there are parts of what she went through that were definitely relatable. Her double life with the new job was exciting. Katharina chose her new job and this new way of life, in a time when it was even less likely than it would be today. There’s something admirable about that even if I wasn’t sure how I felt about all of her actions. That’s the part I loved. It’s ok to feel more than one way about something or someone, and I love books that offer that kind of progressive thought. I’m definitely looking forward to picking up my other books from Tanabe’s backlist.

I received a gifted copy.

Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,294 reviews2,962 followers
July 18, 2021
This book was a little bit different than what I was expecting but I don't consider that a bad thing. The Cold War spying aspect is what got me to read the book in the first place but I actually found myself most interested in the main character's dilemma of balancing motherhood and wanting to have a career outside of the home. Given the story takes place in the 1950s, it was a popular opinion back then that women should just stick to being a wife and mother. I like how the author explored the gender roles in this time period.

By all appearances Katharina Edgeworth seems to have the perfect life. She lives in a Fifth Avenue apartment with her pediatric surgeon husband and two young boys. But Katharina just isn't all that happy. When she was a single woman she worked at the newly opened United Nations as an interpreter and she misses the job, the people, everything. When she is recruited to be an FBI informant she welcomes the opportunity. She'll be tasked with infiltrating the inner circle of a high level Soviet spy. And unless you have been living under a rock, we all know this whole spying thing and danger go hand in hand.

Surprisingly it takes awhile for the informant storyline to really quick off. The author devotes a significant chunk of the story to Katharina's home life. I think it is fair to say this story is much more about Katharina as a character than some spy novel. I received an advance reader's copy and it did not include an Author's Note so I'm not certain if Katharina is based on an real female spy or not. Having read many books in the historical fiction genre, my inkling is this book is more a product of the author's creativity rather than being a strict, mostly fact based novel. Regardless, it was a good idea to focus on this time period that rarely is covered in this genre.

The aftermath of WW2 leaves a lot for writers to explore and certainly gender roles is as good of a subject as any. By far the best parts of the story was the character recognizing she needed more in her life to make her happy. It's such a shame that so many generations of women were led to believe the only job for them was as a wife and mother. The workforce changed during WW2 with so many soldiers sent overseas and women filling in for them at their jobs and managing their households and family. When the war was over, it's like society wanted everything to go back to "normal" and just forget women are capable of handling many responsibilities. This post war time period is bit of a turning point for women and I think it was a great idea of the author to focus in on it for this book.

My recommendation is to read this book with the mindset it the character is the appeal of the story more so than the Cold War elements.

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts expressed are my honest opinion.

Profile Image for Karin.
Author 8 books716 followers
March 11, 2021
Note from the author:

A little about how this book came to be.

Thank you all for thinking about reading/reading/reviewing "A Woman of Intelligence." There are so many excellent books out there and I'm very appreciative every time someone picks up one of mine. As this book is such a personal story for me, I thought I'd give a little backstory. Here goes!

When I pitched my sixth book to St. Martin’s Press, I pitched a very different book than “A Woman of Intelligence.” But halfway through the pitch, at the top of the Flatiron Building, I stopped and said, “Actually, I don’t want to write this book. I can’t write this book.” As my editor tried not to faint, I added, “The only subject I can write about with any authenticity right now is motherhood. But not the good parts of motherhood. I want to write about the postpartum depression, the loss of identity, the utter rage that I’m feeling.” I had two children 18 months apart, and never experienced postpartum depression that comes on as depression. I experienced something else – anger like I had never had before – and a severe loss of identity.

The first time I travelled for work alone, I stood in front of a mirror and cried. I was crying because I did not recognize the woman in the mirror. It wasn’t the physical changes, it was the feeling that I had disappeared. That I had been replaced with someone I didn’t like, and that I didn’t recognize at all.

I remember a few years ago, a very good article went viral called "The Mom Stays in the Picture." It was about how women stop joining their children in photographs because they're not comfortable with the way they look. I related to that, and was thankful for the article, but it also made me think, “What about, the woman stays in the picture? The woman who existed before becoming a mother? Can she stay in the picture? Because she wasn’t for me, and it terrified me, and nearly broke me. Writing this book was part of the healing process, part of me trying to find myself again.

When I was writing, I thought about how much the women, the mothers who came before me had to juggle, and with far fewer resources. The time period I chose for the book, the Fifties, is, I think, one of the decades when women had it the hardest. It was a time when the men came back from war and the women were expected to get married, have babies, and find utter fulfillment. I read a quote from a housewife at the time where she explained, “there was no savoring the experience, only surviving it.” I often felt like that as a new mother, and wanted to lean into the Fifties, an era where so many women “disappeared.”

As Adrienne Rich wrote in her book “Of Woman Born,” which I so wish I'd read as a new mother, “we have no familiar, ready-made name for a woman who defines herself, by choice, neither in relation to children nor to men, who is self-identified, who has chosen herself.” I wanted to write a book where a mother chooses herself. And that’s what this book is. It’s a spy story, and a love story, and a book that I hope captures an era, and a struggle that women still face today, but that is ultimately about a woman choosing herself.

Thanks again for picking up “A Woman of Intelligence.” Please keep in touch.

Karin Tanabe
Profile Image for Brenda.
4,098 reviews2,665 followers
July 6, 2021
Katharina Edgeworth was married to the ideal husband, a doctor of pediatrics, and had two young children, Gerrit, two years old, and Peter, the baby. She should be happy – but she wasn’t. Tom was rarely home, the hospital was his home, and Katharina struggled with the boys with no help from anyone. She had lost her identity and the career she’d loved, working with the United Nations. Once she became pregnant with Gerrit, her job was to be home as a mother, a housewife, a wife. Trapped in the gilded cage that was her life, Katharina didn’t know how to get free. 1954 in New York should have been a time of joy...

When she was approached by a man who told her he was FBI and they had a job for her, she wasn’t sure what to do. But the job as informant, to infiltrate the circle of a man from her past who was involved with the KGB, to carry documents for the FBI – she would do it. But the secrets, lies and dangers would do more to Katharina than she’d expected. What would she do if her cover was blown? Would she see her family again?

A Woman of Intelligence is my first read by Karin Tanabe, and the best thing (for me) about the book was its cover. I love the cover – the contents not so much. Katharina was a hard person to like – she had no discipline over her children and when the eldest child spat in her face because he couldn’t do something he wanted to do, and she did nothing I was gobsmacked! There was no depth to the story, I was unable to get involved, and I didn’t feel anything for any of the characters. I wanted to enjoy it but unfortunately it was not for me.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Janelle.
1,160 reviews141 followers
March 7, 2022
Rina Edgeworth is married to a top doctor, son of an extremely wealthy family, and has two small sons. She lives in an expensive apartment across from Central Park in New York. Sounds like she should have nothing to complain about, right? But it’s the 50s and before marriage she had a great job as an interpreter at the United Nations and she lived an exciting life. Now motherhood with two toddlers and a husband who expects her to be the perfect mother is leaving her overwhelmed. Then she’s approached by a man from the FBI….
I enjoyed reading this book, the early parts have some funny moments and once it gets into the FBI bits I really wanted to know what happened. So why only 3 stars? Well it’s readable but way too long. All the background of Rina’s life didn’t really make me like her all that much and once we do get into the espionage stuff it’s all highly improbable and feels like an add-on. The purpose seems much more about the difficulties of early motherhood not a spy novel. In fact the lack of depth in the spying parts (it’s an interesting time historically, the Cold War, the McCarthy trials, the civil rights movement etc) makes it unsatisfying. So it’s like two books mashed together but it’s highly entertaining, so if read as a light read it’s enjoyable.
Profile Image for Annette.
765 reviews338 followers
December 21, 2020
As the story begins, it’s about family and socializing. It takes a moment to get to those first bits of who she is and who her husband is. And those straight forward written short pieces are the most interesting pieces of this story.

The style of writing is very descriptive with dialogue which doesn’t move the story forward. We get a short glimpse of how she gets a job for UN as a translator. Then the story is filled again with family life and her social life as a student. And the next moment, she gets approached by an FBI agent in regards to a certain person and they want her to work with them. And then again, it’s filled with a lot but I didn’t find it engaging.

I struggled from the very beginning to connect with this story and with the main character. She went to Ivy League school and speaks four languages, works for UN and FBI but turns out to be a character who lacks depth.

There are plenty of readers who appreciate descriptive writing and will enjoy this story. Thus, I do not want to discourage anyone from reaching for this book.

Source: ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Darla.
3,346 reviews526 followers
July 13, 2021
Once again Karin Tanabe has written a book that sheds light on a new dimension of a historical period. This is my fourth book by Tanabe and they are all very different and illuminating. In this case, the main character is a mother in Manhattan with small children during the McCarthy hearings. The Red Scare is real and her former experience with the UN as well as a college relationship with a Soviet plant makes her an ideal recruit for the FBI. The opportunity opens doors for her and relieves her of the chains she feels from full-time motherhood. Although I found Katharina difficult to connect with, I did appreciate spending time in her world. Even though she lives in luxury on 5th Avenue, her life is not without its problems. When her husband, Tom, a pediatric surgeon mentions trying to remove difficulties for her, she wisely comments:
But I don't want to live that way, Tom. When life has no difficulty, it's like a coin with one side.
Well said, Katharina! If you have enjoyed other books by Karin Tanabe, I commend this one to you as well.

Thank you to St. Martins Press for paperback ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Karren  Sandercock .
772 reviews150 followers
June 24, 2021
Katharina looks to have the perfect life, she’s married to Tom Edgeworth a successful pediatric surgeon, and she lives in a beautiful apartment in Manhattan and has two healthy little boys. The woman who can speak four languages, worked as a translator for the United Nation’s, had a busy social life and is now struggling under the pressure of motherhood. Katharina's the daughter of immigrants, her family moved back to Switzerland, she’s on her own and has no support.

When Tom wanted to have children, Rina assumed he would be home sometimes to see her and the children, he’s too busy working and raising money for the hospital. In 1954, Tom’s role was to provide for his family, its Rina’s to look after the children and not complain about it. She loves her boys, being a mother isn’t easy and her eldest son Gerrit is a real handful.

After an extremely bad day Katharina loses the plot, Tom isn’t happy with her behavior, sends her off for a short holiday and it’s a disaster. When she’s approached by the FBI and asked to join them as informant and she grabs the opportunity. Of course she can’t tell anyone what she’s doing, how will Rina juggle full time motherhood, snoopy neighbors and hide what she’s doing from Tom?

Katharina is the perfect for the role, as a past boyfriend Jacob Gornev is now a communist and a Soviet spy. Rina becomes Hanna Graf, she attends communist meetings, carries stolen government documents and film from Washington D.C. to Manhattan. Soon Rina’s life is extremely complicated, things begin to unravel, and Tom thinks she’s either hitting the bottle or having an affair?

Most mothers would understand how Rina felt, she lost herself and her husband Tom is a complete tosser. The story at times was a bit over the top, thanks to NetGalley for my copy of A Woman of Intelligence and three and a half stars from me. https://karrenreadsbooks.blogspot.com/
Profile Image for Marilyn.
805 reviews239 followers
July 22, 2021
3.5 stars rounded up to 4. I listened to the audiobook of A Woman of Intelligence by Karin Tanabe. It was narrated by Jennifer Jill Araya. The narration was performed flawlessly as the narrator easily transitioned between the roles of the various characters in the book. The story of A Woman of Intelligence took place in the late 1940’s and into the 1950’s primarily in New York City. References to the McCarthy hearings and the support for returning soldiers who had served their country during the Second World War were important to the plot of this book. During that time period, women were expected to marry, have babies and stay at home and keep house for their husbands. It was rare to hear of women who continued to work once they started a family. Women, during those years, were seen as one dimensional. Their role as “mother” became their sole and most important responsibility. As mothers, women were meant to loose their own identity and desires and exclusively serve the needs of their children. This time period proved to be extremely difficult for some women. This became Katharina Edgeworth’s life once she gave birth to two active and demanding baby boys merely a little more than a year apart.

Katharina’s husband, Tom, was a brilliant and very well respected pediatric surgeon at Lennox Hill hospital. The only problem was that Tom was at the hospital more than he was at home. Tom did not believe in nannies or babysitters for his children. It wasn’t that they could not afford to have one. It was because he believed that there was no substitute for a child’s mother. Rina, as she liked be called, had no outlets. Her whole existence was her children. Before she became a mother, Rina was an accomplished translator for the United Nations. She loved her job but agreed to give it up when her first son was born. As a full time mother, Rina was beginning to resent the fact that she had to give up her career. She loved her children but she was beginning to question herself and her life and at the same time feel guilty for doing so. Then, one day, Rina was approached by a man from the FBI. He wanted Rina to become an informant for them. There was a man Rina had known from her college days that the FBI had been watching. Jacob Gornev and Rina had been lovers during graduate school. He was living in New York and was a Soviet spy. Could this be the answer Rina was searching for? Could she once again find relevance in her life by becoming an informant for the FBI?

A woman of Intelligence by Karin Tanabe was partly a spy story and partly a love story. It captured an era where women had a hard time “choosing themselves” over their children. The author, Karin Tanabe admitted to borrowing part of the premise for this book on her own experience at motherhood. She had had two children eighteen months apart and therefore experienced first hand the challenges that presented. During the 1950’s, postpartum depression was unheard of. No one recognized the symptoms or addressed it. Mothers were just expected to cope and carry on with their day to day responsibilities with smiles on their faces. I feel that the time period that this book depicted was well researched and represented within the book. It was an enjoyable book that I would recommend.

Thank you to Macmillan Audio for affording me this opportunity to listen to the audiobook of A Woman of Intelligence through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Profile Image for Michelle.
603 reviews457 followers
July 23, 2021

I feel ridiculous giving a book a 1/4 above a full rating, but it's my review and I do what I want, lol.

I will admit, I had a little trepidation when beginning this book since it was rated lower than a 4. I'd never read a Karin Tanabe book before, but I've heard great things and the woman spy in postwar America is certainly interesting enough...so what was it that irked so many people? I haven't yet read those reviews, but I have a suspicion and that is due to the sometimes eye brow raising or questionable things our main character said and did. Katharina Edgeworth is not your typical 50s housewife. She did not lead the typical life prior to being married, nor did she have the typical upbringing most high society women did at that time. Katharina's parents were European and while they lived in the United States, she had a different upbringing. Her mother explains some of these differences in a segment of the book - Katharina was raised in conjunction with an extended family and with multiple languages being spoken (which helped Katharina secure a job working at the newly formed UN as an interpreter later on in her life). Katharina had a masters degree and graduated from Columbia. She was very independent and capable and didn't marry until her early 30s, which must have made her a dinosaur back in the 50s since that's still considered old to get married even now (I myself was married just shy of 32 years old). So my point in bringing all this up is that this character would not be content just hanging all that up and take on the role of mother and housewife with gusto. She feels stifled and unappreciated and underutilized. These feelings are the crux of the book. The push and pull between duty as mother to her two young children, being the supporting housewife to a rising star pediatric doctor and all those roles encompass are what fueled her decision to say yes to helping the FBI.

I very much feel that struggle. While our circumstances are very different, I am struggling with the push and pull of wanting to be successful professionally, but also be the loving and present mother. When you see yourself increasingly become more of a supporting character (professionally speaking) to that of your husband it doesn't sit well because of everything you worked for pre-husband and baby. Does that make you a bad person? No. But it can make you feel like you're unnatural or going against the grain too much. So this book found me at the very right time. I can see myself being very annoyed and dismissive of Katharina for how she acts in this book (pre marriage and child) I am not because I desperately understand what this book was trying to point out.

I think it's okay to not always be comfortable with our main characters in what they say and do, but to try and show them a little empathy. The spy stuff (which I loved) was an added bonus. Would I have marketed the book the way this one was? Probably not, but I enjoyed it just the same.

If you're still reading - thank you and I apologize for the pontificating. It's just funny how books find you at the right time in some instances and how that changes your experience with the book for good or bad. Luckily, this time, it was for the good.

Many thanks to St. Martins Press and Karin Tanabe for the gifted printed copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review Date: 07/23/2021
Publication Date: 07/20/2021
Profile Image for Stacie Lauren.
206 reviews11 followers
September 6, 2021
Based on the description of the novel, I was expecting an entire book about a upperclass wife/mother that gets involved with the FBI and uses her previous experiences as a United Nations translator to perform spy craft. Now while those qualifications were touched upon it took until 50% of the book in order for Katharina Edgeworth to be approached by the FBI. A large majority of the book was about how her life had changed after marrying and how unfulfilling she felt her role as a mother and wife. The parts with Katharina acting as an FBI informant were lackluster. There was very little action or real use of her skills as a translator. I kept expecting the action to pick up and her Masters education from Columbia (that she tells the reader many times she has achieved) to actually help and play a role in the tasks she is asked to complete. I think if you go into this book with the realization that you will just be reading an historical fiction on a 1950s housewife and her struggles then you will be more fulfilled. If you are looking for more Cold War spy action you will be disappointed. The author does a good job recreating the wealthy atmosphere of 1950s New York so I was satisfied with the historical fiction component of the book.

There were some very intriguing female characters in this novel that I wish had been developed into an additional narrator. A fellow translator and lover of life, Marianne, a female lawyer, Faye Buckley Swan, and another spy, Ava Newman. These three female characters lived seemingly exciting lives and had very strong personalities. They were sure of themselves and their chosen lifestyles and all had a very no nonsense attitude. Even combining just one of their perspectives with Katharina's would have broken up her "whoa is me" lifestyle.

Thank you to Macmillan Audio and NetGalley for a free copy of the audiobook in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Georgia.
4 reviews1 follower
October 12, 2020
I absolutely loved A Woman of Intelligence-- another great work of historical fiction by Karin Tanabe. Her attention to detail and accuracy is unparalleled and makes for a particularly authentic reading experience. Had me hooked at page 1 and read it in one sitting.
Profile Image for Bonnie DeMoss.
787 reviews89 followers
July 8, 2021
This review is of the audiobook, received from Macmillan Audio.

On the surface, Katharina Edgeworth has it all--a rich and handsome doctor husband, two gorgeous sons, and an expensive New York apartment. But reality is very different. She is a college graduate who speaks four languages and worked at the United Nations until she got pregnant. She loves her kids, but wants more than motherhood. It is the 1950s, and it is frowned upon for women with children to work. Now she has been forbidden to work or use any babysitters by her controlling husband, who works days at a time, but doesn't want babysitters or anyone else raising his children. When an FBI agent leaves Katharina his card and says he could use her help, she is tempted, but how can she work as a spy while raising two boys practically on her own? To top it all off, her rich and haughty mother-in-law is continually butting into her business, and is even more controlling than her husband.

I enjoyed many aspects of this women's fiction and spy thriller mashup. Katharina's struggle to be more than a housewife in a time when this was discouraged makes an engaging read. Her work for the FBI during the McCarthy era is thrilling. Her friendship with a stunning woman who happened to be a prominent member of the Communist party was one of the best parts of the book. Her determination to use her talents in a fulfilling way for herself is admirable. The characterization of her husband Tom was way over the top. I also did not like some of the choices she made along the way, but overall this was a satisfying and compelling thriller.

The narration of the book is well done, and the narrator handled different characters and accents with ease.

My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Carole.
489 reviews109 followers
September 5, 2021
DNF I will not be rating or reviewing this one because it would be unfair considering that I quit reading more than one third into the book.
Profile Image for all_day_dream_about_books.
99 reviews6 followers
July 20, 2021
I thought this book would be fast-paced and thriller. I had enjoyed reading A Hundred Suns and was very excited for this book when I read the synopsis and the title, but unfortunately it didn't live up to my expectation. The story could have been strong. An educated woman, who is now married to a wealthy doctor and is a stay at home mom, approached by FBI as an undercover agent - this premise seemed interesting, I felt the story just strayed in some chapters.

It is the end of the WWII and everyone is enjoying the new freedom and there is no rationing. Rina, like every other happy, New Yorker, is enjoying her life working eight hours and having the time of her life with her friends. The story is nicely blended from past to present and how she ends up marrying a well to do eligible doctor and enters the high society.

With the backdrop of Cold War, the author has tried writing about a woman, who has everything in life- a good husband, two children and all the wealth which seems perfect to others, is bored since she doesn't have anything to contribute to society or work and build herself. The author could have written it in slightly different and avoided many unnecessary details and made it a fast paced read.
Profile Image for Cindy.
574 reviews14 followers
November 17, 2020
This book starts off strong and initially pulled me in. Then by 23% I started to find it a bit tedious. I enjoyed it as a time piece and was intrigued by her early work at the U.N. I struggled a bit to finish the book

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an early release in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Profile Image for Martie Nees Record.
673 reviews137 followers
April 1, 2021
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pub. Date: June 20, 2021

The woman might have been intelligent but the story was dim-witted. The setting is in NYC in the year1954. Marketed as historical fiction the novel is really women’s fiction centering on an Ivy-League-educated bored homemaker and mother of two young sons. The FBI approaches her to help them on a case with a Russian ex-boyfriend of hers. She agrees while keeping her husband in the dark. (This alone makes this an unbelievable read). Now there are plenty of espionage novels out there where the protagonist is a female. I am guessing some are good but this one just isn’t one of them. To be fair to the author, she does a good job of showing us how hard and underappreciated it is to be a stay-at-home mom. And, I did enjoy her novel, “A Hundred Suns.” In that book, her writing shines. Here it is sophomoric. Or maybe it wasn't the writing, but a plot-line that never seemed credible.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) from Goodreads.

Find all my book reviews at:


Profile Image for Kate Baxter.
557 reviews39 followers
January 28, 2021
Oh, to be intelligent and well educated can be such a blessing, yet often a curse. Such is the realization of the lead character in author Karin Tanabe's, "A Woman of Intelligence".

The year is 1952; the place - New York City.
Katherina West Edgeworth ("Rina" to her friends) - Vassar grad with a Columbia masters, speaks four languages and had been a translator at the fledgling United Nations. That is until her unavoidable change to "motherhood". Her pediatric surgeon husband was well enough off that he felt that she should stay home to raise their children. Rina acquiesced with the caveat that she may go back to work when the children are old enough. For many women, this would be a wonderful situation in which to find oneself. For someone whose educated mind is no longer rigorously challenged and who longs for adult dialogue, this could be the death knell of the person they once were. We observe Rina's struggles, hope and determination and ache alongside her as she finds her way.

Tanabe's writing style is highly descriptive and quite humorous at times. She has captured the New York City "edge" exceedingly well. There's a lot to chew on in this story - subjugation of one's intellect in order to raise children, fear of rising communism in America and family dynamics across the socio-economic spectrum. For the most part, Tanabe handles this well with only the occasional dragging of plot. Her extensive historical research is apparent and solid in the writing. However, it was exceedingly difficult to relate to the main character as frankly, her behavior is not as one would have expected from someone of her academic background. (The perceived boredom seems out of character for someone with Rina's knowledge and previous interests. Loneliness - yes; boredom - no.) That lack of connection and empathy with the main character made it difficult to stick with the story. Yet by the story's end, the characters evolved for the better and satisfying closure is achieved.

I am grateful to Ms. Tanabe and St. Martin's Press for having provided a complimentary uncorrected digital galley of this book. Their generosity, however, has not influenced this review - the words of which are mine alone.
Profile Image for CYIReadBooks (Claire).
590 reviews88 followers
July 20, 2021
Katharina (Rina) West had an exciting life. She used to be a UN translator in four languages. She and her dear friend and co-worker, Marianne Fontaine would paint the town almost nightly until Rina ,met and ,married Dr. Tom Edgeworth. Tom was a pediatric surgeon when he met Rina. Both Tom and Rina hit it off and eventually got married. Little did Rina know that her life would change dramatically.

And change it did when Rina bore two sons born five months apart. At that time, Rina was in love with motherhood. But soon it got to be tedious and her life with children was almost the bane of her existence -- until she met Lee Coldwell, an FBI agent. Lee propositions Rina to spy on an intelligence operative for the Soviet Union and to fish out the traitors.

A Woman of Intelligence is categorized as Women's Fiction and rightly so. It's a sad tale of a woman's loss of self esteem and her plight to get any sense of self worth back.

The character development is well executed. The reader will be able to picture each player in his/her mind's eye.

The plot wasn't that straightforward and it took a long while before any semblance of a storyline occurred.
For some reason, I expected more espionage, but got more midlife crisis, instead. A somewhat disappointing two stars -- it was okay.

I received a digital ARC from St. Martin's Press through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.
Profile Image for Erin.
2,956 reviews485 followers
July 29, 2021
Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for an egalley in exchange for an honest review.

Oh boy! This took me a lot of patience to not chuck this book against the wall. By chapter 9, I was screaming a steady stream of English and French curse words. Maybe it's the July humidity but it felt like a struggling type of read

The novel had a great premise and I think I was craving more hunting down of Soviet spies than an American woman's suffocating marriage to a real douchebag. Also, I don't know why the author felt she had to give the main protagonist a love interest.

Goodreads review published 18/07/21
Expected Publication Date 20/07/21
Profile Image for Veronica Marshall.
289 reviews8 followers
November 12, 2020
Katharina Edgeworth Mother Of two young boys in the socialite rich area. Is supposed to stay at home and take care of them on her own. She is constantly judged, by her husband the Much beloved pediatrican. They can afford a nanny but its believed you can get closer just two wild little boys and a mom. This books takes place during the Commusim Scare in New york. 1952,

She is approached by a FBI agent Coldwell to go on a mission for the good of America to fight the communist and information about someone she knew is pretty high up working with the Soviet Union. So she should go undercover as a communist party member. Mother of two, trying to find time, nosy husband and neighbors. Little nuts. How will she manage it?

Life also shows how Men are the Boss attitude when women have to stay home all day and take care of children. NO help. While the guys can go off and work and have some fun.

It is an amazing book strongly written to never forgot all the famous women civilians who worked for the FBI and still do.

I was given This E-ARc by Netgalley and Wednesday Books for free in exchange for an honest review. I could also see this as an series.
Profile Image for Wendy G.
934 reviews161 followers
October 25, 2021

This is the story about women who lived when the men in America went overseas during WW2 and the women they left behind, some of which took over men's work, be it as a lawyer, translater, or other jobs that belonged to men at this time in America's history. When the men returned, women were supposed to get married, be their wives, and have their babies. So, what about the women who didn't want this life? What about the women who wanted to work and not be pigeonholed? This is the story about what it might have been like to be one of those women. I feel that the difficulties Katerina faced trying to be true to herself were definitely struggles explored in this novel. It was also well narrated. #stmartinspress #awomanofintelligence @karintanabe
Profile Image for Kristie.
5 reviews1 follower
January 25, 2021
Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the ARC. I really wanted to like this, but after getting to roughly 53% of the book and the main character was:

1) still waxing through both flashbacks and current day about being stuck in a gilded cage;
2) only just jumping into the FBI work, but still just mere talking about attending meetings and no real action;
3) reading other Goodreads' members reviews that it doesn't quite improve through the rest of the book,

I finally shelved it away on the DNF list.

While Karin Tanabe does a great job with the historical references re: the UN, New York and the 1950s, and even somewhat with the character development (I really learned to detest that Edgeworth family by 53%, let me tell you), the book overall gets tedious and detailed to the point of "enough already, let's keep it movin'". Slow build-up, maybe it lead somewhere - I'm not really sure ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ since I couldn't keep my interest in Rina, her situation, or her finally delving into the FBI work to keep my interest. Maybe one day I'll come back to it (?).
Profile Image for Melinda.
1,020 reviews
November 20, 2020
Great book for a quick escape. I totally loved Rina - her authenticity, intelligence, her craving for wanting more, her battle with motherhood etc...
Rina made the book pleasing - she had it all but felt like she had nothing and was disillusioned by her life and expectations. Her genuineness was enjoyable.

My only complaint - great premise but her disappearances I just couldn’t buy into. There is no way Rina could have pulled off her hustle in the least. She had way too much going on, not to mention being under the thumb of Tom. No way could she have pulled off all the magic tricks she did. However, rolling along with the story, it made it a quick getaway from the grind of life and I found it entertaining.
Profile Image for Eva K (journeyofthepages).
116 reviews46 followers
June 28, 2021
A Woman of Intelligence by Karin Tanabe, narrated by Jennifer Jill Araya, was an historical fiction novel that had so much potential but it felt like it never fully got off the ground. I kept waiting for the plot to pick up and the thrill to begin, but it never came. Overall this was a pretty flat domestic drama about a bad marriage in high society and a woman's desire to be more but only just barely getting there due to her "duties" as a mother, confined by society. I was on the "edge of my seat" the whole time I listened to this one because it could have taken an exciting turn at any moment! But sadly, I didn't see it happen.

Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for a copy of this book for review!
Profile Image for Robyn.
1,779 reviews118 followers
July 7, 2022
Karin Tanabe

I love, love, love the cover of this book... very Jackie O! That was my first thought... great cover has to be a great book. These are the things that I thought were flawed:

1. I love historical fiction, but I don't think that rewriting history should be done. It is not fair to indicate that in the 1950s a black man could kiss a white woman on the street without repercussions, or that there were Black FBI agents because historical facts do not readily support that. According to the FBI minority history page, there was a Black agent, hired in 1919 and he stayed four years. The next hiring of a Black American did not occur until about 1962.

2. There were really no characters that were likable in the book. Tom, was a disaster as were his mother and father. Mom didn't come around until the end and then only to avoid scandal. Katharina was unable to control her children, was fairly loose and was sort of a drunk. She made terrible decisions and then excused herself freely.

What I thought was about right:

1. I think that women were second-class citizens and largely, Tanabe got that about right. I loved that when Rina begins to show her unhappiness, Tom calls in a doctor. That was about right for the time. That Rina was expected to support her husband to her exclusion also fits what I remember. The Maxwell House coffee commercial, 'walk the plank' sort of thing.

2. I thought the plot was interesting.

In the end, I gave it 2.5 stars and rounded it up to 3.

3 stars

Happy Reading!
Profile Image for Maureen Timerman.
2,816 reviews469 followers
June 28, 2021
As I delved into this book, and got to know Katarina, aka Rina, and her elite Doctor husband, you could envy their way of life. Rich, successful and living the dream in a apartment in Manhattan, who could want more? Then add in two boys, a baby and a young toddler, and you know that Rina has her hands full.
Now Rina is full time mother, and Tom Edgeworth is a gifted children’s surgeon, living an exciting awarding life. Rina gave up her job at the UN, when she was expecting her first son.
I don’t identify with Rina, but in a way, she was slowing dying being a mother. Sad, yes, but for me I kept listening, and really couldn’t picture how she got away with what she did!
There are a lot of emotions in play here, and the narrator does a really great job!
Yes, I kept listening right to the end, and her escapades made for an entertaining and at times breath holding adventures, and yes, I would love to have been there to see Ingrid Bergman and her encounter with our Rina!
I received this book through Net Galley and the Publisher Macmillan Audio, and was not required to give a positive review.
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