A Covert Affair by Jennet Conant
Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS

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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 men and women who were recruited by the citizen spy service, slapped into uniform, and dispatched to wage political warfare in remote outposts in Ceylon, India, and China.

The eager, inexperienced 6 foot 2 inch Julia springs to life in these pages, a gangly golf-playing California girl who had never been farther abroad than Tijuana. Single and thirty years old when she joined the staff of Colonel William Donovan, Julia volunteered to be part of the OSS’s ambitious mission to develop a secret intelligence network across Southeast Asia. Her first post took her to the mountaintop idyll of Kandy, the headquarters of Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, the supreme commander of combined operations. Julia reveled in the glamour and intrigue of her overseas assignment and lifealtering romance with the much older and more sophisticated Paul Child, who took her on trips into the jungle, introduced her to the joys of curry, and insisted on educating both her mind and palate. A painter drafted to build war rooms, Paul was a colorful, complex personality. Conant uses extracts from his letters in which his sharp eye and droll wit capture the day-to-day confusion, excitement, and improbability of being part of a cloak- and-dagger operation.

When Julia and Paul were transferred to Kunming, a rugged outpost at the foot of the Burma Road, they witnessed the chaotic end of the war in China and the beginnings of the Communist revolution that would shake the world. A Covert Affair chronicles their friendship with a brilliant and eccentric array of OSS agents, including Jane Foster, a wealthy, free-spirited artist, and Elizabeth MacDonald, an adventurous young reporter. In Paris after the war, Julia and Paul remained close to their intelligence colleagues as they struggled to start new lives, only to find themselves drawn into a far more terrifying spy drama. Relying on recently unclassified OSS and FBI documents, as well as previously unpublished letters and diaries, Conant vividly depicts a dangerous time in American history, when those who served their country suddenly found themselves called to account for their unpopular opinions and personal relationships.

About Jennet Conant

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Jennet Conant is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington and Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science That Changed the Course of World War II. A former journalist, she has written for Vanity Fair, Esquire, GQ, Newsweek, and The New York Times. She lives in New York City and Sag Harbor, New York.
Published April 5, 2011 by Simon & Schuster. 395 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, War, Political & Social Sciences, Travel. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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The author of three previous accounts of World War II espionage (The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington, 2008, etc.) returns with the story of the Childs and their associates during their turbulent, eventful years with the Office of Strategic Services.

Apr 04 2011 | Read Full Review of A Covert Affair: Julia Child ...

The New York Times

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A group portrait of idealists, including Julia and Paul Child, who served in the O.S.S. during World War II.

Apr 01 2011 | Read Full Review of A Covert Affair: Julia Child ...

Publishers Weekly

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Julia Child's passion for French cuisine began when she and her husband, Paul, moved to Paris in 1948. The couple met in Ceylon in 1944 when both were in the Office of Strategic Services, precursor to

Feb 28 2011 | Read Full Review of A Covert Affair: Julia Child ...

The Washington Times

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At hand is a book that is a classic - and blatantly egregious - instance of a publisher pulling a bait-and-switch sting on an unwary reader. Judging from the title, one would assume it deals with the famed food maven and her husband. Well, one would be wrong: Julia Child is but a bit player in th...

Apr 15 2011 | Read Full Review of A Covert Affair: Julia Child ...

Christian Science Monitor

Foster’s rather tragic story is at the center of much of “A Covert Affair.” Unlike Julia, she became more deeply involved in OSS attempts to harm and discredit America’s enemies – “almost any form of thoroughly amoral activity was condoned,” Conant writes, “when it came to manipulating one’s foe.”

Apr 07 2011 | Read Full Review of A Covert Affair: Julia Child ...

Christian Science Monitor

This time she examines the experiences of Julia and Paul Child – the man who would become Julia’s husband – and several of their American colleagues, all employed by the US Office of Special Services (a precursor to the CIA) during and after World War II.

Apr 07 2011 | Read Full Review of A Covert Affair: Julia Child ...

Washington Independent Review of Books

Paul Child was a 41-year-old bachelor artist when the Office of Strategic Services sent him to Ceylon in 1944 to build a map room for Lord Mountbatten’s war operations in Southeast Asia.

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Tampa Bay Times

When Julia and Paul met a few weeks later he was not impressed — at that time, Paul was spending a great deal of time with Foster — but eventually he switched to Julia.

May 21 2011 | Read Full Review of A Covert Affair: Julia Child ...

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