TITLE : A Beautiful Spy
AUTHOR : Rachel Hore
GENRE : Historical Fiction
FR RATING : ⭐⭐(2.5 Stars)
DATE OF PUBLISHING : 1st March 2021
DISCLAIMER : Thank you, Simon & Schuster UK for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am leaving this review voluntarily.
Rachel Hore’s A Beautiful Spy tells us the story of an ordinary young woman from Edgbaston, who changes her destiny by working as a spy for the British Government. Young Minnie is expected to get married, start a family, and live happily in the role of a house-wife. But she has other plans. She doesn’t want to live an ordinary life, with no excitement. So when a friend offers the chance to be something more and work for a cause, she jumps at the opportunity. Minnie is recruited by MI5 as a spy to monitor the activities of the communists in London. She works with all of her heart and puts all of her efforts into being the best agent possible. Slowly the stress of leading her double life takes a toll on her and makes it impossible to work. With the dangers of her being exposed, she needs to manage her career and keep the mask in place. Will she succeed? Is she going to be in danger from the communists?
The story is based on the true story of Olga Gray, a spy who worked for Maxwell Knight in the 1930s. Her work is the reason justice was done was meted out in the case of the traitorous Percy Glading. I was very much thrilled to learn about the story as it was an intriguing tale of a strong and brave woman who worked in extremely dangerous situations. While A Beautiful Spy is a fictional account of the real-life story, it didn’t fall through in bringing out the character’s reality or her personality effectively, in my opinion. I liked the premise of the book. There were some really interesting plot points and events that I found to be extremely intriguing. I liked the exploration of the different aspects like stress, relationships, dangers.
The writing and pacing were ok. The book was too long and had more of Minnie’s inner monologues and her relationship struggles were at the forefront in the majority of the situations. When it comes to Minnie’s character, I don’t know how much of her character is similar to Olga Gray. All I can say is her motivations to be a spy were to be different and not be like other girls who were happy to stay home and lead a homely life. It felt more of a statement, one that felt a lot like – ‘I am not like other girls’ than the need to be of service to the country, in this case. Minnie formed an unhealthy attachment to her employer and as the story moves on, it’s quite clear, she is only doing her job to make Mr. M happy. I didn’t see her as the brave lady who was mature enough to not fall into unrealistic ideas or fancies. Because this was a character-focused story, I didn’t find her character to be interesting or feel any connection to her. She felt conflicted in her service to the country while spying on people who were good to her. This sort of conflict was realistic and her decline of health due to the increased pressure was appreciated. I wish the character was well developed. I didn’t enjoy her nor did I understand her reasons.
I was not happy about the way the story progressed. With Minnie following instructions from Mr. M, we see her energized by the task of spying only to come crashing down when Mr. M becomes inattentive. This constant flip-flopping was difficult to read about. While there were moments of interesting events, the thread was not followed through. It left me hanging one moment, but then set you up for a different outcome altogether. I would have been fine with the lack of excitement but wanted to see someone who was defined in her character and had more clarity in her thoughts. The focus in my opinion was on her stress and her relationship struggles. I wish the execution of the ideas present in the book was better.
Overall, I wasn’t happy with the book. I wanted to like the character and connect with her. It didn’t happen. So, this is more of a personal preference. I have seen a lot of people say good things about this book. My issue was mainly the execution of the story and I didn’t connect with the character much. I gave the book 2.5 stars and I am really disappointed I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. Having said that, don’t let my rating be the reason you don’t pick it up. If you like historical fiction and character-driven stories, make sure to check this one out. The story is inspired by a real-life spy and her involvement in the takedown of Percy Glading in the 1930s.
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From the Sunday Times bestselling author of Last Letter Home, a Richard & Judy Book Club pick, comes a thrilling story about a woman with an extraordinary life, based on a true story.
Minnie Gray is an ordinary young woman.
She is also a spy for the British government.
It all began in the summer of 1928…
Minnie is supposed to find a nice man, get married and have children. The problem is it doesn’t appeal to her at all. She is working as a secretary, but longs to make a difference.
Then, one day, she gets her chance. She is recruited by the British government as a spy. Under strict instructions not to tell anyone, not even her family, she moves to London and begins her mission – to infiltrate the Communist movement.
She soon gains the trust of important leaders. But as she grows more and more entangled in the workings of the movement, her job becomes increasingly dangerous. Leading a double life is starting to take its toll on her relationships and, feeling more isolated than ever, she starts to wonder how this is all going to end. The Russians are notorious for ruthlessly disposing of people given the slightest suspicion.
What if they find out?
Full of suspense, courage and love, A Beautiful Spy is a stunningly written story about resisting the norm and following your dreams, even if they come with sacrifices.
Source : Goodreads