Karin Tanabe (The Diplomat's Daughter; A Hundred Suns) takes readers deep into the inner life of a society housewife turned FBI informant in her sixth novel, A Woman of Intelligence. The daughter of Swiss immigrants, Katharina Edgeworth speaks four languages, has a graduate degree from Columbia and is bored stiff spending her days caring for her two young boys in 1950s Manhattan. As the postwar fear of Communism sweeps across the U.S., Rina is recruited by FBI agents to collect information about a former lover suspected of Communist activities. Desperate to find a purpose beyond wiping noses and breaking up her boys' arguments (or schmoozing at gala events with her doctor husband), Rina agrees, barely pausing to debate the ethics of spying on someone she once trusted. Before long, she realizes what her handlers already know: she might be in way over her head.
Tanabe's narrative is full of rich period details, from the gilded world of Rina's Upper East Side apartment and wealthy in-laws to her memories of her former work at the fledgling United Nations. Rina herself is a complicated character. Smart and introspective, she married for love and reluctantly gave up her career when she got pregnant, but finds herself bored and frustrated by the constraints of her current life. As she slips into both passivity and self-harm, the opportunity to do something for her country--and be seen simply as a woman again--proves irresistible.
Taut and thoughtful, A Woman of Intelligence vividly portrays a particular moment in American history while capturing a woman's timeless struggle to create her own life. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams