A Covert Affair - by Jeanette Conant
This is an interesting title for a rather pedantic tale of Julia (McWilliams) and Paul Child’s friend, Jane Foster. This is definitely a non-fiction work that must have entailed a great deal of painstaking research by the author, Jeanette Conant. There are many references to primary sources such as letters, diaries, and government documents.
The question of whether or not Jane Foster really was a spy for the Russians is not answered. The author certainly leads us to believe that Jane probably did provide some confidential materials to others who were actually spies, but also points out that Jane was too disorganized and incapable of the subterfuge necessary for real espionage.
Jane and Julia and Paul were all working for the OSS during World War II. They spent much of that time in India. Jane and Paul were both artists who created drawings, set up the necessary backdrops for developing pamphlets to deceive and mislead the enemy. They also worked to mislead the native populations so that they would side with the Allies rather than the Japanese.
Julia, meanwhile, was the head of the clerical staff who filed all the top-secret paperwork and so she was actually the most informed of all when it came to classified information.
Unfortunately, Jane Foster’s background as a wealthy dilettante with a wealthy father who always supplied her with cash made her a very naïve, idealistic woman who partied too much and couldn’t keep her mouth shut. She passionately believed that the poor countries in that part of the world should be liberated from Imperial rule by the British, French and Dutch after the War, and she wrote reports and spoke out with words that were later used to brand her as a Communist.
During the McCarthy reign of paranoia in the 1950’s, anyone and everyone who looked cross-eyed was branded as a Communist. Jane Foster was accused of being a spy and spent years fighting extradition from France where she had been living.
All of this and more are detailed as Conant brings the threads of all source materials together to update the reader on the lives of Jane, Julia, Paul and a few other real people – up until the time of their deaths.
This is a book of historical non-fiction, despite the titillating title.
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