Review: Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz Williams

When I think of good, solid, historical fiction—one of the first names that comes to mind is Beatriz Williams. Hands down she writes wonderful novels rich with historical detail and characters you can relate to. I have loved many of her books and when I saw she was coming out with this more modern piece of historical fiction, I was all over it. So many of her books are set in the 1940s to 1950s and this book really felt like it was going to have a more modern twist with the Russians and spies.

I bought it when it first came out and then forgot about it until my pre-order arrived…..and then forgot about it again. Every time I cleaned out my bookshelves though, I would see this book and think to myself ‘man I need to read this one’. Then suddenly—-it was time to read it one day out of the blue! I had just finished some other great pieces of historical fiction and I really wanted a tried and proven historical fiction author to read. So I grabbed this one off the self.

What appealed to me most was the time period. I love that it’s got this major spy aspect and was set in post war Europe with a heavy Russian angle. With all that’s going on in the world right now with Russia, I thought it would be interesting to read more about their culture and history even if it’s through an Americanized filter etc. I find the post war time period so fascinating for a number of reasons. So many countries and people were coming off of this horrible war and were just trying to reestablish themselves and there was still a very real threat of espionage and spying so I couldn’t have been more excited to read this one if I tried!

Summary

The New York Times bestselling author of Her Last Flight returns with a gripping and profoundly human story of Cold War espionage and family devotion.

In the autumn of 1948, Iris Digby vanishes from her London home with her American diplomat husband and their two children. The world is shocked by the family’s sensational disappearance. Were they eliminated by the Soviet intelligence service? Or have the Digbys defected to Moscow with a trove of the West’s most vital secrets?

Four years later, Ruth Macallister receives a postcard from the twin sister she hasn’t seen since their catastrophic parting in Rome in the summer of 1940, as war engulfed the continent and Iris fell desperately in love with an enigmatic United States Embassy official named Sasha Digby. Within days, Ruth is on her way to Moscow, posing as the wife of counterintelligence agent Sumner Fox in a precarious plot to extract the Digbys from behind the Iron Curtain.

But the complex truth behind Iris’s marriage defies Ruth’s understanding, and as the sisters race toward safety, a dogged Soviet KGB officer forces them to make a heartbreaking choice between two irreconcilable loyalties. (summary from Goodreads).

Review

I am just not sure about this book. I don’t know that it was Williams’s best example of her talent. It was well researched and interesting historically speaking. But the characters just didn’t do it for me, like at all. I felt no connection to Ruth or Iris and I felt like I kept mixing them up for the first part of the alternating narrative. Ruth’s harshness rankled me and Iris was so ‘innocent’ and that bugged as well. I just generally struggled with both of them and then the two men in the book—-Sumner and Sasha. Sumner felt flat and bland while Sasha was the absolute WORST. There wasn’t a single thing about him that I felt sorry for. I also didn’t understand what Lyumillda’s parts of the story added. Over all it felt choppy and not up to Williams’s usual standard.

But I did finish it so I guess there was something compelling me forward—perhaps it was the hope that it would pick up? It started off promising but then things got a little stale and just bland. I don’t know that I ever felt fully invested in the characters or plot, but I just keep reading and hoping it would get better because Williams is TURLY an amazing writer, I was just so surprised by this one. About the only thing that kept me reading was the setting and spy stuff. It wasn’t exactly James Bond level type stuff but it was mostly interesting and I like trying to figure out who the mole was and why—though it should have been obvious but it wasn’t.

I don’t know this one just left me feeling disappointed and surprised. I had such high hopes for this one and it just fell short. But not short enough to give it only a one star rating. I ended up giving it a two star rating. It wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t great either. I did finish it but it wasn’t my favorite and sometimes felt like a chore to read. It certainly hasn’t put me off to Williams—-I actually am reading another book by her presently. I know a lot of other readers loved this book, so I am in the minority here, but for me this one just lacked the same sparkle and shine that I have come to expect from Williams. This book might be right for the right reader, it just wasn’t for me. It was ok but nothing really stood out to me about this one other than a chaotic plot and bland characters.

Book Info and Rating

Format: 448 pages hardcover

Published: June 1st 2021 by William Morrow Books

ISBN 9780063020788

Review copy provided by personal collection. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.

Rating: 2 stars

Genre: historical fiction

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