Book Review: Red Joan by Jennie Rooney

What’s it about?

Cambridge University in 1937 is awash with ideas and idealists – to unworldly Joan it is dazzling. After a chance meeting with Russian-born Sonya and Leo, Joan is swept up in the glamour and energy of the duo, and finds herself growing closer and closer to them both. But allegiance is a slippery thing.

Out of university and working in a government ministry with access to top-secret information, Joan finds her loyalty tested as she is faced with the most difficult question of all: what price would you pay to remain true to yourself? 

My thoughts

I was very grateful to receive a batch of Red Joan to distribute at my book club and overall it was received well and enjoyed.

From the outset Joan comes across as highly intelligent but very naive which allows for the course of events that ensues.  She does seem to think that she’s doing the right thing but never quite sees the bigger picture or quite how much she is being manipulated.  As a reader, this had my emotions switching between frustration at how she was swept along with it all and sympathy for her wanting to fit in and being taken advantage of.

I like books that have a dual timeline and this one was no different.  It flips back and forth between the actual events and the interrogation in the present day.  The book is based on a true story and the fact and fiction are effortlessly weaved together so there are no seams.

Since reading the book I have seen the movie starring Dame Judi Dench. Whilst it was an enjoyable and good adaptation with many parts true to the novel, the book was far better.  So much detail was omitted from the film, in particular regarding Joan’s relationship with her son and why.

This is such an interesting story so do read if you enjoy historical fiction, or a different kind of spy novel, particularly those with their roots based on fact.