What makes one: A Woman of Intelligence

A Novel

by Karin Tanabe

Pub Date 20 Jul 2021

Note: This review is for the audio book version of this title.

Readers note the clever title of this book and consider the possible meanings. Then start reading and enjoy an excellent novel.

Katharina is a multi-lingual graduate of Columbia University who finds employment with the nascent United Nations as the novel begins. She enjoys her life; Katharina finds her career to be fulfilling and she enjoys the flirtatious life of a single woman in a world filled with men. Life seems pretty wonderful.

Soon Katharina falls in love with and marries the estimable Tom. He is a pediatric surgeon who takes saving the lives of children most seriously. He is also a New Yorker with impeccable connections to the most upper of the upper classes. Although Tom has told Katharina that he doesn’t want her to change, it soon becomes evident that this is not true.

Katharina becomes mother to a baby and toddler in short order and leaves her job. She is expected to be the perfect mother, housewife, wife and society lady. But…she balks. Readers who have wondered if they want to have children will think carefully after they read the section of the book where Katharina has a very, very, very bad day and takes off running.

From here, the book layers in espionage. Katharina is led back to a Columbia years boyfriend who is a Communist organizer and to those who are looking to rout out Communists and their sympathizers (against a background of the McCarthy hearings).

The suspense ratchets up as Katherina navigates her two worlds and roles; one that wife and one as potential informer. Katharina meets and works with new people including a Black handler to whom she is very attracted.

No spoilers so no more. Suffice it to say that this is an absorbing read.

As to the narration, I found it to be excellent. There are different voices for the different characters. It was a delight to listen as the story unspooled.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this title. All opinions are my own.

Note: I previously read this author’s earlier novel, The Gilded Years. It is a very different book to this one but also a very good read.

Author: joycesmysteryandfictionbookreviews

I love to read, recommend books and open the world of reading to others. I tutor to ensure that the next generation of readers will know the joys of a good book because their reading skills have improved. I am an avid reader, especially of mysteries and fiction. I believe that two of the world's greatest inventions were the public library and eyeglasses!

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