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Ethel Rosenberg

A Cold War Tragedy

Anne Sebba



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Weidenfeld & Nicolson
29 June 2021
Totally riveting. I couldn't put it down VICTORIA HISLOP Masterful, original and painfully gripping PHILIPPE SANDS A heart-piercingly brilliant book about a woman whose personal life put her in the cross-hairs of history HADLEY FREEMAN I don't think I've ever read a book that has moved me more ANTHONY HOROWITZ A brilliant and fresh take on a famous case SIMON SEBAG MONTEFIORE Ethel Rosenberg's story has been called America's Dreyfus Affair: a catastrophic failure of humanity and justice that continues to haunt the national conscience, and is still being played out with different actors in the lead roles today.

On 19th June 1953 Ethel Rosenberg became the first woman in the US to be executed for a crime other than murder. She was thirty-seven years old and the mother of two small children. Yet even today, at a time when the Cold War seems all too resonant, Ethel's conviction for conspiracy to commit espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union makes her story still controversial. This is an important moment to recount not simply what FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover called the 'trial of the century', but also a timeless human story of a supportive wife, loving mother and courageous idealist who grew up during the Depression with aspirations to become an opera singer. Instead, she found herself battling the social mores of the 1950s and had her life barbarically cut short on the basis of tainted evidence for a crime she almost certainly did not commit.

Anne Sebba's masterly biography makes full use of the dramatic prison letters Ethel exchanged with her husband, lawyer and psychotherapist over a three-year period. Sebba has also interviewed Ethel's two sons and others who knew her, including a fellow prisoner. Ethel's tragic story lays bare a nation deeply divided and reveals what happens when a government motivated by fear tramples on the rights of its citizens.
By:   Anne Sebba
Imprint:   Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 232mm,  Width: 154mm,  Spine: 28mm
Weight:   420g
ISBN:   9781474619615
ISBN 10:   1474619614
Pages:   304
Publication Date:   29 June 2021
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Anne Sebba is one of Britain's most distinguished biographers. Formerly a Reuters correspondent based in London and Rome, she has written ten works of non-fiction, mostly about iconic women, and presented BBC radio documentaries. She is the author of the international bestsellers That Woman, an acclaimed biography of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, and Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved and Died Under Nazi Occupation. She is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research and lives in Richmond, Surrey.

Reviews for Ethel Rosenberg: A Cold War Tragedy

A heart-piercingly brilliant book about a woman whose personal life put her in the cross-hairs of history -- HADLEY FREEMAN Timely, superbly written and ultimately devastating, this is an American tragedy indeed. I don't think I've ever read a book that has moved me more -- ANTHONY HOROWITZ, author of THE MAGPIE MURDERS Totally riveting. I couldn't put it down -- VICTORIA HISLOP Masterful, original and painfully gripping, a historic miscarriage of justice laid bare for our times -- PHILIPPE SANDS, author of EAST WEST STREET Absolutely gripping in so many ways; beautifully written and superbly researched, a brilliant and a fresh take on a famous case. This is simultaneously a Shakespearean tragedy of a woman and family betrayal, a history of American Communism and Soviet espionage in the USA, a very modern story with links to the 21st century and Trump, a web of conspiracies, politics and witch-hunts, and an investigation of treason and justice -- SIMON SEBAG MONTEFIORE A tragic and gripping tale, scrupulously documented, of political chicanery, family betrayal and legal perfidy, Anne's Sebba's book has unnerving echoes in the modern world -- CAROLINE MOOREHEAD An almost unbearably terrible story. I was completely held, absorbed and involved with the story of Ethel's short life. Brilliant ... could not be bettered -- CLAIRE TOMALIN This is a magnificent book, one with a hundred strands, woven together with such skill that the only thought one can have at the end of reading is: how did we never know the true story of this remarkable woman? -- CARMEN CALLIL Was Ethel innocent? Anne Sebba, a masterful storyteller, peels away the layers of historical and sometimes deliberate misinformation to reveal the extraordinary truth. This book will haunt me for some time... -- ANITA ANAND A riveting account of the Dreyfus case of Cold-War America . Ethel Rosenberg's execution in 1953 united the Pope, Einstein and Picasso in condemning her conviction as both a crime against humanity and an assault on America's idea of itself. As Sebba shows to scathing effect, with a message that will strike contemporary nerves, Ethel placed truth above fake news, and being a good wife and mother above being a good Communist. She had wanted to be an opera singer, but here she sings out for all women who have been misunderstood and wronged, and refuse to bow down -- NICHOLAS SHAKESPEARE What a soaring story that challenges on so many levels! Anne Sebba has an uncanny knack of upending historical orthodoxies in compelling style. In this gripping account of Ethel Rosenberg's life and death, she does so again. It's a shocking tale of betrayal, naivety, misogyny and judicial failure. As a woman who maybe loved too well, Ethel remains hard to like, but she's even harder to condemn -- SONIA PURNELL This shattering story of a courageous woman swept up in one of America's greatest miscarriages of justice is enthralling and deeply moving. With her usual brilliance, Anne Sebba has brought to light the real person buried under decades of propaganda and has finally succeeded in humanising Ethel Rosenberg. This book is hugely relevant today, it shows us the perils of allowing ideology and hysteria to take precedence over justice. This is a magnificent work, meticulously researched and skilfully crafted -- ARIANA NEUMANN, author of New York Times bestseller 'When Time Stopped' Anne Sebba's Ethel Rosenberg is a tour de force, a tale of a woman betrayed and executed. Sebba's painstaking research creates a new picture of a woman caught up in accusations, an activist, a devoted mother sent to the electric chair, a tale of idealism and government's demand for a scapegoat, a moving, fascinating picture of the first woman to be executed in the US for espionage. 'Always remember we are innocent', she said as she died. For years, Ethel Rosenberg has been attacked and castigated. Now Sebba's new access to sources and research tells her real story - of a loyal wife, a woman of principle who became public enemy no 1 for a terrified political class and public - and asks us to make up our own minds -- KATE WILLIAMS Riveting . . . A concise yet thorough account of a 1953 miscarriage of justice with alarming relevance today * Kirkus * In Anne Sebba, Ethel Rosenberg has found the ideal biographer, sympathetic without being blind to her faults and a sure understanding of the period [...] Her portrayal is compelling. In particular, it is impossible to read her account of Ethel's last days without being moved. * Literary Review * Seventy years on Anne Sebba has given Ethel Rosenberg a towering memorial. * The Critic * Anne Sebba's riveting reappraisal not only includes previously unseen letters and testimony but also manages to extract Ethel from her marriage...Furthermore, this important and compelling book raises resonant issues around what happens when collective fear leads to hysteria and justice is wilfully ignored. * Spectator * Anne Sebba's brilliant, unforgettable biography is the story of a woman who fell victim to a fatal cocktail of prejudices - anti-Communism, antisemitism and misogyny. * The Jewish Chronicle * powerful...her narrative which clings to the reader like ivy...a feat of empathy... * The Observer * a compelling story of love, betrayal, misplaced idealism, and brutal and legal political manoeuvring * Economist * an engaging portrait of the woman at the centre of a shameful case in US history * The Guardian * an absorbing book * The Tablet * Anne Sebba has written a powerful biography of a wife, mother and woman, caught by a system determined to make an example of her and betrayed by those she thought she could trust. * The Oldie * Sebba's impassioned investigation into this shameful saga concludes that this remarkable woman became a human sacrifice to Red Scare hysteria and 1950s chauvinism. * The Telegraph * Sebba gets her readers under the skin of both Ethel and her era so effectively that this shameful saga had me alternately close to tears and boiling with rage. * The Daily Telegraph *

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