Mary Bancroft is known to all OSS-addicts as the Boston socialite, living in Zurich, who was Allen Dulles' aide and...



Mary Bancroft is known to all OSS-addicts as the Boston socialite, living in Zurich, who was Allen Dulles' aide and comforter during World War II. ""We can let the work cover the romance--and the romance cover the work,"" he is quoted as saying, in the book's brightest line. Bancroft's intelligence activities have been pretty extensively chronicled, however, and she's not nearly as interesting a personality, on paper, as the facts of her life might suggest. ""Maybe my childhood dreams of excitement and adventure were about to come true,"" says twice-married cosmopolite and Jung-analysand Bancroft, 38 or so, about to meet Dulles. (Jung typed her, to her satisfaction, as an intuitive extrovert.) She was brought up on Beacon Hill by her paternal grandparents (her mother died at her birth, her father remarried)--where her two intimates were the Irish coachman and her stepmother's stepfather C. W. Barron, publisher of the Wall Street Journal (and a demonstrable dynamo), who told her she had ""a nose for news."" With early marriage, ""the edges of who I actually was began to blur."" A daughter and a son ensued, but stuffy husband Sherwin quickly palled; Mary fell in love with pianist/composer/Kodachrome-pioneer Leopold Mannes--who wasn't about to marry her (his mother, for one thing, objected); she didn't fall in love with--but nonetheless married--abusive, cynical Swiss businessman Jean Rufenacht. (Jung later told her she was too insecure to say no.) There was a trip into fast-Nazifying Germany in 1934--followed by years when ""everyone seemed to be living in their radios."" Enter, then, forceful, charming Allen Dulles, the second love of her life--who, as he warned her, wasn't about to marry her either. (Postwar, Mary became friends with his wife.) In a narrative whose tone veers between effusiveness and derogation, her championship of Dulles has at least some snap: big-brother John Foster, she contends, took the wind out of his saris (and prevented him from accepting an HST offer to be ambassador to France). Her intelligence work chiefly involved drawing out prospective informants and, most consumingly, translating the massive manuscript of anti-Hitler plotter Hans Bernd Gisevius (To the Bitter End, 1947). She also lengthily recaps--second-hand--Gisevius' experiences during the aborted 1944 attempt on Hitler's life. And, through Gisevius, she gets to stay at Nuremberg's domicile for defense witnesses, a slightly creepy few pages. Most of this longish book, however, actually conveys very little--by way of information, mood, or drama--except for the occasional scraps of Jung or Dulles intelligence.

Pub Date: June 20, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Morrow

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1983