Women spies—often notoriously glamorous and driven as much by the thrills as the cause—have customarily used seduction to get what they want. Betty Pack, the subject of this latest biography by Lovell (The Sound of Wings, 1989; Straight on Till Morning, 1987), was a typical woman spy. Not so typical, though, was the significance of her accomplishment. Acknowledged as responsible for providing some of the most important British communications intelligence of WW II, the American-born Pack was a woman ``who took life as she found it, happily meeting challenge after challenge head-on, no matter what the consequences of the collision.'' Described as the most beautiful debutante of the Washington season, she was married at 19 to Arthur Pack, a British diplomat who had impregnated her. The child's birth was kept a secret for many years as Pack, a ``dreadful parent,'' let her son be reared by a foster family in England. Her espionage activities began while stationed in Civil War Spain and continued when her husband was transferred to Poland, where she seduced a top-ranking Pole from whom she learned details of the German Enigma code-machine. Her most significant triumphs, though, came in Washington. There, she seduced and turned an Italian admiral, as well as a Vichy French diplomat from whom she obtained ciphers that gave the Allies vital information about enemy movements. Loyal but unreflective, Pack had methods that were daring and unorthodox—her after-hours nude appearance at the French Embassy so stunned a suspicious nightwatchman that he fled, facilitating the opening of the safe holding the ciphers. Pack's life in France after the war was poignantly anticlimactic; she began writing her memoirs, but died in 1963 from cancer before they were complete. Solid research and tribute paid where due, though Pack, despite all the glamorous and daring things she did, and despite Lovell's best efforts, never quite comes alive here. Disappointing. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: April 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-394-57556-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1992

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

Did you like this book?


Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

Did you like this book?