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Shining Through

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From bestselling author Susan Isaacs, Shining Through is a novel of honor, sacrifice, passion, and humor—made into a movie of the same name starring Melanie Griffith, Michael Douglas, and Liam Neeson

It's 1940 and Linda Voss, legal secretary extraordinaire, has a secret. She's head over heels in love with her boss, John Berringer, the pride of the Ivy League. Not that she even has a chance—he'd never take a second look at a German-Jewish girl from Queens who spends her time taking care of her faded beauty of a mother and following bulletins on the war in Europe. For Linda, though, the war will soon become all too real. Engulfing her nation and her life, it will offer opportunities she's never dreamed of. A chance to win the man she wants...a chance to find the love she deserves.

This is vintage Susan Isaacs, a tale of a spirited woman who wisecracks her way into heroism and history—-and into your heart.

464 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 1988

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About the author

Susan Isaacs

60 books441 followers
I was born in a thatched cottage in the Cotswolds. Oh, you want the truth. Fine. I was born in Brooklyn and educated at Queens College. After leaving school, I saw one of those ads: BE A COMPUTER PROGRAMMER! Take our aptitude test. Since I had nothing else in mind, I took the test-and flunked. The guy at the employment agency looked at my resume and mumbled, “You wrote for your college paper? Uh, we have an opening at Seventeen magazine.” That’s how I became a writer.

I liked my job, but I found doing advice to the lovelorn and articles like “How to Write a Letter to a Boy” somewhat short of fulfilling. So, first as a volunteer, then for actual money, I wrote political speeches in my spare time. I did less of that when I met a wonderful guy, Elkan Abramowitz, then a federal prosecutor in the SDNY.

We were married and a little more than a year later, we had Andrew (now a corporate lawyer). Three years later, Elizabeth (now a philosopher and writer) was born. I’d left Seventeen to be home with my kids but continued to to do speeches and the occasional magazine piece. During what free time I had, I read more mysteries than was healthy. Possibly I became deranged, but I thought, I can do this.

And that’s how Compromising Positions, a whodunit with a housewife-detectives set on Long Island came about. Talk about good luck: it was chosen the Main Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, auctioned for paperback, sold to the movies, translated into thirty languages, and became a bestseller. I was a little overwhelmed by the success. However, it’s hard to rise to a state of perpetual cool and go to slick downtown parties when you’re living in the suburbs with a husband, two kids, two dogs, and a mini-van, I simply wrote another book… and then another and another.

About half my works are mysteries, two fall into the category of espionage, and the rest are…well, regular novels. In the horn-tooting department, nearly all my novels have been New York Times bestsellers.

My kids grew up. My husband became a defense lawyer specializing in white collar matters: I call him my house counsel since I’m always consulting him on criminal procedure, the justice system, and law enforcement jargon. Anyway, after forty-five years of writing all sorts of novels—standalones—I decided to write a mystery series. I conceived Corie Geller with a rich enough background to avoid what I’d always been leery of—that doing a series would mean writing the same book over and over, changing only the settings.

I also produced one work of nonfiction, Brave Dames and Wimpettes: What Women are Really Doing on Page and Screen. I wrote a slew of articles, essays, and op-ed pieces as well. Newsday sent me to write about the 2000 presidential campaign, which was one of the greatest thrills of my life-going to both conventions, riding beside John McCain on the Straight Talk Express, interviewing George W. Bush. I also reviewed books for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and Newsday. (My website has far more information about my projects than most people would want to know, but have a look.)

In the mid-1980s, I wrote the screenplay for Paramount’s Compromising Positions which starred Susan Sarandon and Raul Julia. I also wrote and co-produced Touchstone’s Hello Again which starred Shelley Long, Gabriel Byrne, and Judith Ivey. (My fourth novel, Shining Through, set during World War II became the 20th Century Fox movie starring Michael Douglas, Melanie Griffith and Liam Neeson. I would have written the script, except I wasn’t asked.)

Here’s the professional stuff. I’m a recipient of the Writers for Writers Award, the Marymount Manhattan Writing Center Award, and the John Steinbeck Award. I just retired (after over a decade) as chairman of the board of the literary organization, Poets & Writers. I also served as president of Mystery Writers of America. I belong to the National Book Critics Circle, the Creative Coalition, PEN, the Ameri

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5 stars
1,118 (32%)
4 stars
1,281 (37%)
3 stars
829 (24%)
2 stars
159 (4%)
1 star
50 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 241 reviews
Profile Image for Jen.
104 reviews3 followers
November 9, 2013
Full Disclosure: This was one of my favorite comfort books (reread regularly) when I was in my early 20s and I thought it was time for a re-read. So, the five stars are because this book has been so loved. It is not a masterpiece, it does feel just a slight bit dated in some of the attitudes but the story is so fabulous. Isaacs knows how to spin a yarn, shape characters and give them distinctive, compelling voices and the story here is fantastic (would I like an extra chapter to see that first Thanksgiving hinted at on the last page, you bet, but I always long for epilogues). PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MOVIE, which has only the barest minimums to do with the book.
Profile Image for Kate Quinn.
Author 38 books23.3k followers
May 22, 2012
Oh, what a book, and oh, what a heroine. There's nobody quite like Linda; a Jewish-German secretary from Queens with a foul mouth, a wry sense of humor, and enough steel in her spine to build a bridge cable. Linda works for movie-star-handsome Wall Street lawyer John, fantasizing about her boss by day and taking care of her alcoholic mother by night, as Hitler rises in Europe. A passionate love affair and an unplanned pregnancy lead to a marriage proposal from John, but this fairy tale doesn't end at the altar. Marrying John isn't quite the happy ending Linda imagined, and when John's intimidating boss Edward needs a German speaker to handle his secret war correspondence, Linda jumps at the job. From the fringes of the spy business, Linda will land right in the thick of it, sent to Berlin to spy on a Nazi official as D-Day approaches. Linda's unforgettable voice makes the book fly, but the tense and terrifying third act is where it really soars; painting a mesmerizing picture of Hitler's Berlin, the intelligence business (the real intel business, not the James Bond stuff), and of an ordinary woman gutting her way through impossible dangers on common sense and sheer toughness alone. "I wanted to fight as much as any boy who enlisted the day after Pearl Harbor," she tells us, and boy, does she. Note: a movie was made of this book starring Michael Douglas and Melanie Griffith. It sucks.
33 reviews
October 13, 2010
Compromising Positions was Susan Isaacs' first novel. She's since written many since then. All of them are entertaining. A couple have been made into pretty bad movies. My favorites are Compromising Positions, Close Relations, Almost Paradise, and Shining Through, which is really worth reading. It's interesting and entertaining and contains one of the best opening paragraphs (3 paragraphs to be exact) that I've ever read. I've quoted them below.
In 1940, when I was thirty-one and an old maid, while the whole world waited for war, I fell in love with John Berringer.
An office crush. Big deal. Since the invention of the steno pad, a day hasn’t gone by without some secretary glancing up from her Pitman squiggles and suddenly realizing that the man who was mumbling “...and therefore, pursuant to the above...” was the only man in her life who could ever bring her joy.
So there I was, a cliché with a number 2 yellow pencil; a working girl from Queens who’d lost her heart to the pride of the Ivy League.
Profile Image for Ann-Marie.
121 reviews
December 31, 2018
I read this because when I was younger I liked the film starring Melanie Griffith, Michael Douglas, and Liam Neeson. I knew it was based on this book by Susan Isaacs and for years this has been on my to-read list. Now I’ve finally read it and...meh. I wish I could’ve loved it, or at least enjoyed it to a point. But, nope.

The main character, Linda Voss, wasn’t all that likable. She had her moments, but then she’d make some stupid decisions that were frustrating. I felt bad for her though, with the tough family life she had and the bad choices in men. She was supposed to be this smart, sassy, strong heroine, but she didn’t really live up to any of that in my mind. And neither did the spy adventure part or the romance.

If you’ve seen the film and liked it, stick with that. If you haven’t, then you can go into this book without bias. Others loved the book and hated the movie. So to each their own. For me, the movie was something that I liked as a teenager during a very painful and rough time in my life. It was escapism for me and it's what I came across first, thanks to a friend. And that's why for this story, I prefer the movie over the book.
Profile Image for Deb.
170 reviews4 followers
February 28, 2009
Nazis, spys, trains, romance, suspense. What more need I say? This book was good! And I loved the movie. when they play "I'll be seeing you" and Melanie Griffith sees Michael Douglas with another woman. She didn't act like it didn't bother her, she was just honest and had tears in her eyes. It brings to mind that quote from "Sound of Music" There's nothing more irresistible to a man than a woman who's in love with him. Don't know if it's true, but it ought to be.
Profile Image for Laura.
39 reviews
December 19, 2010
This is one of the most boring books I've ever read! The movie, however, is soooo much better and one of my favorites. I saw the movie first and then decided to read the book and I'm glad I did because if I'd read the book first, I probably would have never seen the movie. It was like the director read the book. liked the premise of the book but had to totally rewrite the script to make the movie much more interesting. I highly recommend the movie! The book -- not so much!
Profile Image for Lynn Spencer.
1,211 reviews81 followers
May 26, 2021
First of all, I have to say that this book is almost NOTHING like the movie. It is way, way better. Even though I didn't always like the narrator, Linda Voss, I did love her story. Shining Through is a great big sprawling saga of a 30-something Jewish secretary from Queens. She starts off having a crush on her very WASP-y boss at the law firm. Her knowledge of German and his focus on international law lead Linda down some interesting, if not entirely easy roads.

Those who have seen the movie will primarily remember the WWII German spy plot. That is a part of this book and it is very exciting stuff, but where the spy plot dominates the movie, there is sooo much more going on in the book. It's fair to say that Linda dominates the book. As we follow her adventures, we get to see Linda learn much about the world and herself, some of it good and some of it heart-breaking. There are a few draggy places, but overall it's quite a ride.
84 reviews
February 8, 2011
Not a horrible read once I got about 50 or so pages into it, but up until then I was pretty bored. Ultimately I guess I didn't really care that much for the heroine, nor her voice as narrator.

I felt like the book had an identity crisis. At first you just see a fairly smart girl with a hopeless crush, then you wade through a foolish office romance, then you take a deeper look into romantic and familial relationships, then suddenly you're reading an adventure/spy novel, and finally it turns out it's just a romance after all. Peppered throughout all of this are details about WWII, often incongruous with the surrounding material, but eventually more central to the plot.
Profile Image for Belinda Vlasbaard.
3,270 reviews55 followers
June 13, 2022
4 sterren - Nederlandse hardcover
De glimlach die zij achterliet


'In 1940, toen ik eenendertig en een oude vrijster was en toen de hele wereld op de oorlog wachtte, werd ik verliefd op de mooiste man van Wall Street.'

Zo begint deze hartverwarmende roman over een dappere Amerikaanse secretaresse, die in tijden van nood uitgroeit tot een ware heldin.

Elke nacht droomt Linda Voss van haar baas, de haast onfatsoenlijk aantrekkelijke, briljante en onbereikbare advocaat John Berringer. Nadat Johns chique echtgenote hem heeft verlaten zoekt hij, in een kwetsbaar moment, troost in Linda's bereidwillige armen.

Het seksuele vuurwerk, dat ontstaat verrast beiden volkomen en hun vlammende verhouding leidt zelfs tot een onverwacht huwelijk.

Maar al spoedig ontdekt Linda tot haar grote verdriet, dat John haar bedriegt - dat hij zich nooit los zal kunnen maken van zijn eerste vrouw.

Zijn verraad komt als zo'n enorme schok, dat Linda zich resoluut aanmeldt voor een van de meest gevaarlijke oorlogsmissies naar Berlijn. Gewapend met de recepten van haar joodse grootmoeder en met haar Berlijnse accent moet Linda, vermomd als kokkin, een hels nazi-bolwerk zien te infiltreren.

Het verraad en wat de hoofdpersoon ermee doet. Wat waren er toch dappere vrouwen in de tweede wereldoorlog. Al is het een fictie roman, ik kan me er niet aan intrekken om te vermoeden dat het berust op feiten.
Profile Image for Sonia189.
919 reviews25 followers
May 21, 2019
This was very close to a 5 star, I'd say 4.4
The heroine is truly amazing and she captivated me from the start, and I read it practically full speed.
Despite being an historical partially centered on the fight against the Nazis, this content was not heavy, it was all about Linda, the protagonist, and what her life was like.
The romance one was supposed to read between the lines was quite good but in some moments, not as highlighted as it could.
I liked how Linda dealt with all the aspects of her life and how she was, deep down and against the odds, a wonderfully caring person. Her vulnerabilities through the novel made her human and easy to root for.
I wished some sections weren't as lengthy because they weren't always adding a lot and often I thought they were repetitive.
The end was superb except I'd have liked an epilogue... I didn't want to stop there and have to imagine. I wanted certainty about what would be their future.
Profile Image for Vannetta Chapman.
Author 133 books1,355 followers
December 10, 2020
I had read Shining Through many years ago, and I had also seen the movie starring Michael Douglas and Melanie Griffith which I plan to re-watch this weekend.

Isaacs does a wonderful job of describing the 1930s and 1940s corporate and government scenes, especially the space where those two entities overlap. And who do we find squarely in the middle, but Linda Voss, a lower class NY city gal, a bilingual secretary, a person with German and Jewish relatives.

How Linda becomes a spy for the US government is of course the crux of the story, but it's also about the maturing of a woman in a time when women's roles were changing. Reading it now, 32 years after publication, it seems ludicrous that Linda would come home from a 10 or 12 or 14 hour day in the law firm where her husband works and still go to the kitchen and make a homemade dinner. What? He doesn't even offer to help? Nope. The year is, after all, 1940.

It's a story about the maturing of a young woman and the awakening of a nation. If you're interested in that era, I highly recommend both the book and the movie (which if I remember correctly does have significant differences--but oh, that final scene with Michael Douglas...).

Note: This is a mainstream fiction book of the 1980s, so there are some open bedroom scenes (not overly detailed) and a little language.

Profile Image for Donna Davis.
1,759 reviews237 followers
May 6, 2015
On the whole, I don't read a lot of love stories. I guess I usually find them corny and overly sentimental.

I read Susan Isaacs because she doesn't just write love stories; she writes amazing fiction. Most of her tales are set in the present, but this wonderful little dose of historical fiction was just right for me. It's Isaacs at her best, which means excellent writing.

One of the things I like about her premises (in general) is that she favors either the working class woman, or a woman scorned seeking revenge. Either way she plays it, she does it with vigor and a snappy sense of humor.

This particular story is set during World War II. The protagonist is a dirt-poor secretary with a splendid work ethic. What unfolds, I will leave to the reader to enjoy. As usual, though, Isaacs runs a tight plot despite the thicker-than-average length. She keeps it playing out more and more rapidly, but keeps the cast of characters manageable, so we don't lose track. She keeps events linear, which is much appreciated, especially by those of us who read more than one book at a time.

This is a good time for me to do a search and see if she has written anything I haven't yet read. Loads of fun, as usual!
Profile Image for Margaret.
1,029 reviews331 followers
June 26, 2017
What happens when Cinderella gets her prince? More than you'd think, in this wonderful WWII historical novel -- part romance, part spy thriller -- by Susan Isaacs, one of my favorite writers (this is her only historical; her others are contemporary).

Linda Voss is a thirtyish, half-Jewish secretary in a New York law firm, madly in love with her boss, John Berringer, who's married to Nan Leland, the daughter of Edward Leland, a senior partner in the law firm. When Nan leaves John for another man, Linda's dream comes true...and that's just the beginning of the story.

One of the book's main charms is Linda's forthright, determined, funny personality, which comes through clearly in her first-person narration; this is no shrinking violet of a fairy tale princess Cinderella. Isaacs has a gift for outspoken, feisty heroines, and Linda is one of her best. Sure, the plot is a little unbelievable at times, but Linda's journey from starry-eyed secretary to wartime spy makes for truly compulsive reading.
Profile Image for Elhara.
157 reviews10 followers
September 10, 2009
If I have to know where my book is all the time I rate it a 5. Because the personality of the main character is quite unique, I didn't know what she was going to do next. I suppose some of the story line is somewhat predictable but I was so entranced in reading the words right in front of me I really didn't speculate the course of what was to come.
I enjoy books set in WWII. For all it's hideous nature, it was a time that found ordinary people thinking about how they could aid the war effort. Espionage wasn't a common part to play, but it must have been a boost to moral to think that there amongst their neighbours, family and friends, seemingly average citizens, there were those who did.
This story is a light read with mainly references to war atrocities but Ms Isaacs' writings still were able to capture the horror of this time.
Profile Image for Rebekah.
537 reviews27 followers
April 4, 2023
Read this many years ago, more than once, and loved it. Forgot all about this author. Maybe I'll try another! (One of the few who loved the Movie too!)
Profile Image for Elinor.
Author 3 books168 followers
December 29, 2014
This has been on my wartime reading list for a while, so I decided to tackle it before the year ends. In the past I've enjoyed the wildly popular, often humorous fiction by this author, so I was curious to see how she handled her first foray into historical fiction.

It was the usual quick, entertaining read. My criticism is the timing -- more than half of the book concerns the heroine's affair with her boss in New York. It isn't until WELL into the story that she suddenly, shockingly, (and somewhat unbelievably) becomes a spy in Berlin. It's almost as if the author got tired of writing about affairs of the heart and jumped into a completely different story.

This book was written in 1988 and turned into a movie a few years later with Melanie Griffiths, of all people. I'd like to see if the screenplay made it a more cohesive story. (And one more thing -- I didn't like the title. I don't know who or what was shining through.)

I never review a book on Goodreads that I think is worth less than four stars. If the whole book had been about her spy adventures, it would have deserved five stars.

Profile Image for Lesley.
330 reviews
August 18, 2010
For my birthday I decided to sit down and read one of my favorite books... it's not the best story, not the best writing, just a perfect thriller and love story with a great heroine... I LOVE THIS BOOK!
Profile Image for Jeri.
1,265 reviews29 followers
July 13, 2011
A wonderful book. Forgot that I loved it until Jennifer Wiener reminded me. And hubba hubba, Michael Douglas in the movie version is hot, hot, hot!
Profile Image for Helen Cazadora  De Libros.
280 reviews26 followers
August 21, 2019
Linda es una chica corriente, es secretaria y taquigrafa, y está coladita por su jefe...Pero esto no es Bridget Jones. .
Esta no es una novela se amor, es una novela de espías.
La protagonista sabe alemán a nivel nativo, o sea, casi como si fuera alemana. Y estalla la Segunda Guerra Mundial, y necesitan que alguien no conocido, no registrado, o sea, alguien que no exista para el sistema, vaya a Alemania y consiga cierta información.
Así que Linda no lo piensa, se va, se hace niñera de un oficial alemán cuyos hijos viven en un mundo imaginario donde nada malo ocurre a su alrededor.
Y ve cosas y oye cosas y no las puede contar ni denunciar, porque ella tiene una única misión y todo lo demás.son, digamos "daños colaterales". Y la toman por alemana y se infiltra y todo va bien hasta que empieza a no estarlo y si la pillan lo mejor que le puede pasar es que crean que sólo es una espía...y ya no digo más que al final hago spoilers...
Esta novela de espionaje protagonizada por una mujer es una maravilla, y no sólo por el "woman power", sino porque tiene casi 30 años y su ritmo y enganche no varían.
51 reviews
August 14, 2020
3-3.5 stars.
I have so many mixed feelings about this book. One the one hand, it is an interesting look at what life was like in America and Germany during WWII. I enjoyed some of the humor and romance. The story was pretty interesting.

But on the other hand, it seemed as though Susan Isaacs deliberately made almost all of her characters unlikable. Obviously John is supposed to be a jerk, but I didn't like Linda, either, and all of the other characters were very one-dimensional. She alienated the most important people in her life and made some other really bad choices. This book also felt like it was trying to be too many genres at once: historical fiction, romance, humor, drama, and back to romance at the end, and in my opinion, none of the genres were done very well. I would recommend this book as good historical fiction, but I didn't like the way the romance was done.
Profile Image for Rosario.
875 reviews57 followers
December 4, 2015
I discovered Shining Through in my late teens/early twenties, and read it again and again and again. I reread it again this year after not going back to it for quite a while (I don't have a review of it on the blog, which suggests I hadn't reread it since 2002. That can't be right, surely? I guess I stopped rereading frequently since I started my switch to ebooks). I'm always a little bit worried when I do that, afraid that the book won't be quite as amazing as I remember, or that it might have aged badly. I shouldn't have worried. Shining Through has held up wonderfully.

If at all possible, I would suggest reading this without knowing much about the plot and where it's going, so I'm going to try not to go into too much detail. The story takes place in the early 40s and it's about Linda Voss, a young Jewish woman from Queens. Linda doesn't quite fit in. Girls like her are supposed to go to secretarial school and then just get a job until they get married. Linda did go to secretarial school and got a job at an uptown law firm, but marriage to the men she met never quite felt right. Now she's an old maid, for the standards of the day (31!).

Linda also feels a sense of dissatisfaction with her life. She has nothing in common with the people she works with and lives with. None of them thinks what's going on in Europe has anything to do with them, while she obsessively follows the news and worries. The other secretaries would much rather gossip about the private lives of the partners in the law firm. Linda doesn't care.

Well, actually, she does care about the private life of one of the partners, the very one she works for. Because for all that she's different from the other secretaries, she has managed to become that old cliché, the secretary who's in love with her boss. John Berringer is handsome and cultured and very Ivy League. Linda pictures them gazing into each other's eyes while discussing the war in Europe, him taking her very seriously. Unfortunately, John is married, and to a woman just as Ivy League as himself.

But Linda's life is soon to be shaken up. She will get everything she thought she wanted and discover it's not quite what she expected. She'll also be pulled into the war effort in a way she would never ever have predicted.

This is a story full of memorable characters, drama and adventure. Best of all, there's just as much drama and adventure in the more domestic portions of the story as there is in the non-domestic ones. I also particularly loved the sense of place and time. Is it accurate? I don't really know. I do know it feels real and it's wonderfully vivid.

There are several elements that made this such a favourite for me. First, Linda Voss is one of my favourite characters ever. She's intelligent and funny and brave. I loved her self-awareness, and I also loved how that wasn't perfect and she sometimes managed to blind herself to what was in front of her (Isaacs is good at making sure the reader can see more clearly than her, while not making Linda come across as stupid). She felt real to me, and I loved her. I felt happy with her and felt crushed when she felt crushed. I was terrified for her and felt triumphant with her. I wanted her to be happy.

And this brings me to the romance. I don't want to say much about it, just that although we don't see a great deal of it, it's absolutely perfect and these two people are exactly right for each other. Sometimes it's good to be left wanting more.

The final thing that I adore about this book is the writing. It's narrated from Linda's point of view and her voice feels just right. Isaacs writing is brilliant. She creates characters that feel real, even the tiny secondary ones, and there were many little details and images in this book that stayed in my mind for years. As I reread it this time, I looked forward to old favourites. Isaacs is one of the very few authors, if not the only one, whose voice is so compelling that I would honestly be happy to read her shopping list.

I'm very glad I went back to this book, and I suspect it's going to be reread again soon. I will definitely be rereading other books of Isaacs' soon.


NOTE: The book was made into a 1992 film starring Michael Douglas, Melanie Griffith and Liam Neeson. If you watched it, don't let this put you off. This film differed substantially from the book and, IMO, wasn't anywhere near as good.
204 reviews
August 9, 2021
I got this book from the little free library no knowing how it would be. I was very surprised and delighted with this story. The author was comical with her words and the book was interesting.
Toward the end as exciting as it was, it also seemed unrealistic.

I still enjoyed this book very much.
Profile Image for Dlora.
1,585 reviews
August 10, 2014
Set in the 1940s, this novel shows us the divide in the business world between women's role as secretaries and companions and the men's role as lawyers and thinkers. Women aren't given much credit for an ability to think. The main character, Linda Voss, breaks through that mold, obsessed with the rise of Hitler and making perspicacious conclusions about his impact on Europe and the world. But none of the women want to listen to that (they are more interested in gossip and fashion) and the men won't listen either (women are for sex not political insights). I was glad to leave that behind, as Linda's ability to speak German allows her to help with the US spy effort as a translator and then as an actual spy in Germany toward the end of the war. We move out of the realm of gossipy sex talk and adultery into heroism, nobility, and the gritty details of an undercover life in Germany. (I really hated all of the focus on sex and passion.) Linda is supposedly "naturally lighthearted," she didn't like grimness and appreciated a quality of fun, but the novel had very little lightheartedness and fun; it was grim. And, well yes, World War II was a grim time.

One theme surfacing throughout the book (that added to the grimness) was the idea of classes. In Europe, a person is born into a class; but supposedly in the United States, we have done away with class structure. However, Linda felt oppressed with her station in life, struggling to fit into the upper classes formed by riches, family connections, and education. She never felt she fit in despite her intelligence and moving from poverty to the monied class. However, while in Germany, she realized "in a world of barbarians, the light of simple human decency is so overwhelming, so blinding, that you no longer see things like old silver and Yale and fancy accents."

The writing and story line is good. I was intrigued with this idea: "If a man has some pleasure in one half of his life--home, work--he can usually take pretty much what the other half has to dish out." And I recognized this state in myself at times: "I was overtired the way a little kid gets: clumsy, and so irritable I felt on the verge of tears."

Although the book was stellar in the last quarter, I gave it low stars for the overabundance of sexual content and also the grimness and lack of hope throughout. This was a coming of age story with Linda finding and understanding herself and valuing the right things in life, but it took so long to get there and I didn't like the journey.
Profile Image for Sandy.
820 reviews
July 9, 2014
Linda Voss is the narrator of her own story as a bilingual (English/German) secretary from Queens in a Wall Street law firm in 1940. At age 31, she considers herself an "old maid" with no regrets for turning down early marriage proposals, but clinging to a fantasy love for her brilliant, elegant, gorgeous (and married) boss, John Berringer -- a secret she shares with nobody, not even her closest friend. John's father-in-law, WWI war hero Edward Leland, is a well-respected member of the firm who takes an interest in Linda's unique skills, and gradually develops a working relationship with her that leads to espionage work.

It is Linda's wit and sassy humor in the snappy dialogue that really makes this a tremendous pleasure to read. She hides her deceased father's Jewish heritage because of the rampant anti-Semitism of her working world, and because his family was never religious anyway. Having grown up with a German-speaking grandmother who never stopped longing to return to her home country, Linda knows more about Europe than most Americans and follows the news of Hitler's advances with more awareness and concern than anyone else of her acquaintance. (The other secretaries tease her about her obsession with politics).

Complicated relationships -- working and romantic -- thread through Linda's adventures, first at the law firm, and eventually in Washington, DC, where a new, secret agency (precursor to the CIA) needs her linguistic and analytical skills to get real intelligence on what's happening in Germany, especially after Pearl Harbor and war is declared. Linda has her weak spots (John Berringer, for one -- it takes an agonizingly long time for her to realize he is unworthy of her!), but it's her intelligence, backbone, and calmness even when she is inwardly terrified that makes her such a likable character... and such a perfect spy!

The story gives a vivid picture of life and social strata in 1940 New York City -- from the high-end wheeler-dealers of Manhattan to the blue collar world of Queens (where Linda lives with her alcoholic mother). And when Linda ends up in Berlin, we see through her eyes the contrast in cultures, as well as the terrors of war on a populace.

I don't want to spoil the ending for anyone, so let's just say.... it made me smile.
Profile Image for Katie.
174 reviews107 followers
February 12, 2008
The story is narrated by Linda Voss, a sassy and smart secretary from Queens who works for a top Wall Street law firm. She falls madly in love with her boss, John Berringer, and after his divorce, becomes his next conquest. Through John, she meets Ed Leland, a lawyer who also works in counterintelligence. When the U.S. becomes involved in the war, Linda is compelled to do everything she can to help, partly due to the fact that she is half Jewish, so she takes a job as Ed's secretarial translator. Using her German skills as leverage, she becomes a spy and gains employment in a top Nazi's home. The author writes in a gossipy style, with witty and humorous dialogue. While the plot is mildly entertaining, I feel that overall it is cheesy and unrealistic. The book reads like it is one step up from a Danielle Steel novel, which while fun once in awhile, is definitely not my thing. I recommend this to lovers of chick lit only, if you're looking for serious WWII fiction, stay far away.
Profile Image for Mark.
1,099 reviews138 followers
September 5, 2007
Susan Isaacs is a good writer, and I should sample her other work. This story appealed to me, both from a tension-wartime espionage vantage point and for the love story. The fact that it was made into a horrible movie because of the inexplicable choice of Melanie Griffith as the heroine doesn't detract from the value of the novel. (Choosing Melanie for this character was almost as bad as choosing Julia Roberts as a savvy lawyer in Grisham's "The Pelican Brief.")
138 reviews4 followers
June 21, 2022
I've read this several times, seen the movie , and have this on tape. The movie is good, but doesn't follow the book. The absolute best book and audio book ever.

You won't believe how good Stockard Channing is as the book's reader for the audio book. She's witty and snappy, just like the main character in the book.

Melanie Griffith was so wrong for the part it was unbelievable. She has a baby voice, which couldn't be further from the author's wishes.
Profile Image for Renee.
119 reviews11 followers
May 31, 2016
Frustrating. The writing's decent & the heroine likable, but I had major problems with plot, pacing, and at least one main character.
59 reviews
August 30, 2012
I started reading this book when I was a teenager, and I have read it every couple of years since then. I like Susan Isaacs's sense of humor, but this is my favorite of her stories because of the historical slant (it's set during WWII). Smart and determined main character and some of the best dialogue I've ever read.
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