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Who Is Vera Kelly?

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New York City, 1962. Vera Kelly is struggling to make rent and blend into the underground gay scene in Greenwich Village. She's working night shifts at a radio station when her quick wits, sharp tongue, and technical skills get her noticed by a recruiter for the CIA. Next thing she knows she's in Argentina, tasked with wiretapping a congressman and infiltrating a group of New York City, 1962. Vera Kelly is struggling to make rent and blend into the underground gay scene in Greenwich Village. She's working night shifts at a radio station when her quick wits, sharp tongue, and technical skills get her noticed by a recruiter for the CIA. Next thing she knows she's in Argentina, tasked with wiretapping a congressman and infiltrating a group of student activists in Buenos Aires. As Vera becomes more and more enmeshed with the young radicals, the fragile local government begins to split at the seams. When a betrayal leaves her stranded in the wake of a coup, Vera learns war makes for strange and unexpected bedfellows, and she's forced to take extreme measures to save herself. An exhilarating page turner and perceptive coming-of-age story, WHO IS VERA KELLY? introduces an original, wry and whip-smart female spy for the twenty-first century.


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New York City, 1962. Vera Kelly is struggling to make rent and blend into the underground gay scene in Greenwich Village. She's working night shifts at a radio station when her quick wits, sharp tongue, and technical skills get her noticed by a recruiter for the CIA. Next thing she knows she's in Argentina, tasked with wiretapping a congressman and infiltrating a group of New York City, 1962. Vera Kelly is struggling to make rent and blend into the underground gay scene in Greenwich Village. She's working night shifts at a radio station when her quick wits, sharp tongue, and technical skills get her noticed by a recruiter for the CIA. Next thing she knows she's in Argentina, tasked with wiretapping a congressman and infiltrating a group of student activists in Buenos Aires. As Vera becomes more and more enmeshed with the young radicals, the fragile local government begins to split at the seams. When a betrayal leaves her stranded in the wake of a coup, Vera learns war makes for strange and unexpected bedfellows, and she's forced to take extreme measures to save herself. An exhilarating page turner and perceptive coming-of-age story, WHO IS VERA KELLY? introduces an original, wry and whip-smart female spy for the twenty-first century.

30 review for Who Is Vera Kelly?

  1. 3 out of 5

    Navessa

    “Call the State Department. I’m CIA.” Ooooh, this was good. Part spy thriller, part character study, and part historical fiction. This book is told through a delicate interweaving of past and present. The past chapters chronicle the Vera’s youth, her troubled relationship with her mother, her brief stint in juvie, her sexual awakening, and the work that eventually leads to her recruitment by the CIA. The present chapters take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, circa 1966, in the months prior to t “Call the State Department. I’m CIA.” Ooooh, this was good. Part spy thriller, part character study, and part historical fiction. This book is told through a delicate interweaving of past and present. The past chapters chronicle the Vera’s youth, her troubled relationship with her mother, her brief stint in juvie, her sexual awakening, and the work that eventually leads to her recruitment by the CIA. The present chapters take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, circa 1966, in the months prior to the Argentine Revolution – which led to the country’s period of a military-dominated authoritarian-beurocratic state. If you go into this expecting full-blown James Bond, you’ll be disappointed. It doesn’t just jump right into the action; it sets the stage first. The first 40% is mostly made up of stake-out mode and flashback chapters. That’s not to say they’re boring. I flew through them. It’s obvious Knecht did her research here, and because of this, that awesome thing happened to me where I forgot that I was reading and simply felt like I was living this story through Vera’s eyes. Her specialty is electronics, namely wiretapping. When she first arrives in country, her contact helps her get a bug placed in the vice president’s office and sets her up with a room to listen from. The rest is up to her. She's tasked with posing as a student, and ordered to work against the KGB influence she’s been told is enthralling some of the up and coming Marxists at the university. Vera is a really relatable character. This is her first big solo mission, so you’re right there with her when it comes to nerves and anticipation while you’re reading. Around the halfway mark things start to go sideways. A military coup, betrayal, entrapment, followed by Vera’s wild attempt to escape the country alongside the students she was spying on. I can’t recommend this enough for anyone looking for a women-driven, realistic, spy story. From what I can tell, this isn’t a series, and I’m a bit bummed about that. Because I would love to read novel after novel about Vera’s exploits, and watch her really come into her own as a CIA agent. ONE CAN ONLY HOPE THE AUTHOR SEES THIS REVIEW AND COMES THROUGH FOR ME. This review can also be found on The Alliterates.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I received this book for free from the publisher (Tin House Books) in exchange for an honest review. I give this book 3.5 stars which rounds up to 4. This book is a slow burn. It’s not your typical spy novel. It’s on the slow side and there isn’t much action. I was expecting some twists and turns to the story, but that wasn’t what I got. It was a pretty straightforward plot. As a spy novel, it was a bit lackluster. I also felt that the spy parts could have been developed more because all the eve I received this book for free from the publisher (Tin House Books) in exchange for an honest review. I give this book 3.5 stars which rounds up to 4. This book is a slow burn. It’s not your typical spy novel. It’s on the slow side and there isn’t much action. I was expecting some twists and turns to the story, but that wasn’t what I got. It was a pretty straightforward plot. As a spy novel, it was a bit lackluster. I also felt that the spy parts could have been developed more because all the events seemed to move at lightning speed. I would have loved to seen more of Vera’s day to day life as a spy and more of her interactions with her fellow students. As a work of literary fiction, this book was more successful. I actually enjoyed the flashbacks to her youth a lot more than the spy parts. I liked unraveling who Vera was and how she got to be the person she is. I particularly liked the parts about her sexuality because it shed light on how different things were for the LGBT community back in the 50’s and 60’s. Overall, I was a bit underwhelmed by the spy aspect, but was satisfied with Vera’s character development. For more book reviews, be sure to check out my blog: https://oddandbookish.wordpress.com/

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    The swirling politics of Argentina in 1966 attracted the CIA, the KGB, and various Argentinian revolutionaries. In June 1966, a coup headed by General Juan Carlos Ongania was successful and resulted in him becoming the de facto president. He was opposed to both liberal democracy and to Communism. Knecht has used this chaotic period in Argentina’s history as the backdrop for Vera Kelly’s CIA spying activities. Vera’s cover story is that she is a Canadian student. The CIA has identified a group of The swirling politics of Argentina in 1966 attracted the CIA, the KGB, and various Argentinian revolutionaries. In June 1966, a coup headed by General Juan Carlos Ongania was successful and resulted in him becoming the de facto president. He was opposed to both liberal democracy and to Communism. Knecht has used this chaotic period in Argentina’s history as the backdrop for Vera Kelly’s CIA spying activities. Vera’s cover story is that she is a Canadian student. The CIA has identified a group of students they suspect as being aligned with the KGB. Her job is to discover what they are up to. Vera is adept at installing ‘bugs’ and listening to conversations—all while pretending to be a typical university student. But Vera has been adept at hiding her real self for quite some time. She has struggled with her own Lesbian desires and hiding them from others for years. Knecht takes her time setting up the story—Vera’s backstory in the form of flashbacks, the various CIA handlers, and the students who seem to have revolution on their minds. Eventually the coup happens, bombs are discovered, and Vera is left in-country by the CIA, even though her handler has betrayed her. Fortunately, Vera is a woman who ‘thinks on her feet’. It is fun to be reading about a female spy for a change, despite Knecht's uneven writing.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lata

    Not a James Bondian spy story at all, thank goodness. Vera Kelly is in Argentina in 1966 to conduct surveillance. With her cover as a Canadian student, she encounters other students at night, and by day listens to recordings, passing on translated transcriptions and other bits of information to her CIA handler. Vera comes off as quiet and conscientious in her work, while the various students and others she meets appear to like her. Rosalie Knecht gives us an interesting portrayal of a young woman Not a James Bondian spy story at all, thank goodness. Vera Kelly is in Argentina in 1966 to conduct surveillance. With her cover as a Canadian student, she encounters other students at night, and by day listens to recordings, passing on translated transcriptions and other bits of information to her CIA handler. Vera comes off as quiet and conscientious in her work, while the various students and others she meets appear to like her. Rosalie Knecht gives us an interesting portrayal of a young woman working for the CIA, and insight into the young Vera Kelly. The author alternates between Vera's present in 1966 (pre- and post-coup), and her past in 1955, when we see a confused, deeply unhappy young woman trying to understand herself and her feelings for her closest friend, and her abusive relationship with her mother. I liked the way the author alternated between the past and present in successive chapters, so we could see each major step in Vera's life that brought her to a dingy room, carefully transcribing conversations of people the CIA was interested in as part of the CIA's efforts to destabilize and profit from the situation. The author leaves the ending somewhat open, and while there doesn't appear to be any further Vera story on the horizon, I'd like to read more about this character.

  5. 3 out of 5

    Janelle

    Thank you so much to Tin House for providing my free copy of WHO IS VERA KELLY? by Rosalie Knecht - all opinions are my own. I really enjoyed this book! And can we just take a moment to admire this cover?!! It’s PERFECT and really showcases the story inside! I really loved the character Vera. So much so, I would love to see this as a series. It’s not a typical spy novel but rather more of a short piece of literary fiction about a spy. The book is short with chapters that alternate between past an Thank you so much to Tin House for providing my free copy of WHO IS VERA KELLY? by Rosalie Knecht - all opinions are my own. I really enjoyed this book! And can we just take a moment to admire this cover?!! It’s PERFECT and really showcases the story inside! I really loved the character Vera. So much so, I would love to see this as a series. It’s not a typical spy novel but rather more of a short piece of literary fiction about a spy. The book is short with chapters that alternate between past and present. In the 1960’s, Vera is a CIA agent stationed in Argentina. Her assignment is to infiltrate a group of student radicals and wiretap a congressman. A betrayal leaves her stranded during the wake of a coup, so she must use whatever skills necessary to survive. My favorite aspect of the book are the chapters about Vera’s past! I just love a good backstory! I highly recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction with an espionage edge!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Scott S.

    Who is Vera Kelly? is an interesting and original little historical espionage novel, with its chapters alternating between the main character's presence during the lead-up to the Argentine Revolution in mid-1966 AND her problematic teen years in conventional suburban Maryland of the late 50's. You see, Ms. Kelly is a CIA operative (though not in a James Bond or Jason Bourne sense) working solo in Buenos Aires with a dual purpose - observe / infiltrate the local student revolutionaries as well as Who is Vera Kelly? is an interesting and original little historical espionage novel, with its chapters alternating between the main character's presence during the lead-up to the Argentine Revolution in mid-1966 AND her problematic teen years in conventional suburban Maryland of the late 50's. You see, Ms. Kelly is a CIA operative (though not in a James Bond or Jason Bourne sense) working solo in Buenos Aires with a dual purpose - observe / infiltrate the local student revolutionaries as well as 'bugging' government offices for potential coup information. However, she is also gay (back in the pre-Stonewall era) and flashbacks detail how she fell into the job after her life went awry. There is one particular moment, late in the story, that was the most quietly heartbreaking (for both the character and the reader, if the story has you hooked) fictional scene I've read this year. I think this book has cinematic possibilities, and I would like to see Jennifer Lawrence (with dark hair, a la Silver Linings Playbook) - also while she is still under 30 years old - in the title role.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ace

    At first this was a confusing mash of back and forward of Vera's younger years and her current presence in Argentina, as Anna, and by about half way through I wasn't sure I was keeping up with the politics in government and within the student community. It was losing me, but then the June 1966 coup occured and it suddenly settled and the Vera and Anna threads started to weave together quite tightly and I was gripped until the end. 3 stars

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This is not your mother’s spy novel (no offense, moms). Rosalie Knecht is the knockout champion of suspenseful stories, and she really packs a page-turning punch with WHO IS VERA KELLY? Her literary footwork is impressive, deftly weaving political intrigue and heartfelt drama into a one-two knockout that will leave you dazzled. Who is Vera Kelly? She is a CIA spy whose latest assignment is to monitor the growing political unrest in Argentina and to sniff out any KGB activity. She finds herself e This is not your mother’s spy novel (no offense, moms). Rosalie Knecht is the knockout champion of suspenseful stories, and she really packs a page-turning punch with WHO IS VERA KELLY? Her literary footwork is impressive, deftly weaving political intrigue and heartfelt drama into a one-two knockout that will leave you dazzled. Who is Vera Kelly? She is a CIA spy whose latest assignment is to monitor the growing political unrest in Argentina and to sniff out any KGB activity. She finds herself entangled with a group of student activists, and as the situation turns haywire, Vera starts to doubt both her allies and her chances of surviving this mission. But: who IS Vera Kelly? The best spy is one with no attachments, and Vera Kelly is an island, separated from her past by an ocean of estrangement. Knecht gracefully balances Kelly’s independent streak with a hunger for connection. Her writing really shines when she portrays the turmoil of a queer person yearning for a space to exist, both with the object of her desire and in a society that actively rejects her existence. Knecht skillfully draws parallels between the life of disguise and deception necessitated by Vera’s career and the double life she leads as a queer woman exploring her desires in closed spaces. Though Kelly’s mission comprises most of the novel’s action, her interpersonal relationships and character development are just as compelling. You know when the written dialogue is so good that you can see it happening before your eyes? Knecht really nails her characters’ personalities and motivations, and I read most of this book as if a movie was playing out in my head. A spy novel that refuses to fit neatly into that genre, WHO IS VERA KELLY? is as sexy as it is brilliant, and as endearing as it is adrenaline-pumping. The novel leaves no question about Knecht’s freakishly-good talents, and her ability to write an earnest narrative with enough complexity to merit at least a few re-reads. If WHO IS VERA KELLY? is any indication of what’s to come, I can’t wait to see what Knecht gifts us with next.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Willis

    Rosalie Knecht’s Who Is Vera Kelly? is a spy novel for readers who avoid spy novels. It’s a page turner that stunningly evokes both 1960s Argentina, and the trauma of growing up queer in 1950s and 60s America. Vera Kelly is a CIA agent monitoring student activists (who are purportedly affiliated with the KGB) in a politically tumultuous Buenos Aires. Vera, operating incognito both professionally and romantically, spirals down the rabbit hole as she becomes ever more involved in these fiery stude Rosalie Knecht’s Who Is Vera Kelly? is a spy novel for readers who avoid spy novels. It’s a page turner that stunningly evokes both 1960s Argentina, and the trauma of growing up queer in 1950s and 60s America. Vera Kelly is a CIA agent monitoring student activists (who are purportedly affiliated with the KGB) in a politically tumultuous Buenos Aires. Vera, operating incognito both professionally and romantically, spirals down the rabbit hole as she becomes ever more involved in these fiery student social circles. By exploring Vera’s memories and experiences, Knecht considers what it means to be pushed to the margins of one’s society, to be unmoored, to live one’s life, both literally and metaphorically, under an alias. Who Is Vera Kelly?, espionage thriller cum bildungsroman, is a cinematic tour de force.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Erin Glover

    It’s a fun read. In fact, I read most of it in one sitting. But I closed the book and said out loud, “Nah, never happen.” All the elements are there. It should be a really good book. It just isn’t. It’s 1966. Vera is quirky and shy. Kind of the tech nerd type. She’s in Buenos Aires pretending to be Canadian and a college student while engaging in suspect activities for a suspect entity. She’s mysterious about her sexual preference. Pretty juicy so far. The parties she’s surveilling could be KGB It’s a fun read. In fact, I read most of it in one sitting. But I closed the book and said out loud, “Nah, never happen.” All the elements are there. It should be a really good book. It just isn’t. It’s 1966. Vera is quirky and shy. Kind of the tech nerd type. She’s in Buenos Aires pretending to be Canadian and a college student while engaging in suspect activities for a suspect entity. She’s mysterious about her sexual preference. Pretty juicy so far. The parties she’s surveilling could be KGB agents. Or they could be regular college students, one of whom is either bi or lesbian. Her contact back in the states, Gerry, is unreliable. We don’t even discover who he is until 75% of the way through the novel. Backing up, it’s 1957 in affluent Chevy Chase, Maryland. Vera is a teenager and her domineering mother has forbidden her from seeing her best friend in the world. Vera might even be in love with Joanne. Vera does some bad things like overdosing on sleep medicine and stealing her mother’s car after her mother hits her. But her mother’s responses are outrageous. Vera leaves home. After a few dead-end jobs, she ends up with the mystery job in Argentina. Knecht alternates chapters between her teen years and the time she spends in Argentina. This technique works well for the pacing, keeping it moving. Something is off-kilter. Maybe it’s the structure of the novel. Maybe it’s too unbelievable. Vera is likeable. Maybe that’s the problem. She’s too likeable for the job she has. I had high hopes for Who Is Vera Kelly. I want to read a novel in this genre with a strong female protagonist. Vera Kelly doesn’t work well for the part. Maybe another author can take auditions.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Oriana

    This book is an absolute gem. I first heard about it from an odd source (for me) — Elle magazine, which enticed readers to "view the Cold War from another angle in this spy novel about a young American woman embedded in a group of Buenos Aires activists in the 1960s." Then I completely forgot about it for several months. Then on a random trip to the Strand it leapt out at me from the shelves, so. Anyway! It's indeed about an American twenty-something who's a spy in Buenos Aires during the Cold This book is an absolute gem. I first heard about it from an odd source (for me) — Elle magazine, which enticed readers to "view the Cold War from another angle in this spy novel about a young American woman embedded in a group of Buenos Aires activists in the 1960s." Then I completely forgot about it for several months. Then on a random trip to the Strand it leapt out at me from the shelves, so. Anyway! It's indeed about an American twenty-something who's a spy in Buenos Aires during the Cold War, which, in parallel, tells the story of her semi-juvenile-delinquent childhood in Maryland, her young adulthood in New York City, and what on earth brought her all the way to Argentina. She's also gay, but that's just one element of her character, not a huge focus, which I think is perfectly done. The book is filled with delightful and evocative descriptions, deft plot maneuvers, and excellently realized characters. It's moody but sharp, compelling and very believable. It's in its way a tense whodunit, but it's also exceedingly clever and, ultimately, funny in a fairly heartbreaking way. Three or four or ten cheers — what a charmer.

  12. 3 out of 5

    Katie

    Who is Vera Kelly? is a fast, easy read. Rosalie Knecht’s writing is clear and sharp and I raced through the book in less than a day. Using chapters that alternate between Vera’s past and present, Knecht weaves a coming of age story into a political thriller. There is a lot to love about this novel, but I also found myself feeling disconnected at times. For me, Who is Vera Kelly? is a solid three stars. If you like plot driven novels, especially about spies, or historical fiction, this might be Who is Vera Kelly? is a fast, easy read. Rosalie Knecht’s writing is clear and sharp and I raced through the book in less than a day. Using chapters that alternate between Vera’s past and present, Knecht weaves a coming of age story into a political thriller. There is a lot to love about this novel, but I also found myself feeling disconnected at times. For me, Who is Vera Kelly? is a solid three stars. If you like plot driven novels, especially about spies, or historical fiction, this might be a great book for you. The majority of the novel takes place in Argentina in the 1960s. Vera is stationed in Buenos Aires as a CIA agent who is tasked with both wiretapping a congressman and infiltrating a group of student radicals. In the wake of a coup, Vera finds herself stranded and must use her charm and street smarts to survive. To be honest, I never fully connected with this portion of Vera’s story. I'm generally more of a character driven reader and the political storyline left me wanting. I never felt dread. My heart never pounded. I never gasped in shock. And although I raced through these chapters, it was more so I could find my way back to Vera’s youth, than any driving need to find out what happened next in the plot. In contrast, I was FULLY engaged with the chapters that examined Vera's past. These sections were heavily character driven and explored Vera’s relationship with her mother, her blossoming sexuality, and the challenges she faced as a queer woman in the 1960s. Without a doubt, this was the strongest part of the novel for me and what kept me reading. Tin House was generous enough to send me an early copy of Who is Vera Kelly? to read and review. Who is Vera Kelly? will be out in June. If you love a good spy story, check it out!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kate Olson

    Thanks to Tin House for this free review copy! * I can honestly say that I didn't know just how much I needed to read a spy novel about a female CIA agent in 1960s Buenos Aires.......and then I read this book and realized I was obviously aching for this in my life. I stayed up way, way, way past my bedtime inhaling Vera's adventures that alternate between the years leading up to her CIA career and her mission in Buenos Aires ~ both of these storylines were fascinating to me, and I deeply appreciat Thanks to Tin House for this free review copy! * I can honestly say that I didn't know just how much I needed to read a spy novel about a female CIA agent in 1960s Buenos Aires.......and then I read this book and realized I was obviously aching for this in my life. I stayed up way, way, way past my bedtime inhaling Vera's adventures that alternate between the years leading up to her CIA career and her mission in Buenos Aires ~ both of these storylines were fascinating to me, and I deeply appreciated Vera's fierce independence and ingenuity. * Oh, and bonus points to me for reading this during Pride Month! Vera's self-analysis of her sexuality definitely added to the depth of her character and I loved how Knecht expertly wove romantic feelings into the narrative without watering down the spy storyline. * Highly recommended for readers of mystery and spy fiction, and for those who love nothing better than a kickass female lead.

  14. 3 out of 5

    Rosemarie Donzanti

    Really a 3.5 rating. This book is in parts historical fiction, a character study, and an espionage thriller. Vera Kelly is complex and she lives her life on the down low. The chapters alternate between her current life, 1966 Argentina, where she is a spy for the CIA in Buenos Aires and the late 1950's where she is a troubled teen hiding her true sexual orientation. Vera is deeply involved with the CIA, the KGB, and various Argentinian revolutionaries. She is an incredibly ball-sy loner who leads Really a 3.5 rating. This book is in parts historical fiction, a character study, and an espionage thriller. Vera Kelly is complex and she lives her life on the down low. The chapters alternate between her current life, 1966 Argentina, where she is a spy for the CIA in Buenos Aires and the late 1950's where she is a troubled teen hiding her true sexual orientation. Vera is deeply involved with the CIA, the KGB, and various Argentinian revolutionaries. She is an incredibly ball-sy loner who leads a life filled with adventure and risk. A quick easy read for cold dark winter nights accompanied by a roaring fireplace and a warm cup of tea.

  15. 3 out of 5

    Matthew

    This novel was a slow burn for me, but by the end I was hooked. I love books that turn genre inside out, and Vera Kelly definitely does that. Funny and sharp.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Aleksandra

    The book failed to reach its full potential despite an interesting concept. I’m going to point the most annoying thing about the book first. ”The American objective in cover ops was to preserve democracy.” I honestly laughed out loud when I read it. It’s in the very beginning of the story and the book was told from Vera’s pov, so if she believed it then, it’s in the text. But my main complain that the intrusive foreign policy of the US isn’t really properly condemned or addressed in its complexi The book failed to reach its full potential despite an interesting concept. I’m going to point the most annoying thing about the book first. ”The American objective in cover ops was to preserve democracy.” I honestly laughed out loud when I read it. It’s in the very beginning of the story and the book was told from Vera’s pov, so if she believed it then, it’s in the text. But my main complain that the intrusive foreign policy of the US isn’t really properly condemned or addressed in its complexity. Yes, in the end we see this dialogue between Vera and her CIA handler: “It’s a war, Vera.” “That’s the thing, Gerry. It’s not. It’s a game.” While I appreciate the change of sentiment from Preservers of Democracy, it’s not nearly enough to encompass the damage done. I might have felt better about the narrative if it weren’t so lukewarm. And that’s my other big complain to the book. It was rather unexciting. For female lead spy thriller set in 1960s the book isn’t thrilling or suspenseful. One of the strong points of the book it’s quiet realistic take of spy work, as I imagine it is, I’m not a spy. Don’t expect James Bond type of extravaganza from this novel. But the line between slowly paced and steady novel and boring novel is thin here and not in favor of Who is Vera Kelly?. Let’s end the review on good aspects of the book (I’m rating the novel as 3 stars, I did have a good time reading it): * historical fiction. I loved learning about Vera’s life in 1950-60s in USA as a queer independent woman and later her life in Buenos Aires. This is the type of funeducation I like but I can’t really tell how historically accurate everything was tho. * The writing is solid, it’s readable. I have issues with the plot development (re: unsuspensful story) but it was easy to follow thanks to simplistic writing * Vera is cool. I wish I liked her more (I’m blaming it on the lukewarmness of the book). Vera is queer, she’s spy (she’s expert in radio communication). The narration is frank about her partners, she had several partners and relationships over the course of the book. But they are on the background. Vera is tend to prefer woman. Vera is smart, she knows several languages and I loved her calm and confidence. * Vera/Victoria dynamics were interesting and complex. * Dual plotline between the present operation in Argentina and Vera’s life before CIA * Buenos Aires <3 It made me so happy to recognize the places where Vera went, I need to read more books set in Buenos Aires. To sum up, Who is Vera Kelly? is standalone adult novel about CIA spy, operating in 1960s in Buenos Aires. Starring bisexual female lead, the book is definitely stands out. I would recommend to check it out for historical elements and for the main character herself. If you’re a fan of spy thriller, I’m afraid you won’t particularly enjoy the book. CW: parental abuse (by mother)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Shelly

    Thanks to Tin House for sending me this book as part of the Galley Club (where you get a free book in exchange for an honest review and feedback). When I first heard of this book, I expected a spy novel, like a female James Bond book. It is that with Vera's time as a spy in Argentina. But I think the title tells you more of what the story really is. It's about the general person of Vera Kelly and what made her who she ends up being (the spy experience is part of that). The book alternates betwee Thanks to Tin House for sending me this book as part of the Galley Club (where you get a free book in exchange for an honest review and feedback). When I first heard of this book, I expected a spy novel, like a female James Bond book. It is that with Vera's time as a spy in Argentina. But I think the title tells you more of what the story really is. It's about the general person of Vera Kelly and what made her who she ends up being (the spy experience is part of that). The book alternates between short chapters of flashbacks starting when Vera's 17 and her spying in Argentina. I'm not big on YA. I read it sometimes, but it's definitely not my favorite type of book. Yet, the flashbacks were my favorite part of the book. I enjoyed seeing what made Vera who she is. I also tend to enjoy books that are all about the characters, rather than action adventure types. And it ends up being more literary fiction and less action adventure novel, so that worked out nicely for me. Lastly, I know you aren't supposed to judge a book by it's cover, but look at this cover! It's a great cover and suits the story well.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Andy Weston

    Centred around the Argentinian Revolution of June 1966 that led to Ongania’s junta taking power this is a cleverly written literary spy novel with a strong female character as lead. Told in the first person, with flashbacks to her school days, Knecht has created a fascinating heroine in Vera. The historical accuracy and setting is especially captivating for me having lived in South America for several years and frequently travelled to Buenos Aires for work. It was a turbulent, tragic and yet fas Centred around the Argentinian Revolution of June 1966 that led to Ongania’s junta taking power this is a cleverly written literary spy novel with a strong female character as lead. Told in the first person, with flashbacks to her school days, Knecht has created a fascinating heroine in Vera. The historical accuracy and setting is especially captivating for me having lived in South America for several years and frequently travelled to Buenos Aires for work. It was a turbulent, tragic and yet fascinating period. Vera’s fledgling career sees her posing as an American student trailing suspected KGB agents in the city in the weeks leading up to the coup. Before she realises it, she is caught up. We may know the history, but Knecht manages to captivate with a convincing supporting cast and the occasional twist. Recommended.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Stacia

    I enjoyed this one. It's a spy book (of a sort) but it's not a thriller. The chapters alternate between Vera's teen years/coming of age (estranged from mom, discovering her sexuality, various jobs including being recruited by the CIA) to her current time (where she's on assignment to plant bugs & listen in on various people in Argentina since the US is expecting, & supporting, a coup there). I thought it was an interesting & unique take on a "traditional" spy novel. It's pretty well I enjoyed this one. It's a spy book (of a sort) but it's not a thriller. The chapters alternate between Vera's teen years/coming of age (estranged from mom, discovering her sexuality, various jobs including being recruited by the CIA) to her current time (where she's on assignment to plant bugs & listen in on various people in Argentina since the US is expecting, & supporting, a coup there). I thought it was an interesting & unique take on a "traditional" spy novel. It's pretty well done & worthwhile.

  20. 3 out of 5

    Booktart

    I so enjoyed reading this book! I guess if you’re looking for a typical spy thriller it may not satisfy but I loved the combination of historical fiction and some suspense. I’m also very interested in Latin America generally and Argentina specifically so the history was very interesting - I wish I had more background knowledge of Argentina.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    This engrossing novel of intrigue and identity. What Vera Kelly is not is your typical school girl, and she’s definitely not your typical spy. Vera has found a sense of accomplishment in her work with the CIA. The satisfaction of a job well done in service to her country is what helps make the rest of her lonely existence worth getting up for every morning. I say lonely because Vera is a closeted lesbian and in the 1960s it wasn’t impossible to find female companionship in New York City, but doin This engrossing novel of intrigue and identity. What Vera Kelly is not is your typical school girl, and she’s definitely not your typical spy. Vera has found a sense of accomplishment in her work with the CIA. The satisfaction of a job well done in service to her country is what helps make the rest of her lonely existence worth getting up for every morning. I say lonely because Vera is a closeted lesbian and in the 1960s it wasn’t impossible to find female companionship in New York City, but doing so could possibly jeopardize her security clearance. This is a sad way of telling you that Vera suppressed a lot of her identity in service to her country. The chapters alternate between Vera’s present-day espionage and her formative years growing up in Chevy Chase, MD. Vera’s battles with undiagnosed depression eventually led to a suicide attempt. Vera’s recovery shut her off even more from a world that didn’t understand her, and would eventually lead to heartbreak and a brush with the law. That sounds very depressing, and it is! But it does steer her down a winding path to the CIA and her life of adventure. I feel like this book is a great fit for readers who read for plot, character development, sense of place, AND language. It's one of the rare books that hit all 4 of Nancy Pearl's doorways fairly equally. There are secrets, betrayals, weapons, and kisses. This is a book that really does have it all. I've published a full review on my library's book blog: https://areadinglife.com/2018/06/14/w... I received an advance copy from the publisher via Netgalley for review consideration.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Scarllet ✦ Underrated Lit Warrior

    Who is Vera Kelly? In its bare bones, this is a character exploration. Vera's past and present are at play and we get to learn how she got into this spy business at such a turbulent time in 1960s Argentina. I found the past chapters ended up being way shorter than I would've liked because I'm always fascinated when reading about how women were treated in the 1950s (especially women who like other women and how that aspect affects an already marginalized identity). This is my type of book honestly Who is Vera Kelly? In its bare bones, this is a character exploration. Vera's past and present are at play and we get to learn how she got into this spy business at such a turbulent time in 1960s Argentina. I found the past chapters ended up being way shorter than I would've liked because I'm always fascinated when reading about how women were treated in the 1950s (especially women who like other women and how that aspect affects an already marginalized identity). This is my type of book honestly, a strong personal preference. It's a very delicate narrative: slow and quiet. Vera doesn't know who to trust and there's a lot of introspection filled with history that I truly enjoyed reading. It was pretty short, less than 300 pages but this novel spans countries/cities and years so it was a very filling read for me. Plus that cover! And I bought the Strand-signed edition so I really love this copy and this book! 4.5/5 🌟's

  23. 4 out of 5

    Olha

    It does not happen often when I like book more than I expected, but that’s exactly the case with ‘Who is Vera Kelly?’ by Rosalie Knecht. It is a spy novel, so I anticipated some easy-reading, adventures, pretentious phrases and deathless main character, who stays alive in the most ridiculous situations. How happy I am, that my expectations were wrong. ‘Who is Vera Kelly’ is a smart, realistic, slow-reading novel with childhood problems and a historic background. ‘Who is Vera Kelly?’ mostly set in It does not happen often when I like book more than I expected, but that’s exactly the case with ‘Who is Vera Kelly?’ by Rosalie Knecht. It is a spy novel, so I anticipated some easy-reading, adventures, pretentious phrases and deathless main character, who stays alive in the most ridiculous situations. How happy I am, that my expectations were wrong. ‘Who is Vera Kelly’ is a smart, realistic, slow-reading novel with childhood problems and a historic background. ‘Who is Vera Kelly?’ mostly set in Argentina 1966. On one hand, it was interesting to read about political events, because I did not know much about Argentina history before. On the other hand, sometimes there was too much politics, and not a lot of main character – Vera Kelly. Still I liked it was more like reading memoirs, not fiction. The main character felt real for me. Present events in the book were set in Argentina 1966, and past – in Vera’s earlier years in America. One chapter we are reading about Vera as a spy, and another – as a young adult. In chapters about Vera’s past piece by piece we collect events in her life that led her to being a spy. There were a lot of problems with mother in her past and also a lot about Vera trying to understand her sexuality and finding herself. ‘Who is Vera Kelly?’ is not only an entertaining, but also an informative novel. How cool is that I know so much about Argentina now. I often googled information to check it and to learn more about historical events. I liked description of Argentina’s streets, everyday life and weather (I knew that Argentina has summer in winter and vice versa, but I didn’t know that they call June a winter month). I totally recommend this book. I hope ‘Who is Vera Kelly’ will become popular and will be translated in my native language - Ukrainian. I really hope there will be more books about Vera Kelly!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    I have to begin this review with an ode to independent bookstores. I had never even heard of this book, and when I visited Booktowne in Manasquan, New Jersey, this paperback graced their Advanced Reader's Copy shelves, along with a neon pink Post-It that read "This one is GREAT!" And it really was. I love finding books through communities of others, not merely through the publicity houses of major publishing houses. (Okay, I realize that the publicity person for Norton clearly sent the independe I have to begin this review with an ode to independent bookstores. I had never even heard of this book, and when I visited Booktowne in Manasquan, New Jersey, this paperback graced their Advanced Reader's Copy shelves, along with a neon pink Post-It that read "This one is GREAT!" And it really was. I love finding books through communities of others, not merely through the publicity houses of major publishing houses. (Okay, I realize that the publicity person for Norton clearly sent the independent bookstore this copy of the book, so on some level, you're never outside of the industry...But I love that I discovered this book serendipitously rather than through carefully curated statistics and demographic probability.) And this one is great! Spare, beautifully written. I think the blurbs on the jacket are misleading, comparing Knecht to LeCarré and implying that there may be future Vera Kelly volumes. For all I know, there may be, but this really isn't a traditional spy adventure. In fact, in some ways, its a deliberate deflation of the spy adventure drama and its sources of intrigue and sense of importance and urgency. This book is a comment on American power and Cold War jingoism. It is cynical both about the postures of revolutionaries and of the machinations of superpowers. More than either, though, it's an exploration of queerness and closeting, the spy work required to survive under Cold-War-era scrutiny as a lesbian. In this sense, Knecht's work is very reminiscent of Patricia Highsmith, whom she nods to in the text. A combination of the pathos of The Price of Salt and the adopted personae of the Ripley books (more the former than the latter). The title is perfect because the novel is much more about how much Vera has to disguise in order to achieve her professional potential, yet also how she comes to know herself through her desires, her capabilities, and her actions in extreme situations. A very satisfying (if also very slender) book. I'll be disappointed in a way if it becomes a serial of Vera's adventures; I like the sense at the end that she has escaped and made her own destiny (trying to be as vague as possible here so as to avoid spoilers).

  25. 3 out of 5

    Shelley

    3.5* Slow burn Cold War era espionage thriller and coming of age story. Vera is a charming narrator and I would certainly read more of her adventures. I enjoyed Knecht’s prose. If you’re expecting lady James Bond excitement, you may be disappointed.

  26. 3 out of 5

    Barbara

    “Who is Vera Kelly?” is a CIA spy novel with Vera as a recruited CIA operative. It’s a quick read that alternates between Vera coming-of-age in 1957 to her life as a spy in 1966 Argentina. Through the quick chapters describing Vera’s late teens and early 20’s, the reader learns of Vera’s formative years. Those years allowed Vera-the-spy the gumption to survive. This is an interesting spy novel, certainly different than a James Bond read. It’s a quick and satisfying read. However, with so many awe “Who is Vera Kelly?” is a CIA spy novel with Vera as a recruited CIA operative. It’s a quick read that alternates between Vera coming-of-age in 1957 to her life as a spy in 1966 Argentina. Through the quick chapters describing Vera’s late teens and early 20’s, the reader learns of Vera’s formative years. Those years allowed Vera-the-spy the gumption to survive. This is an interesting spy novel, certainly different than a James Bond read. It’s a quick and satisfying read. However, with so many awesome novels out there, I can’t say I’d recommend it as a “must” read.

  27. 3 out of 5

    Jamie

    Spy novel set in 1960s Argentina with a cunning female protagonist.

  28. 5 out of 5

    BrokenTune

    3.5*

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    The connection between spies and queerness was not particularly revolutionary for this Cambridge Spies-loving reader, but I enjoyed the time I spent with Vera and Rosalie Knecht's beautiful prose.

  30. 3 out of 5

    Flor M

    why is she in argentina im so intrigued (also WORRIED)

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