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Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy

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New York Times bestselling author Anne Sebba's moving biography of Ethel Rosenberg, the wife and mother whose execution for espionage-related crimes defined the Cold War and horrified the world. In June 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a couple with two young sons, were led separately from their prison cells on Death Row and electrocuted moments apart. Both had been convic New York Times bestselling author Anne Sebba's moving biography of Ethel Rosenberg, the wife and mother whose execution for espionage-related crimes defined the Cold War and horrified the world. In June 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a couple with two young sons, were led separately from their prison cells on Death Row and electrocuted moments apart. Both had been convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviet Union, despite the fact that the US government was aware that the evidence against Ethel was shaky at best and based on the perjury of her own brother. This book is the first to focus on one half of that couple for more than thirty years, and much new evidence has surfaced since then. Ethel was a bright girl who might have fulfilled her personal dream of becoming an opera singer, but instead found herself struggling with the social mores of the 1950's. She longed to be a good wife and perfect mother, while battling the political paranoia of the McCarthy era, anti-Semitism, misogyny, and a mother who never valued her. Because of her profound love for and loyalty to her husband, she refused to incriminate him, despite government pressure on her to do so. Instead, she courageously faced the death penalty for a crime she hadn't committed, orphaning her children. Seventy years after her trial, this is the first time Ethel's story has been told with the full use of the dramatic and tragic prison letters she exchanged with her husband, her lawyer and her psychotherapist over a three-year period, two of them in solitary confinement. Hers is the resonant story of what happens when a government motivated by fear tramples on the rights of its citizens.


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New York Times bestselling author Anne Sebba's moving biography of Ethel Rosenberg, the wife and mother whose execution for espionage-related crimes defined the Cold War and horrified the world. In June 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a couple with two young sons, were led separately from their prison cells on Death Row and electrocuted moments apart. Both had been convic New York Times bestselling author Anne Sebba's moving biography of Ethel Rosenberg, the wife and mother whose execution for espionage-related crimes defined the Cold War and horrified the world. In June 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a couple with two young sons, were led separately from their prison cells on Death Row and electrocuted moments apart. Both had been convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviet Union, despite the fact that the US government was aware that the evidence against Ethel was shaky at best and based on the perjury of her own brother. This book is the first to focus on one half of that couple for more than thirty years, and much new evidence has surfaced since then. Ethel was a bright girl who might have fulfilled her personal dream of becoming an opera singer, but instead found herself struggling with the social mores of the 1950's. She longed to be a good wife and perfect mother, while battling the political paranoia of the McCarthy era, anti-Semitism, misogyny, and a mother who never valued her. Because of her profound love for and loyalty to her husband, she refused to incriminate him, despite government pressure on her to do so. Instead, she courageously faced the death penalty for a crime she hadn't committed, orphaning her children. Seventy years after her trial, this is the first time Ethel's story has been told with the full use of the dramatic and tragic prison letters she exchanged with her husband, her lawyer and her psychotherapist over a three-year period, two of them in solitary confinement. Hers is the resonant story of what happens when a government motivated by fear tramples on the rights of its citizens.

30 review for Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Holly B

    The true story of Ethel Rosenberg, the wife and mother whose execution for espionage-related crimes is documented by the author. The author certainly does a thorough job of researching the case and her conviction, but the way the story was presented was too flat for me. I was bored throughout and never "felt" invested in learning more about her or her husband. Tedious is what this one turned out to be (for me anyway). What sounded like a fascinating account read like a research report. I do apprec The true story of Ethel Rosenberg, the wife and mother whose execution for espionage-related crimes is documented by the author. The author certainly does a thorough job of researching the case and her conviction, but the way the story was presented was too flat for me. I was bored throughout and never "felt" invested in learning more about her or her husband. Tedious is what this one turned out to be (for me anyway). What sounded like a fascinating account read like a research report. I do appreciate all the information and background/research the author included (as well as prison letters). If you enjoy in-depth accounts with some political and cultural side notes, you may really enjoy this one. I do enjoy true cases and trials, but I was just the wrong reader this time. Thanks to NG and the St. Martins for my advanced review copy. OUT on June 8, 2021

  2. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    3.75 stars Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for an egalley in exchange for an honest review. Felt like a need for a bit of nonfiction. Post-WWII America in the era of McCarthyism is not an era I often venture into and I didn't really know much about the Rosenbergs except that they were tried and convicted of being spies. Well-researched, easy to read but I still have lots of unanswered questions about this time period. I appreciated that the author tried to show all sides. It defi 3.75 stars Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for an egalley in exchange for an honest review. Felt like a need for a bit of nonfiction. Post-WWII America in the era of McCarthyism is not an era I often venture into and I didn't really know much about the Rosenbergs except that they were tried and convicted of being spies. Well-researched, easy to read but I still have lots of unanswered questions about this time period. I appreciated that the author tried to show all sides. It definitely was a crazy period of history. So I shall look out for other titles.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    3.5 thoughts soon.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    Date reviewed/posted: January 7, 2021 Publication date: June 8, 2021 When life for the entire galaxy and planet has turned on its end, you are continuing to #maskup and #lockdown to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation as the #secondwave is upon us, AND the worst sciatica attack in your life means you MIGHT sleep 4 hours a night, superspeed readers like me can read 250+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of thi Date reviewed/posted: January 7, 2021 Publication date: June 8, 2021 When life for the entire galaxy and planet has turned on its end, you are continuing to #maskup and #lockdown to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation as the #secondwave is upon us, AND the worst sciatica attack in your life means you MIGHT sleep 4 hours a night, superspeed readers like me can read 250+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸. New York Times bestselling author Anne Sebba's moving biography of Ethel Rosenberg, the wife and mother whose execution for espionage-related crimes defined the Cold War and horrified the world. In June 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a couple with two young sons, were led separately from their prison cells on Death Row and electrocuted moments apart. Both had been convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviet Union, despite the fact that the US government was aware that the evidence against Ethel was shaky at best and based on the perjury of her own brother. This book is the first to focus on one half of that couple for more than thirty years, and much new evidence has surfaced since then. Ethel was a bright girl who might have fulfilled her personal dream of becoming an opera singer, but instead found herself struggling with the social mores of the 1950’s. She longed to be a good wife and perfect mother to her two small boys, while battling the political paranoia of the McCarthy era, anti-Semitism, misogyny, and a mother who never valued her. Because of her profound love for and loyalty to her husband, she refused to incriminate him, despite government pressure on her to do so. Instead, she courageously faced the death penalty for a crime she hadn’t committed, orphaning her two young sons. Seventy years after her trial, this is the first time Ethel’s story has been told with the full use of the dramatic and tragic prison letters she exchanged with her husband, her lawyer and her psychotherapist over a three-year period, two of them in solitary confinement. Hers is the resonant story of what happens when a government motivated by fear tramples on the rights of its citizens. As a Canadian, I know less than many Americans about the Rosenbergs as we do not study American History up here. (I may know the name more so from "You've Got Mail" wherein Parker Posey's comment about how the Rosenbergs looked so old yet they were in their 30s...I remember stuff like this...lol!) I learned a lot from this book - I love historical biographies and now know a lot about Ethel and I began to think that she was probably innocent and that two years in solitary was more of a punishment than the chair was. The book is written in a way that people who normally only read fiction will not mind reading this one. (We used to have a member in my book club who would stick her nose up and snootily state "I don't read novels" - we reminded her that there was a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize for literature many times before she left us for "smarter people"!) A great book to pick up and I will recommend it to friends, family and book clubs alike - even those with snooty novel-haters As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I simply adore emojis (outside of their incessant use by "🙏-ed Social Influencer Millennials/#BachelorNation survivors/Tik-Tok and YouTube Millionaires/snowflakes / literally-like-overusers etc. " on Instagram and Twitter... Get a real job, people!) so let's give it 📚📚📚📚📚

  5. 4 out of 5

    Juli

    In 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for espionage. They met their fate in the electric chair just minutes apart. Over the decades since, it has been speculated that the evidence against Ethel was weak, and that others gave evidence against her to save themselves from prosecution. Anne Sebba obviously thoroughly researched Ethel -- her life, her choices, her personality, love for her two sons, the life of a woman that ended in a public spectacle trial and execution brought on by fea In 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for espionage. They met their fate in the electric chair just minutes apart. Over the decades since, it has been speculated that the evidence against Ethel was weak, and that others gave evidence against her to save themselves from prosecution. Anne Sebba obviously thoroughly researched Ethel -- her life, her choices, her personality, love for her two sons, the life of a woman that ended in a public spectacle trial and execution brought on by fear of communism. Was Ethel guilty of being a spy, aiding and abetting spies, or helping pass information to the Russians? Sebba presents the facts she discovered during her research and then, for the most part, leaves readers to make their own conclusions. I'm not sure of my opinions on a case that was concluded 15 years before my birth. In the past the 1950's were idealized as some sort of a perfect family time, a peaceful happy time following WWII -- but the reality is much more dark. There was prevailing racism, sexism, political witch hunts, antisemitism, just a prevailing cesspool of garbage thought and shitty ideals. I don't have enough of the facts in this case to actually form an opinion on the trial and execution of the Rosenbergs. Until I read this book and started doing side research of my own to learn more about the case, I had no idea there was another defendant, Morton Sobell, and that others were jailed for obstruction and other charges during the case. All that was ever mentioned in history books when I was in school was that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for espionage and passing nuclear secrets to the Russians along with verbage about the evils of Communism. Were the Rosenbergs guilty? I'd have to do a lot more research to have a firm opinion. But I do know Author Anne Sebba, and many others, believe that Ethel was not. I do know that the aftermath for her children was horrific -- they were left orphaned because family members refused to take them in. There is a documentary on HBOMax, Heir to an Execution, made by the Rosenberg's granddaughter about the execution and its aftermath. Did the Rosenbergs have have activist, fringe political beliefs....yes. As many did back then....as many did in later years....as many do now. But were they -- or Ethel in particular -- spies? Or were they victims of McCarthyism? Very interesting book that evoked many different emotions for me. I definitely want to read and learn more about this case. The Audiobook version of this book was narrated by Orlagh Cassidy. She did a phenomenal job. Her reading pace was perfect. Her voice is easy to listen to. And she put the right amount of emotion into it. Very well done. **I voluntarily read an ARC of this book from St Martins Press, and listened to a review audiobook from MacMillan Audio. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kimba Tichenor

    In June 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed after being convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviet Union. Since their execution, numerous authors have penned tomes on the couple and the US government’s case against them. However, this is the first biography that endeavors to place the primary focus on Ethel Rosenberg, whose guilt on the charges unlike that of her husband remains a question of controversy. The book is also the first to draw extensively on the letters th In June 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed after being convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviet Union. Since their execution, numerous authors have penned tomes on the couple and the US government’s case against them. However, this is the first biography that endeavors to place the primary focus on Ethel Rosenberg, whose guilt on the charges unlike that of her husband remains a question of controversy. The book is also the first to draw extensively on the letters that Julius and Ethel exchanged while imprisoned. The incorporation of these letters allows the author, Anne Sebba, to provide a more nuanced and intimate account of Ethel’s relationship with Julius, her children, her mother, and her brother than has previously appeared in print—one, which readers are sure to find compelling. As the subtitle indicates, Sebba portrays Ethel’s conviction and subsequent execution as an “American tragedy”—the product of a perfect storm of injustice, intense societal fears of Communism, antisemitism, preconceived notions of womanhood to which Ethel failed to conform, familial betrayal, bad luck, and bad decisions on the part of the couple. While earlier biographies of the couple have certainly highlighted how McCarthyism, antisemitism, and the choices made by the couple contributed to the harsh decision handed down by the court, they left unexplored how 1950s notions of femininity also played a role in the lack of public sympathy for the couple. Sebba’s exclusive focus on Ethel allows this dimension to come to the forefront. Ethel, as the author shows, was lambasted by the press for failing to conform to 1950s expectations about how women should present themselves in public. The shoddy, less-than-stylish clothing in which she appeared at trial was portrayed by reporters as a clever disguise by a manipulative woman. In contrast, her sister-in-law, Ruth Greenglass, against whom there was substantial evidence of spying but who was never arrested, was praised by the press for her stylish appearance. In fact, it was Ruth’s damning testimony, along with that of her husband David (Ethel’s brother), that placed Ethel at the center of the conspiracy. In the case of Ethel’s brother, this testimony was a complete about-face from what he had told FBI agents following his arrest. Worse yet, Ethel’s mother not only sided with Ethel’s brother, but also took great pains to tell FBI agents that she knew that her daughter was guilty. This betrayal, about which Ethel initially remained silent during the trial, is broached in her post-conviction letters to her husband. The depth of her hurt at these betrayals as well as her concerns about her children’s future are brought home to the reader through these letters. The end result is a highly sympathetic and convincing portrait of Ethel Rosenberg as a woman who had abandoned political activism by the early 1940s in favor of studying child psychology in an effort to overcome her self-perceived shortcomings as a mother. Yet despite these insights into family dynamics and the role played by gender stereotypes in Ethel’s convictions, there are times in this narrative where Ethel seems to recede into the background—most likely, precisely because unlike her husband, Ethel was not involved in espionage. Thus, to tell the espionage story, the author by necessity must shift the lens to other actors in this drama, including Julius Rosenberg, David Greenglass, the prosecutors Irving Saypol and Roy Cohn, and J. Edgar Hoover. Moreover, on occasion, the author makes claims or inserts opinion without providing any supporting evidence or making any convincing argument. For example, at one point, the author asserts that communism inevitably leads to totalitarianism, thus seemingly conflating Stalinism with communism—a debatable thesis, at best. At another point, she claims that certain phrasings in letters between Ethel and Julius were obviously written for public consumption but does not tell the reader how she reached this conclusion. These shortcomings, however, are minor and do not detract significantly from what is otherwise a thoughtful and intimate portrait of Ethel Rosenberg. As for the narration of this audiobook, Orlagh Cassidy does a superb job. Unlike many narrators for works of nonfiction, Cassidy does not confuse projecting an objective tone with using a monotone voice that drones the reader into sleep. She also does not try to infuse the letters with drama by using a more theatrical tone; instead, she allows the words of Ethel’s letters to communicate the angst that she felt in those final days before her execution, knowing that she would not live to see her children grow up. I would like to thank NetGalley, the publisher, and author for an advanced copy of this audiobook in exchange for a fair and honest review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Maine Colonial

    I received an electronic advance review copy from the publisher, via Netgalley. Note: I write quite a bit about this book and historical events in this review. I don’t believe in spoiler-tagging non-fiction, but if you don’t want to know about the Rosenberg history and later information revealed about events at the time, you should not read further. On to the review. You’re probably familiar with the story of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who went to the electric chair in 1953 for having passed nucl I received an electronic advance review copy from the publisher, via Netgalley. Note: I write quite a bit about this book and historical events in this review. I don’t believe in spoiler-tagging non-fiction, but if you don’t want to know about the Rosenberg history and later information revealed about events at the time, you should not read further. On to the review. You’re probably familiar with the story of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who went to the electric chair in 1953 for having passed nuclear and other military information to the Soviets during World War II. There is no doubt that Julius was a spy for the USSR, but there have always been questions about whether Ethel was also a participant or merely had knowledge of what Julius was doing. Julius was arrested in 1950, after physicist Klaus Fuchs confessed that he had passed on information to the Soviets when he was a physicist working to develop the atomic bomb at the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Fuchs’s confession traced a line to David Greenglass, Ethel’s younger brother, who had a low-level job at Los Alamos, and David fingered Julius a contact and the man who recruited him, via David’s wife, Ruth. By the time of these arrests, anti-Communist fever was at its peak in the US, and prosecutors were out for blood. On their team was the to-be-infamous Roy Cohn. When Julius Rosenberg refused to admit to being a Communist or a spy, or to give information about his contacts, the prosecution team used David and Ruth to put increased pressure on him by having them change their testimony to draw Ethel into the scheme. Soon Ethel, a homemaker with two small boys, was jailed as well. Like Julius, she refused to cooperate, even though she was agonized about her sons. After an appallingly conducted trial, the Rosenbergs were convicted in early 1951. The judge, who could fairly be described as strongly pro-prosecution, sentenced them to death. Even J. Edgar Hoover had doubts about the wisdom of executing a mother of young children and, not surprisingly, the sentence sparked worldwide protests. But protests, pleas for clemency, and appeals were to no avail and the Rosenbergs were executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing Prison on June 19, 1953. In the years since her death, Ethel Rosenberg has fascinated many writers from Sylvia Plath to playwright Tony Kushner, whose Angels in America fantasizes an encounter between Ethel’s ghost and Roy Cohn as he is dying of AIDS. Now Anne Sebba attempts to provide insight into Ethel’s character and actions. We learn a good deal about Ethel’s childhood with a cold mother who much preferred David. While David was unintelligent and lazy, Ethel was scholarly and burned with ambition. But when she met Julius, she was happy to marry and settle into homemaking and being a mother, as was expected in the 1950s. In recent years, a good deal of additional information has come out about the Rosenbergs, via the release of information in the US and in decrypted intercepts with Soviet intelligence. The information confirmed that Julius was, indeed, a spy for the USSR, though at a time when they were allies of the US. But there is no confirmation that Ethel had any active role in the spy ring. What’s more, the released information makes it clear that David and Ruth perjured themselves when they accused Ethel of being involved. Sebba describes how David and Ruth became jealous of the smarter and better-off Rosenbergs and were easily persuaded to save themselves by throwing Ethel to the Red-hunting wolves. I appreciate getting to know more about Ethel Rosenberg in this book. It really bothers me, though, that it seems as if Julius Rosenberg did little to try to save his wife, even though by all accounts they had a devoted marriage, and if both were executed their sons would be orphaned. As disgusting as I thought David was to throw his sister under the bus to save himself and his wife (who was actually actively involved in the spy ring), at least it’s understandable that he wanted to save his wife. A lesson from this book that resonates today is how the public can be whipped up into a hysterical frenzy of fear and hatred, which sweeps through politics, the judiciary and government. Truth and justice are sacrificed so that a twisted fairy tale of good and evil can be told. Ethel Rosenberg’s story is, indeed, an American tragedy. Have we learned anything from it?

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    This is a well-searched and intimate look at a little-understood woman who holds a major place in American history. She was the first and only American female executed for espionage. Brought under suspicion because of her husband’s activities, it’s been long speculated whether Ethel was truly as guilty as presumed and if she deserved the electric chair along with her husband. With the deep understanding and detailed background provided by the author, you can form your own opinion. Throughout the This is a well-searched and intimate look at a little-understood woman who holds a major place in American history. She was the first and only American female executed for espionage. Brought under suspicion because of her husband’s activities, it’s been long speculated whether Ethel was truly as guilty as presumed and if she deserved the electric chair along with her husband. With the deep understanding and detailed background provided by the author, you can form your own opinion. Throughout the book, Anne Sebba stays neutral in her judgment, leaving room for the reader to reach their own conclusions. In her synopsis, she brings all the facts together, adds the advantage of hindsight, and eloquently presents her conclusions for your consideration. Right, wrong, or indifferent, you can’t help but have some emotional tuggings for Ethel. She’s brought to life in such detail; such cut and dried exchanges with friends and family, her clothing choices, her style, her quiet nature, her love for her little boys up to the hour she was escorted to her death. This is a moving, informative, and deeply researched book, perfect for anyone fascinated with the Cold War, American history, and our refusal to learn from our pasts. Sincere thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for an ARC in exchange for my honest review. The publishing date is June 8, 2021.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    I received a complimentary digital and audio copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley. This review is my voluntary and unbiased opinion. From the beginning it seems the author wants to sway readers opinion of Ethel’s innocence. Personally, I think her opinion would have best been presented at the end to let the reader develop her own opinion. It’s Depression Era in New York where families are living in difficult times. This was true for many Jewish immigrants who experienced poverty. C I received a complimentary digital and audio copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley. This review is my voluntary and unbiased opinion. From the beginning it seems the author wants to sway readers opinion of Ethel’s innocence. Personally, I think her opinion would have best been presented at the end to let the reader develop her own opinion. It’s Depression Era in New York where families are living in difficult times. This was true for many Jewish immigrants who experienced poverty. Communism was a common philosophy at the time being challenged by the government. The Greenglass family works hard to make ends meet being immigrants from Russia. Ethel sought the approval of her cold, critical mother, Tessie. Being a good student she graduated at 15 years old but need to find work to help support the family. She had loved the theatre and music and often felt drawn to teaching herself sight reading which eventually led to her performing at Carnegie Hall. Because college or other formal training weren’t possible, she took up transcription classes to find work and help make money to support the family. At that time, she became politically involved in causes to support her communist philosophy. During this time in history, it was not uncommon to encounter communists in America. Much of the philosophy Ethel seemed focused on pertained to equal rights for workers in developing a union for the small shipping company for which she worked. It was at one of Ethel’s performance that she met Julius Rosenberg who was 21 years old. He was the son of Harry and Sophie Rosenberg who immigrated from Poland. Julius was able to study at CCNY where he learned electrical engineering but was very politically involved. This story provides the historical data and research regarding the fall out regarding communism and espionage. While Ethel was involved with communist causes in her youth, she abandoned much involvement after she had children. She devoted much of her time and energy on becoming a successful parent. She read and researched extensively on parenting and child psychology. How much or what she knew about her husband’s activities is unknown and more importantly unproven. It seemed more likely that she was included and executed on circumstantial (that’s a stretch) information. It seems her brother David and his wife Ruth were very involved and when questioned implicated Julius and Ethel to save themselves. Ethel was a strong willed woman who refused to show fear or be disloyal to her husband. In the end, with all appeals exhausted she was put to death. The government was very selective and decisive regarding the execution and who should be killed first. They realized they didn’t have evidence that Ethel was involved just “suspicions.” They wanted to make an example of what could happen if people were found guilty of espionage. They hoped that she would “turn” on her husband but that never happened and the government felt obligated to follow through with the conviction. After reading the facts of the case, it is clear there was no physical evidence to support the claim that Ethel committed espionage while also taking her children. Ultimately, I think coming to that conclusion in the end would be a better read than feeling that the author was trying to persuade the readers opinion. I enjoy reading author’s opinions and research on cases but usually at the end of a story not the beginning. Overall, a worthy historical read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

    I didn't know much about Ethel Rosenberg before and I do not feel like I have any great insight into her now. The book felt tedious. She had a difficult life with a mother who did not love her and then a younger brother she doted on lied during her trial. Just before his death he wasn't remorseful about what he did and that he would do it again to protect his wife. The biggest tragedy was leaving behind two young boys. I am in awe of the amount of research that goes into a book like this. I would I didn't know much about Ethel Rosenberg before and I do not feel like I have any great insight into her now. The book felt tedious. She had a difficult life with a mother who did not love her and then a younger brother she doted on lied during her trial. Just before his death he wasn't remorseful about what he did and that he would do it again to protect his wife. The biggest tragedy was leaving behind two young boys. I am in awe of the amount of research that goes into a book like this. I would like to thank Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for providing me a copy of this book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Michelle

    The first time I ever heard of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg was in the movie "You've Got Mail" when two characters have a dialogue about an article the one characters wrote about them. I had never even heard those names before. I remember looking them up and really all I could find was that they were spies and that they were both executed for that. Fast forward to a few months ago and this book came up on NetGalley and I knew I needed to read this and I am so glad I did. This was a huge history le The first time I ever heard of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg was in the movie "You've Got Mail" when two characters have a dialogue about an article the one characters wrote about them. I had never even heard those names before. I remember looking them up and really all I could find was that they were spies and that they were both executed for that. Fast forward to a few months ago and this book came up on NetGalley and I knew I needed to read this and I am so glad I did. This was a huge history lesson that everyone should be reading. What a crazy story [thoroughly researched by the author and written in a even tone, even in the face of Ethel being executed] and heartbreaking story. . I cannot believe what Julius and Ethel went through at the hands of the US government [talk about a farce of a trial; and I cannot even imagine being thrown under the bus by a sibling like Ethel was by her brother] and then to wait out the months leading to their death alone, in prison, knowing they were going to die and still proclaiming their innocence right up to the end, with Ethel thinking only of her husband and her two little boys, who she missed so much every day she was apart from them. That these two boys lost both parents with little regard to their own well-being [Ethel was never anything but a good mother, who lived for her children and her husband {this was shown over and over again, as she gave up a good job to support her husband in a move that his job required, and the help she continually sought out for Michael, who had issues as a child} ] is nothing short of horrific. It isn't until much later that the well-being of the boys is actually taken care of and it is because of their adoptive parents love and caring [AND the love that Ethel and Julius showered on them when they were small], that enables these two boys to grow up to be really amazing adults. It is, in my opinion, the only blessing and good thing that came out of this horrible disaster. My heart hurts for them and all they lost - it is heartbreaking. Do I believe that Ethel was a spy? No I do not. Do I believe she is guilty of supporting her husband in any way she could? Yes I do. And she died for that. "Few would deny that David and Ruth betrayed Ethel when they lied about the typewriter. Many would also argue that Julius and David betrayed their county when they spied for the Soviet Union. Tessie betrayed Ethel by failing to love or cherish her only daughter. Saypol, Cohn, and Judge Kaufman betrayed the high ideals of American justice. Truman and Eisenhower betrayed their better selves by refusing to grant Ethel clemency. Only Ethel betrayed no one, thus sealing her own fate." <--THIS sums up this whole book better than I could ever do. Well done. **I was also granted an audiobook of this, read by the amazing Orlagh Cassidy. She does an amazing job and really added to the story as a whole. SO glad I was able to listen to this book.** Thank you to NetGalley, Anne Sebba, and St. Martin's Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, a notorious couple that were electrocuted in June 1953. The author, Anne Sebba, focuses on Ethel and posits that she was murdered by the state and likely innocent, and did not deserve death. Ethel was betrayed, by her family and the state. Once could say she was a victim from the beginning, being raised by a mother, Tessie, that never showed her love, and instead poured her emotions to Ethel’s younger brother David. The same David who names her and Julius in order to Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, a notorious couple that were electrocuted in June 1953. The author, Anne Sebba, focuses on Ethel and posits that she was murdered by the state and likely innocent, and did not deserve death. Ethel was betrayed, by her family and the state. Once could say she was a victim from the beginning, being raised by a mother, Tessie, that never showed her love, and instead poured her emotions to Ethel’s younger brother David. The same David who names her and Julius in order to reduce his own sentence of the same crime of giving secrets away to Russia. Ethel was a smart woman, trapped in the 1940’s image of what a woman was allowed to do, not much beyond being a wife and mother. Ethel was determined to be a better mother to her two children and believed in new parenting methods. Why she didn’t speak, other than pleading the fifth, is a question probed in this book. Some answers are given, but it’s unknown fully of her motives, leaving the question open if she was guilty or not, or at least knowing about her husband’s activities. A fascinating book into the WWII era and the beginning of the Cold War. Of a family thrown into the headlines and forever embedded as part of the American culture from the anti-communist sentiment and Cold War. I particularly enjoyed the ending, the “Many ways of imagining and seeing Ethel,” with books, plays and a recreation of the trial, which remain part of Ethel’s legacy around the world. I listed to most of the book as an audio narrated by Orlagh Cassidy. The narration is done well and keeps you in the book. Couldn’t ask for a better narration for this story. Book rating: 4.5 Thanks to Macmillan Audio and NetGalley for providing an advance audio copy. Thanks also to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an uncorrected electronic advance review copy of this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Haider

    In a time in the Cold War era when America was seized with extreme anti-Communist sentiment, Ethel Rosenberg was tried and sentenced to death for treason. Ethel was a wife and the mother of 2 young boys. She and her husband were both given the same sentence, leaving their boys without parents. This well-researched book walks through who Ethel was and how she ended up on death row. This was a fascinating listen for me. I knew little to nothing about this case ahead of time. It is always a good th In a time in the Cold War era when America was seized with extreme anti-Communist sentiment, Ethel Rosenberg was tried and sentenced to death for treason. Ethel was a wife and the mother of 2 young boys. She and her husband were both given the same sentence, leaving their boys without parents. This well-researched book walks through who Ethel was and how she ended up on death row. This was a fascinating listen for me. I knew little to nothing about this case ahead of time. It is always a good thing to learn more about history, in my opinion. This trial also pointed out some issues in how the court system wasn't fair for women like Ethel. I recommend this one to history buffs and non-fiction fans. Thank you to the publisher for the audiobook!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Trisha

    "Ah yes, the Rosenbergs, spies weren't they?" I knew very little of the Rosenbergs before cracking this story. For having the distinction of being one of the only people put to death for espionage during a nonwartime, you'd think there'd be more information about them. Sadly, even now there is little. I liked the way the author presented the case mainly for Ethel. It's good to separate the two because it seems everyone else just puts them as one entity - The Rosenbergs. I'm not sure I 100% agree w "Ah yes, the Rosenbergs, spies weren't they?" I knew very little of the Rosenbergs before cracking this story. For having the distinction of being one of the only people put to death for espionage during a nonwartime, you'd think there'd be more information about them. Sadly, even now there is little. I liked the way the author presented the case mainly for Ethel. It's good to separate the two because it seems everyone else just puts them as one entity - The Rosenbergs. I'm not sure I 100% agree with the author and the explanations, it was compelling enough I'd like to know more and have a few more POV before I'm completely sold on whether Ethel was innocent or guilty. But the argument in here is compelling. It paints a very vivid picture of how the prosecution, Ethel's own family and even her refusal to do anything but plead the 5th - all damned her in different ways to the outcome that ultimately played out. The story is in easier to digest chapters that tackle each part of the story in chronological order. It's compelling and fascinating and I'm really glad I read this one. A huge thank you to the author and publisher for providing an e-ARC via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion regarding the book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    MissSusie

    I was really looking forward to this book but honestly it didn't answer any questions that hang over the case like I was hoping it would. It was interesting in parts though to hear more about her life and the whole story around her arrest and execution and I guess it kind of leaves you to make your own conclusion as to her guilt or innocence or is it somewhere in between. I still came out of their book believing she should never have been executed and most likely neither should have her husband. I was really looking forward to this book but honestly it didn't answer any questions that hang over the case like I was hoping it would. It was interesting in parts though to hear more about her life and the whole story around her arrest and execution and I guess it kind of leaves you to make your own conclusion as to her guilt or innocence or is it somewhere in between. I still came out of their book believing she should never have been executed and most likely neither should have her husband. I guess we will never know for sure if these 2 were truly spies or just scapegoats so I will say I think they were innocent. Orlagh Cassidy's narration was very well done she laid out the book well. A good book looking at Ethel's life. 3 stars

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jodi

    This was an ARC that I was lucky enough to win in the Goodreads giveaways. If I could give it more than 5 stars, I would! I love history, and thought I "knew" the story of the Rosenberg trial and the executions, but, it turns out, I knew nothing of the REAL people behind the story, behind the public mask of stoic indifference Mrs. Rosenberg showed the world, and how the government manipulated the trial and public opinion to bring about the conviction and execution of an innocent woman. The "cold This was an ARC that I was lucky enough to win in the Goodreads giveaways. If I could give it more than 5 stars, I would! I love history, and thought I "knew" the story of the Rosenberg trial and the executions, but, it turns out, I knew nothing of the REAL people behind the story, behind the public mask of stoic indifference Mrs. Rosenberg showed the world, and how the government manipulated the trial and public opinion to bring about the conviction and execution of an innocent woman. The "cold war" and the fear of the "Red Menace" cannot justify how Ethel Rosenberg was railroaded through the trial, and the years in prison solitary confinement, while appealing the death sentence unjustly levied against her. It cannot make up for the theft of her life from her young sons, and the pain that they went through during those years. There were many times, throughout the book, that I wanted to weep for her, to rage against the blindness and mistreatment she was subjected to, in the government's single minded pursuit of "justice"; and I did cry while reading the final chapters, covering the execution and the aftermath. Her only "crime", if one can call it that, would be in being a product of her upbringing and the times that kept a woman subservient to the needs of her husband and children. The fact that her children went on to live good lives of service is testimony to the love and care she gave them from birth. It chills me to realize that all this happened only shortly before I was born, and that, in some ways, our justice system is still manipulating and deciding cases based, in large part, on preconceived notions of human behavior and stereotypes or biases which people carry. Our justice system is not perfect, and in most cases, could be improved upon - in THIS case, the mistreatment and rush to judgement of a young mother - and the ease which her family threw her to the wolves of McCarthyism and paranoia is heartbreaking. I don't, as a general rule, wish ill on anyone, and most of the people involved in this pantomime of justice are dead and beyond retribution, now - and it's a pity. Their shame should be exposed - this book was an excellent first step, and I thank Anne Sebba for opening my eyes to this recent history. May we learn from it, and not rush to judgment again.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    This book illuminates the social, cultural and political factors that contributed to the conviction and execution of Ethel Rosenberg. Although at times the thoroughness of this book in presenting details overwhelmed or bored me, the story always picked up pace and renewed my interest. This book made me much more empathetic towards Ethel Rosenberg and provided context for both her actions and inactions. Additionally the book detailed the heart breaking effects of the Rosenbergs' execution on thei This book illuminates the social, cultural and political factors that contributed to the conviction and execution of Ethel Rosenberg. Although at times the thoroughness of this book in presenting details overwhelmed or bored me, the story always picked up pace and renewed my interest. This book made me much more empathetic towards Ethel Rosenberg and provided context for both her actions and inactions. Additionally the book detailed the heart breaking effects of the Rosenbergs' execution on their young sons. Thank you Net Galley for the ARC of this book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    [3.5] stars. A very thoroughly researched account of the life and plight of Ethel Rosenberg. Although I appreciated the detail in which the author went to recount this interesting piece of American history, the narrative was bogged down in the amount of details presented. Still, I was able to learn a lot about something I had no prior knowledge. Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press. [3.5] stars. A very thoroughly researched account of the life and plight of Ethel Rosenberg. Although I appreciated the detail in which the author went to recount this interesting piece of American history, the narrative was bogged down in the amount of details presented. Still, I was able to learn a lot about something I had no prior knowledge. Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Vicki

    Wow! I thought this nonfiction book about the story of the Rosenbergs was so interesting. I didn't know too much about their case but this book brought so much to light. After reading the book, I can't say with conviction if I believe that Ethel was truly guilty of her charges for being a spy and betraying her country, but I will say that I do not at all believe they truly proved it nor that she deserved the death penalty. I remember learning about the "red scare" and the "witch hunts" during th Wow! I thought this nonfiction book about the story of the Rosenbergs was so interesting. I didn't know too much about their case but this book brought so much to light. After reading the book, I can't say with conviction if I believe that Ethel was truly guilty of her charges for being a spy and betraying her country, but I will say that I do not at all believe they truly proved it nor that she deserved the death penalty. I remember learning about the "red scare" and the "witch hunts" during that time when I was in college and I thought it was so awful that people were even found guilty by association. The author seemed to find a good balance between showing Ethel as the good mother she wanted to be to her two boys and the life fighting her own fight during the McCarthy Era. Without giving away much of what she went through, the trial, or what she did so as not to incriminate her husband, I will say she was one hell of a strong woman. Ethel's story is a heartbreaker, especially because of what she did in order to stand by her own convictions. I had the pleasure of having both an ebook and audiobook, so at times I listened and read, other times I listened or read only. I found the narrator, Orlagh Cassidy, very easy to listen to and follow. Her voice and pronunciations were very clear. I didn't feel that she over-dramatized any parts of the book but her reading of the book made it appear natural and like I was hearing a first person opinion rather than a reading from pages of a book. I thought this narrator was excellent and didn't detract from the book by her voice nor how she narrated it. I'd like to thank NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for a copy of the e-ARC and Macmillan Audio for a copy of the audiobook.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Pam Koenig

    Ethel Rosenberg By Anne Sebba The wooden chair the Rosenbergs were executed in was rented from the State of New York. Authorities debated who to execute first. J Edgar Hoover was against the death penalty for Ethel, because he was worried about criticism for the FBI. Their lawyer and the Jewish chaplain at Sing Sing tried to get the time of the execution changed from 11 pm, because it was the start of the Sabbath, but they failed. Authorities then insisted they were showing respect by moving up th Ethel Rosenberg By Anne Sebba The wooden chair the Rosenbergs were executed in was rented from the State of New York. Authorities debated who to execute first. J Edgar Hoover was against the death penalty for Ethel, because he was worried about criticism for the FBI. Their lawyer and the Jewish chaplain at Sing Sing tried to get the time of the execution changed from 11 pm, because it was the start of the Sabbath, but they failed. Authorities then insisted they were showing respect by moving up the execution 3 hours early so they would avoid having the killings on the Sabbath. Julius was executed first, minutes later Ethel was strapped in the chair & the electrocution started. She was removed and examined by the doctors, her heart was still beating. She was returned to the chair and more volts were sent through her body. It took 5 jolts of electricity and 4 1/2 minutes to die. Yes, they were admitted communists, but I wonder how she felt, standing by her husband, betrayed by her brother(also a communist who worked at Los Alamos & her mother's favorite ) & sister-in-law(both involved in espionage but escaped the chair) and her own mother. Her brother and sister-in-law escaped punishment. Ethel grew up on the Lower Eastside during the start of the Great Depression in neighborhoods populated with many Jewish refugees. She was a good student, interested in music , acting and wanted to better herself. It was a time when many Americans equated Communists with Jews. Like the times we are living in, many including established Jews felt that if Jewish refugees or German children were allowed in the country it would effect their privileged positions. Others reminded Americans that the American Dream depended on many peoples, races, religions, cultures. "The moment a nation determines upon a policy that shuts her from the currents of new ideas that nation is doomed," In 1936 Ethel met Julius, this was a time when she educating herself about worker's rights and world politics. Julius had joined the Young Communist League while attending City College. There he joined discussions regarding Fascism in Germany and Italy and the fighting in Spain. He & friends were involved in a raid removing the Nazi flag from the German liner, Bermen. They were young Jewish activists, who had grown up knowing poverty and trying to better themselves and the world they lived in. It wasn't until 1954, that it became illegal to be a member of the Communist party. Remember the House Un-American Activities Committee was created in 1938 to investigate alleged disloyalty from Fascists as well as Communists. The scope of the committee in the 40's was on anti-Communists. This lead to the 9 day witch hunt led by Sen. Joe McCarthy alleging Communist propaganda in Hollywood. Do you remember hearing their questions asked of many in Hollywood, " Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party of the United States of America?" Remember it wasn't illegal till 1954, but that didn't stop the politicians from setting into motion the destruction of careers and lives. I wonder what old Joe would think of the times we are living in now? Julius became a full member of the party, but there is no evidence that Ethel ever did, even though she was fully invested in their beliefs. No membership cards were ever produced for either at the trial. It seems to me that the party was to a lot of these people a hope for the future in a time where poverty and joblessness was prevalent. The government started a file on Ethel in 1941, because she signed a Communist Party nominating petition. She had been told it would put the party on the ballot, and signed after be assured it would no make her a Communist. These are just some of the gems this book revels in just a few chapters. It is not an easy book to read, and will really take me more than the 24 hours I was allowed access to it before I can finish it. I remember being a kid and seeing the headlines in the paper announcing the executions and seeing the pictures of them. I probably didn't read the article because I was around 7 years old. As I grew older and learned about this in school, I started to question the murder of two American citizens by the US government. I have read a few books regarding them, and seen programs and movies. They always left me with an uneasy feeling that they were railroaded by the times and the Red scare that was prevalent in the country. In the years since then, there have been other citizens who have been charged with treason and sentenced to prison, yet the Rosenbergs are the only ones to my knowledge that were put to death. You want another murder by the government, try looking up Pvt. Eddie Slovik, the only soldier since the Civil War to be executed for desertion. The main reason his sentence wasn't commuted, was too many were deserting and Eisenhower decided to make an example of him. Yes, he wasn't a good example of an upstanding citizen, and yes he did desert after requesting to not be sent into the terrible battles that he and others faced, but to kill someone just to make a statement was not right. I know many won't agree with me, but that's the great thing about living in the USA, I don't have to worry about speaking my mind. Thanks to the author for taking a deeper look into this disgraceful part of our history, and I look forward to finishing the book the first chance I get. I was given the opportunity to preview this book by NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. I will post the review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, GoodReads and Facebook.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This opens with the executions. Julian first, then Ethel. Never recanting, they calmly walk to their death. This whole trial was built on fear and assumptions. It made me crazy. I saw no evidence that they should of been executed. Ethels life was difficult and she was always worthy of love. And the way her family treated her broke my heart. This was hard for me because it was real and I just can’t believe it happened, in America. The author did an amazing job walking me through Ethel’s life. The This opens with the executions. Julian first, then Ethel. Never recanting, they calmly walk to their death. This whole trial was built on fear and assumptions. It made me crazy. I saw no evidence that they should of been executed. Ethels life was difficult and she was always worthy of love. And the way her family treated her broke my heart. This was hard for me because it was real and I just can’t believe it happened, in America. The author did an amazing job walking me through Ethel’s life. The writing was great and I can only hope as Americans that we’ve learned something from this terrible travesty. Thanks St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley. This audiobook was narrated by Orlagh Cassidy and she did this story justice. I highly recommend listening to this.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Whitney

    This book is thoroughly researched and really gives a more detailed picture of Ethel Rosenberg, whom many just know as being the wife of Julius Rosenberg, and that both of them received the death penalty for espionage related to their role giving secrets to the Soviet Union. This book shows Ethel as more than that, as a mother, wife, and more. It also raises many questions regarding exactly how much she knew about her husband’s activities, and questions whether she received a fair trial. A very This book is thoroughly researched and really gives a more detailed picture of Ethel Rosenberg, whom many just know as being the wife of Julius Rosenberg, and that both of them received the death penalty for espionage related to their role giving secrets to the Soviet Union. This book shows Ethel as more than that, as a mother, wife, and more. It also raises many questions regarding exactly how much she knew about her husband’s activities, and questions whether she received a fair trial. A very interesting well researched book. Thank you to NetGalley & the publisher for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    Well researched book that highlights all the factors leading to Ethel's conviction and execution. Well researched book that highlights all the factors leading to Ethel's conviction and execution.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Christy

    This was an interesting read on the historical Ethel Rosenberg and her demise as the wife of a soviet spy. The author did a great job presenting questionable evidence to the contrary but fell short for me as the story progressed. At times I felt I knew what was going on but other times I felt lost trying to figure things out. The book started out great but dragged a bit in the middle. Ultimately ending on a very sad note. I had to opportunity to listen to this as an audiobook which was easy to li This was an interesting read on the historical Ethel Rosenberg and her demise as the wife of a soviet spy. The author did a great job presenting questionable evidence to the contrary but fell short for me as the story progressed. At times I felt I knew what was going on but other times I felt lost trying to figure things out. The book started out great but dragged a bit in the middle. Ultimately ending on a very sad note. I had to opportunity to listen to this as an audiobook which was easy to listen to due to great narration. Thank you NetGalley, Macmillan Audio & St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity for the ARC. I hope my honest review helps others and would recommend this book to others who enjoy historical fiction of this type. #EthelRosenberg, @anneseba & @StMartinsPress

  25. 5 out of 5

    Shirley McAllister

    Guilty upon association Ethel was a child of Jewish immigrants. She felt unloved by her mother who only had time for her young brothers. Growing up she adored her younger brother David and often read stories to him. Ethel wanted to be an actor and a singer. She met Julius Rosenberg at a Union benefit event. Ethel was singing at the event, but she had a attack of nerves. Julius had noticed Ethel before and when she told him how nervous she was he took her to a room and had her rehearse just for hi Guilty upon association Ethel was a child of Jewish immigrants. She felt unloved by her mother who only had time for her young brothers. Growing up she adored her younger brother David and often read stories to him. Ethel wanted to be an actor and a singer. She met Julius Rosenberg at a Union benefit event. Ethel was singing at the event, but she had a attack of nerves. Julius had noticed Ethel before and when she told him how nervous she was he took her to a room and had her rehearse just for him. They were inseparable from then on. They married and eventually had two sons. Ethel and Julius were communists and often had meetings in their home but it was never proven that Ethel attended or participated in these meetings. Julius was proven to be a Soviet Spy and had recruited others to be spies. There was no real evidence that Ethel was a part of the spy ring, nor that she knew about it. They were both arrested and tried for espionage. Edith's brother David gave testimony that she was guilty along with Julius. This testimony was enough to garner the death sentence for Edith. Her two young songs were left orphans. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were the only two Americans put to death during peacetime for conspiracy to commit espionage. Ethel is the only woman ever executed for a crime other than murder in the U.S This was a very interesting time in history, I had heard the term McCarthyism, but I did not understand what it meant. After reading this book I think I now understand a bit about McCarthyism. I really enjoyed reading it and I would recommend it. Thanks to Anne Sebba, St. Martin's Press, and NetGalley, for a complimentary copy of this book. "Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own."

  26. 4 out of 5

    gemsbooknook Geramie Kate Barker

    ‘The tragic story of Ethel Rosenberg, the first woman in America to be sent to her death for a crime other than murder. 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 ‘The tragic story of Ethel Rosenberg, the first woman in America to be sent to her death for a crime other than murder. 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.’ This book was fascinating. I went into this book having never heard of Ethel Rosenberg. Now that I have finished this book I cannot wait to learn more about her and this time period in America. If I am being honest I don’t really have any knowledge of what was going on in America during the Cold War. Most of the information I have about the Cold War is from things going on in Europe. Going into this book with little background information to draw from made for a truly riveting reading experience. I couldn’t put this book down as I was utterly gripped by what I was learning. I was emotional invested in this story even though I already knew what was going to occur. Anne Sebba did a fantastic job with this book. The writing was superb, the research was impeccable, and the way she was able to draw the reader into this emotional and tragic story was absolutely amazing. I honestly don’t have a bad word to say about this book. Now that I have had a taste of both Anne Sebba’s writing and Cold War history, I am excited to read more. Ethel Rosenberg by Anne Sebba is a brilliant book that will stay with you long after the final page. Geramie Kate Barker gemsbooknook.wordpress.com

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joyce Edmeier

    The story of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg captivated Americans and those around the world in the post-war late ‘40s and ‘50s. Anne Sebba brings us on a journey of their dramatic arrest, conviction and execution in this thoroughly researched book focusing on Ethel Rosenberg. Ethel was the daughter of Russian immigrants and grew up in New York amongst the Jewish community. A brilliant woman, she had an early career as a singer while working a union position. Ethel then started moving in Communist ci The story of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg captivated Americans and those around the world in the post-war late ‘40s and ‘50s. Anne Sebba brings us on a journey of their dramatic arrest, conviction and execution in this thoroughly researched book focusing on Ethel Rosenberg. Ethel was the daughter of Russian immigrants and grew up in New York amongst the Jewish community. A brilliant woman, she had an early career as a singer while working a union position. Ethel then started moving in Communist circles and joined a socialist worker’s alliance. She thought that a belief in Communism is a belief in the American dream. Ethel and Julius, whose parents were immigrants from Poland, had similar backgrounds and met when Ethel was performing as a soloist in 1936. Both were dedicated members of the Communist party or at least dedicated to party ideals. Julius started passing United States nuclear secrets working for Soviet Intelligence and was arrested by the FBI in 1950. Ethel was also arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit espionage and was sent to prison with little evidence. After a lengthy and controversial trial, both Ethel and Julius were tried and convicted of espionage and executed in 1953. This dramatic and tragic story is meticulously outlined in Sebba’s book which focuses on all aspects of Ethel’s life, the birth of their children who were sadly left without parents, and the many appeals for clemency. Sebba was able to talk to many first-hand sources of the Rosenberg family and friends which gives the reader an accurate and thorough view of the Rosenberg’s story. The fact that Ethel seems innocent and was arrested with insufficient evidence is infuriating and adds to the tragedy of their Cold War story. This book is recommended for those interested in detailed history accounts and those who want to read an account of a strong woman who grew up in times when Communist sympathizers were scrutinized by all levels of the government. My sincere thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jade

    I was in my teens the first time I heard of Ethel Rosenberg, back in the early 90’s, living in France. I was studying McCarthyism in History and reading The Bell Jar at the same time, and wondered why this woman had been executed for something that she may or may not have done. I didn’t really study the topic in depth after that though, but was really interested in reading this biography of Ethel Rosenberg, written by Anne Sebba, especially as it focuses on Ethel, rather than Ethel and her husba I was in my teens the first time I heard of Ethel Rosenberg, back in the early 90’s, living in France. I was studying McCarthyism in History and reading The Bell Jar at the same time, and wondered why this woman had been executed for something that she may or may not have done. I didn’t really study the topic in depth after that though, but was really interested in reading this biography of Ethel Rosenberg, written by Anne Sebba, especially as it focuses on Ethel, rather than Ethel and her husband Julius together. It’s a really good read too! The author does a real deep dive into Ethel’s life, providing an in-depth view into her youth and her upbringing, and then transitioning into her life as an adult, the choices that she makes, and her love and unwavering loyalty to her family. I especially appreciated how the author shows Ethel the human, the real person, the mother, the wife, the daughter, the young lady who would teach herself music and singing and acting… Something that is so often pushed to the wayside whenever the name Ethel Rosenberg is mentioned. This biography is well-researched and well-written, it can be a little dry at times, but for the most part it flows very well, and captures the reader’s attention to the end. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    As a young woman, Ethel Rosenberg wanted to bean opera singer. She got married and had two boys. Even. Though he was. Judged guilty, there was not as much said about her compared to her husband. Thr Rosenbergs we’re judged guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage for Russia. This took place during the Cold War with the political paranoia of the McCarthy era. The United States government at that time knew that their evidence was shaky and based on her brother’s lies. She was loyal to her husband As a young woman, Ethel Rosenberg wanted to bean opera singer. She got married and had two boys. Even. Though he was. Judged guilty, there was not as much said about her compared to her husband. Thr Rosenbergs we’re judged guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage for Russia. This took place during the Cold War with the political paranoia of the McCarthy era. The United States government at that time knew that their evidence was shaky and based on her brother’s lies. She was loyal to her husband and refuse to say that he as the guilty one. Sadly they were kept in separate cells before they both were executed in June 1953.. This is the first time her story has been told. It has been told through her correspondence with her husband, lawyer and psychotherapist. This is what happens to its citizen’s rights when the government is afraid of it citizens. Her husband was executed first and then her. It is a thorough account with relevance to today and that is scary. I found this a fascinating part of history that happened in the United States. Disclaimer: I received an arc of this book from the author/publisher from Netgalley. I wasn’t obligated to write a favorable review or any review at all.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    Somehow my review disappeared. This is a well written, well researched book about one of my personal passions, the life and death of Ethel Rosenberg. Ever since I heard the TV interrupted with the news bulletin about her (and Julius’) execution by the electric chair, I have read everything written about her and her family. I can confess to being one of the few people who saw the off Broadway show, “The Lovesongs of Ethel Rosenberg.” So, of course I read this book as a reader and a pseudo-scholar Somehow my review disappeared. This is a well written, well researched book about one of my personal passions, the life and death of Ethel Rosenberg. Ever since I heard the TV interrupted with the news bulletin about her (and Julius’) execution by the electric chair, I have read everything written about her and her family. I can confess to being one of the few people who saw the off Broadway show, “The Lovesongs of Ethel Rosenberg.” So, of course I read this book as a reader and a pseudo-scholar., and I found it a complete and insightful story about the sad life of Ethel. I highly recommend this to reading groups and seminars. The story of her life and death have been touched upon in fiction and non-fiction. Most recently, THE VIXEN; by Francine Prose. If you decide to delve further into their lives, I hope you will find the topic as sad and rich as I have. Thank you Netgalley for this emotional and fulfilling read.

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