Kaite Welsh

The Half-Life of Deceit

Red Joan


Chatto & Windus 392pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

Loosely inspired by the case of Melita Norwood, the KGB’s longest-serving British spy, who was outed aged 87 in 1999, Jennie Rooney’s third novel is a meditation on the secrets we keep for – and from – the people we love. Joan’s mother, a nurse in the First World War, is fond of describing her youth as an ‘unprecedented time’, and it is this phrase that resonates with Joan as she escapes a life of suburban domesticity for Cambridge and a scientific career. A combination of youthful idealism and an encounter with the bohemian Sonya pulls her into the circle of a group of student communists, and it is there that she encounters Sonya’s cousin Leo, whose attraction will come to define her adult life. 

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