Adapted from Jennie Rooney’s popular book which revolves around the real life events of Melita Norwood, Red Joanna sets the scene in 1970s London. Here, we follow the mischievous activities of an ambitious young woman, Joan Stanley (Rooney), who works in the stacks of a public library. Under the guidance of her new employer, Richard Norwood (Keatman), she falls for an enchanting young analyst, Guy Templeman (Cillian Murphy), who also happens to be an ex-lover of hers. The two of them quickly become lovers, and although there seem to be no definite plans to marry, their emotional relationship is something readers will find both engrossing and thrilling.
But the most important thing to note about Red Joan is that it is a story told entirely in the first person, with no outward appearance of any character’s voice. It is a book about how people interact with each other, rather than a plot about a spy or a criminal. This is what makes it such a unique and engaging read. Unlike many novels where the actions of a protagonist are forced through the actions of another person, in Red Joanna the actions of each character are done with a detached style, as if each were observing the others actions without having any knowledge of the other’s identity. As a result, the reader doesn’t feel as if the characters are two different people, but feels more like they are one person in a strange situation.
In one scene, Red Joanna meets with a former lover of hers, and in the course of the conversation she learns that he is working for the British government as a double agent. In exchange for helping the British to keep tabs on American double agents, he gets a very high salary, which is paid to him by giving his lover a photograph of himself with a red hat. This information is crucial to Joanna, since she is after the photograph and plans on using it to get into the Russian compound where her mother lives, to find out if she can trust her new employer there.
Along the way, Red Joanna meets up with a member of the underground group that wants to help her stop her mother from getting the nuclear weapons, called the Peacekeepers. These guys have been trained to save the world, although each has their own reasons for doing so. One of them is a great British civil servant, who was forced to leave London during the Blitz, due to his commitment to the defense of humanity. Joanna realizes that if the British government had sent her to serve in this position, she would be able to free her mother from the terrible hands of the ticking time bomb.
Joanna is soon pulled into a bigger operation involving a group of terrorists and a top level Intel agent known as Lord John. While everyone is busy trying to stop the bombs from going off, Joanna is secretly framed for the murder of an undercover British soldier, while under surveillance of the mysterious Trevor Nunn. When a top-level meeting between the leaders of world Jewry and the Russian president is arranged, it will involve Joanna’s friend Victoria who wants to help her friend escape from England, while helping her to learn why she was framed. Meanwhile, Joanna’s own arrest and conviction will put her face with some very powerful people.
Cambridge University is one of the top educational establishments in the world. Joanna is surprised when she learns that her father was a highly successful Cambridge University professor, working with top secret Soviet nuclear weapons research. At the center of this incredibly sensitive operation is a young woman named Julia; one of Joanna’s childhood friends. The two are deeply connected; and when Joanna discovers that she is going to be recruited into the underground group which tries to keep the world from using the atomic bomb, the two of them are on a race to find out what they’re up against…
Russ Meyer’s “The Woman Who Played With Men” is in my opinion one of the most realistic romance novels I’ve ever read. I was blown away by the writing style, the incredible plot, and all the engrossing details of the complex characters within the book. There were times when I felt I needed a break, but things kept pouring in, and the writing was still as good as the next day. If you enjoy a true story with a touch of romance, then “The Woman Who Played With Men” is a must read for you!
Like the novel, “The Woman Who Played With Men” is full of rich historical detail, and like the real life events that inspired the book, there is plenty to interest you. The historical backdrop and the conspiracy behind the scene will make this book a unique experience. My favorite scenes within the book are when Joanna and Russ compare quotes from famous people (like Winston Churchill), and when they discuss different cultural aspects of Europe. This book might even make you think about how important music is to our existence as humans, and how important music is to Russian culture in particular.