During WWII, a naive young woman is hired by a Nazi-sympathizing congressman, in this novel by the New York Times–bestselling author of A Ship Made of Paper.
As the Second World War heats up, Caitlin Van Fleet moves to Washington, DC, to become a “government girl” in the office of Congressman Stowe, who has connections to such controversial figures as the fiery radio commentator Father Coughlin and the German-American Bund. Young and impressionable, Caitlin enters into a passionate love affair with the congressman’s aide, Betty Sinclair. But their relationship, while intense, is short-lived. When Caitlin befriends Joe Rose, an undercover reporter working to expose Stowe as a Nazi collaborator, she must decide once and for all what she truly stands for.
From a two-time National Book Award finalist known for such novels as Endless Love, The Rich Man’s Table, and An Ocean Without a Shore, New York Times Notable Book Secret Anniversaries brings to life the political controversies surrounding World War II, and delves into one woman’s decades-long journey as she wrestles with questions of passion and principle.
“Spencer is one of my very favorite writers.” —Emma Cline, New York Times–bestselling author of The Girls
“A gifted storyteller.” —Newsday
“A magnificent writer.” —Anne Tyler, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Redhead by the Side of the Road
Taking its title from Longfellow (``the secret anniversaries of the heart'') Spencer's ( Endless Love ) new novel is an ambitious attempt to record a young woman's emotional, intellectual and moral awakening through vignettes illuminating her milestone experiences. Caitlin Van Fleet's life--quiet and obscure in itself--intersects with some of the significant events and personalities of the WW II years. Brought up on the estate of WASP gentry in upstate New York, where her father is the caretaker and her mother a maid, she goes to Washington to work for a senator who has close links with Father Coughlin, the German-American Bund and others with pro-Nazi sympathies. Bright but unsophisticated, Caitlin only gradually realizes the moral repugnance of the America First propaganda, through the efforts of earnest undercover reporter Joe Rose. At the end of her life she is proud of ``the strange path I've taken''--a life that has included both a passionate lesbian affair and a short heterosexual liaison that results in a child she decides to raise alone. While intrinsically interesting, the novel is marred by Spencer's decision to tell the story in abruptly shifting unchronological segments, a device that seems forced, and that prevents the novel from acquiring the dramatic momentum a straightforward account might have provided.