Ethel

Tema Nason, Author Delacorte Press $18.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-385-30168-8
``How did all this happen to me? How did I get from my kitchen to here?'' asks Ethel Rosenberg from her cell on the Death Row at Sing Sing in 1951. She and her husband Julius have been convicted of passing atomic secrets to Russia; they were executed in 1953. In writing this ``fictional autobiography'' of Ethel, Nason's premise is that the couple was unjustly accused, framed by the FBI. We read of Ethel's youth in an immigrant New York family; her ambition to go on the stage, thwarted by the reality of a Depression job as a shipping clerk; her marriage to electrical engineer Julius; and, eventually, their bewildered involvement in a witch hunt--compounded by the mistakes of an ineffectual lawyer--that condemned them to death. Evoking Ethel's voice and speech patterns-- pregnant with Yiddishisms--Nason also sketches in her protagonist's idealistic commitment to social justice as a union activist and (touched on only tangentially) as a member of the Communist Party. She is not successful, however, in conveying Ethel's emotional anguish in Sing Sing, nor are we convinced of the reasons for Ethel's unwavering determination to go to her death, and leave her children orphans, rather than betray her principles. Although her six years of research included talking to the psychiatrist who saw Ethel in prison, Nason does not touch the wellsprings of Ethel's personality, nor does she accord the woman a measure of dignity. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1990
Release date: 10/01/1990
Mass Market Paperbound - 320 pages - 978-0-440-21110-5
Paperback - 306 pages - 978-0-8156-0745-8
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