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Who Is Vera Kelly?

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  85 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
New York City, 1962. Vera Kelly is struggling to make rent and blend into the underground gay scene in Greenwich Village. She's working night shifts at a radio station when her quick wits, sharp tongue, and technical skills get her noticed by a recruiter for the CIA.

Next thing she knows she's in Argentina, tasked with wiretapping a congressman and infiltrating a group of
Paperback, 272 pages
Expected publication: June 12th 2018 by Tin House Books
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Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
“Call the State Department. I’m CIA.”

Ooooh, this was good. Part spy thriller, part character study, and part historical fiction.

This book is told through a delicate interweaving of past and present. The past chapters chronicle the Vera’s youth, her troubled relationship with her mother, her brief stint in juvie, her sexual awakening, and the work that eventually leads to her recruitment by the CIA. The present chapters take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, circa 1966, in the months prior to t
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received this book for free from the publisher (Tin House Books) in exchange for an honest review.

I give this book 3.5 stars which rounds up to 4.

This book is a slow burn. It’s not your typical spy novel. It’s on the slow side and there isn’t much action. I was expecting some twists and turns to the story, but that wasn’t what I got. It was a pretty straightforward plot. As a spy novel, it was a bit lackluster. I also felt that the spy parts could have been developed more because all the eve
Thank you so much to Tin House for providing my free copy of WHO IS VERA KELLY? by Rosalie Knecht - all opinions are my own.

I really enjoyed this book! And can we just take a moment to admire this cover?!! It’s PERFECT and really showcases the story inside! I really loved the character Vera. So much so, I would love to see this as a series. It’s not a typical spy novel but rather more of a short piece of literary fiction about a spy. The book is short with chapters that alternate between past an
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is not your mother’s spy novel (no offense, moms). Rosalie Knecht is the knockout champion of suspenseful stories, and she really packs a page-turning punch with WHO IS VERA KELLY? Her literary footwork is impressive, deftly weaving political intrigue and heartfelt drama into a one-two knockout that will leave you dazzled.

Who is Vera Kelly? She is a CIA spy whose latest assignment is to monitor the growing political unrest in Argentina and to sniff out any KGB activity. She finds herself e
Elizabeth Willis
Dec 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, small-press
Rosalie Knecht’s Who Is Vera Kelly? is a spy novel for readers who avoid spy novels. It’s a page turner that stunningly evokes both 1960s Argentina, and the trauma of growing up queer in 1950s and 60s America. Vera Kelly is a CIA agent monitoring student activists (who are purportedly affiliated with the KGB) in a politically tumultuous Buenos Aires. Vera, operating incognito both professionally and romantically, spirals down the rabbit hole as she becomes ever more involved in these fiery stude ...more
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-release
Thanks to Tin House for sending me this book as part of the Galley Club (where you get a free book in exchange for an honest review and feedback).

When I first heard of this book, I expected a spy novel, like a female James Bond book. It is that with Vera's time as a spy in Argentina. But I think the title tells you more of what the story really is. It's about the general person of Vera Kelly and what made her who she ends up being (the spy experience is part of that). The book alternates betwee
Apr 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc-reviews
Who is Vera Kelly? is a fast, easy read. Rosalie Knecht’s writing is clear and sharp and I raced through the book in less than a day. Using chapters that alternate between Vera’s past and present, Knecht weaves a coming of age story into a political thriller. There is a lot to love about this novel, but I also found myself feeling disconnected at times. For me, Who is Vera Kelly? is a solid three stars. If you like plot driven novels, especially about spies, or historical fiction, this might be ...more
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
It does not happen often when I like book more than I expected, but that’s exactly the case with ‘Who is Vera Kelly?’ by Rosalie Knecht. It is a spy novel, so I anticipated some easy-reading, adventures, pretentious phrases and deathless main character, who stays alive in the most ridiculous situations. How happy I am, that my expectations were wrong. ‘Who is Vera Kelly’ is a smart, realistic, slow-reading novel with childhood problems and a historic background.

‘Who is Vera Kelly?’ mostly set in
Flor M
Jan 24, 2018 marked it as to-read
why is she in argentina im so intrigued (also WORRIED)
Mar 04, 2018 rated it liked it
You can read all of my full reviews at:

Smart, suspenseful and engaging. I very much liked Vera Kelly, but not for the reasons I thought I would. When I read the words “spy novel” I thought I’d be reading about a very badass Bond-like babe but Vera turned out to be a vulnerable, resourceful young woman. Although, highly badass in her own right.

Vera is a CIA agent stationed in Argentina in 1966, just trying to do her job...the beginning started off a little too polit
Dec 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Who is Vera Kelly is a beautiful, complicated novel that feels both cinematic and deeply profound. I loved every minute of the journey with Vera. Knecht is an auto-read author for me. I loved her first novel, Relief Map and didn’t think anything can top it---but this Vera Kelly did it for me.

This is a coming-of-age story of Vera who is struggling to make rent when she gets approached by the CIA. Before she knows it, she is on a trip to Argentina tasked with wiretapping a congressman and infiltr
I'm pulling the ol' "there should be half-stars on Goodreads--I'm rouding up." Who Is Vera Kelly? is a solid 3.5 if only due to its snail's pace for the first half of the novel. The writing makes up for it--I loved the 1960s Argentina and Vera's 1950s queer coming-of-age in Chevy Chase and NYC. I wasn't always terribly sure who was doing what and why, and the characterization of the other characters seemed a little sparse, but it all kind of worked out anyway in the spy novel aspect (not that I' ...more
Dec 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
I tore through this book, going on a wild ride with Vera Kelly. Many, many thanks to Tin House for the ARC of this delightful novel. Alternating between Vera’s strange childhood and her presence as a spy in Latin America, this story gradually reveals the question in the novel’s title. Truthfully, the lonely Vera may have little idea who she is either or at least she hasn’t synthesized how she ended up in Argentina and why.

Anyone who picks up this book will be in for a treat and as mentioned, a
Doug Chase
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was a great pleasure to read. It feels simple, combining elements of the thriller genre with a coming of age tale, all told with a clear voiced first person narrator. And the sum is greater than the parts. Vera Kelly, the character, grew on me, and I finished the book wanting more.
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received this book through Tin House's galley club and was surprised by how much I enjoyed a novel so outside of my usual genre preference. It took me back to my days of loving Harriet the Spy, but in a much more sophisticated fashion. It's a fast, entertaining read and I grew attached the spunky and unexpected heroine.
April Greissinger
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was given a free copy of this book from Tin House in exchange for my honest review, thank you so much!

First off, let me say how much I LOVE this cover. I didn't know what to fully expect when I started this book, but thoroughly enjoyed reading this one! I can't think of many women spy books that I have read, so this intrigued me from the beginning. This story followed spy Vera Kelly as she was tasked with wiretapping a congressman and infiltrating a group of student activists in Buenos Aires.
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I give this a 3.5 which rounds up to a 4.

First of all, what a gorgeous cover! I just love it, and I think it sets the tone for a book about power, mystery and intrigue. We learn who Vera Kelly is through two alternating story lines. It begins in the late 1950’s where we are introduced to the teenage Vera who we quickly learn is not living an ideal or easy life. From there, we fast forward to Buenos Aires Argentina in 1966 where we learn she is a CIA spy. We move back and forth learning what hap
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you have read any previous entries for this blog or followed my profile on Goodreads, you will know I am a big fan of the publishing house Tin House. I enjoy what they publish because often I find myself thinking about the titles long after I have read them. The books tend to get better as they age in my brain.

This would definitely be one of those books. I will admit while reading this through the first time, I was not a big fan which was surprising. I loved Relief Map by Rosalie Knecht, but
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received an advanced copy (my first!) and I have to say I was really surprised how much I enjoyed this novel. It's about a young, 20-something, Vera Kelly, who is in Argentina for a newly recruited CIA agent during the 1960-70s. The chapters are short (which I LOVED) and the author takes us back and forth between 2 specific time periods: Vera's troubled and difficult past as an older teen living in NY in the 1950-60's, and her life as a young and new CIA agent in Argentina in the 196 ...more
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Who Is Vera Kelly? is a small book, almost furtive, and Knecht neatly pulls of the minor miracle of matching the feel of a literary work to its story and hero. The tone of the work is quiet yet intense, a series of moments of breathy silence broken up by the bold words and philosophical challenges of the serious and hopeful, with a cynical protagonist ever-listening. The reader is pulled curiously through the secretive worlds of both 1960s-era lesbian gin clubs and a CIA-watched Buenos Aires app ...more
May 23, 2018 rated it liked it
This was well written and I certainly liked Vera, but the whole thing just felt...small. The premise is good, but the book never quite got to where it needed to be.

This is pretty standard length for a novel, yet what I got out of it felt more like a novella. There just wasn't enough there.

And while I'm sure this is much closer to what would actually happen to a CIA operative in this situation than what we see in most spy novels, it probably would have been a better book if the author had given
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Two novels in one. Or. Two novels that become one.
Part coming of age, part spy, a full narrative that researches the individual. Rosalies Knecht debut novel intertwines the younger years of a girl who will later become a CIA spy in Argentina. How did the girl that almost killed herself with pills by accident and has the typical ups and downs with her mother turn into a spy? Why? Those are some of the many mysteries behind these pages.

I appreciated the research and work on what it meant to be s
A wonderfully enjoyable historical novel about a young CIA operative in Buenos Aires in 1966, during the military coup that ousted the democratically elected president; the story moves back and forth between her time in Argentina and the life before the lead her to working with the CIA. It's a wonderful character study and a fascinating an atmospheric look at a time period and a place that I don't know at all. My only complaint about this is that I wished there were more. it could've been twice ...more
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Cold war spies, coming of age traumas, secret attractions, political coups, & a heroine whose straightforward yet rich voice will immediately grab your attention...Who is Vera Kelly? is a gem of a novel.
Knecht's tight, pointed writing really brings Vera to life and gives equal weight to her mind and adventures. Her heart and determination shine through as readers are carried away by her journey to come to terms with her sexuality and define her role in a world of patriotism, spies, and betra
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read "Who Is Vera Kelly?" in 2 days. Knecht's writing is smooth and easy to read. I'm not a big spy novel fan, but this book was unique. I related to Vera on many different levels as the book showed a young Vera coming of age with all its struggles and a modern day grown up Vera who continues struggling with her identity. Ironically being a spy allows her to create a persona and act as someone else, which is what she's basically done all her life. There were a few excellent edge of your seat m ...more
Lisa Wright
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mysteries
Vera Kelly is much better at pretending to be someone else than at being herself. This, along with her fluency in languages and skill with electronics gets her recruited by the CIA in 1962. the first jobs are easy and very well paid. Argentina is different in every way. After months of boredom and frustration a betrayal and a political coup leave Vera with nothing but her wits and nerve to save herself. I loved it!
Windy Mitchell
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. In Who is Vera Kelly?, Rosalie Knecht has created a great Cold War spy novel in which we follow the life of a strong and believable heroine. The storyline and characters are infectious and the pacing between Vera’s coming of age and later her work in Argentina with the CIA keeps the reader hooked. I did not want this book to end.
Janet Benson
May 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book very much. The author has a spare, straightforward style that nonetheless gives a clear sense of her characters and the setting. The interesting construction of the book, flipping between two timelines, is why I'm giving it four stars instead of five. Though it's well handled, it kept me from relating to Vera as much as I would have liked to.
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Spy novels are't my usual go to kind of stories. But now that I'm finished with this one I hope that Vera Kelly comes back! I couldn't put this book down. I was completely immersed in her story, and the appreciated the greater cautionary tale. Excelente!
May 18, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
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Rosalie Knecht is the author of Who is Vera Kelly? (Tin House, June 2018) and Relief Map. She grew up in Pennsylvania, attended Oberlin College and Hunter College, and works in mental health in New York City. She is also the translator of César Aira's The Seamstress and the Wind.
More about Rosalie Knecht
“He bought me a fernet and did not, to my relief, try to explain to me what it was. Expat men had a mania for explaining the indigenous liquors.” 0 likes
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