Ethel Rosenberg

Wingate Prize, 2022

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781780226620

Price: £10.99

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‘A heart-piercingly brilliant book about a woman whose personal life put her in the cross-hairs of history’ HADLEY FREEMAN
‘Totally riveting. I couldn’t put it down’ VICTORIA HISLOP
‘Ethel sings out for all women who have been misunderstood and wronged, and refuse to bow down’ NICHOLAS SHAKESPEARE

‘A shocking tale of betrayal, naivety, misogyny and judicial failure’ SONIA PURNELL
‘A historic miscarriage of justice laid bare for our times’ PHILIPPE SANDS

Ethel Rosenberg was a supportive wife, loving mother to two small children and courageous idealist who grew up during the Depression with aspirations to become an opera singer.

On 19 June 1953 she became the first woman in the US to be executed for a crime other than murder. She was thirty-seven years old.

Ethel’s conviction for conspiracy to commit espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union followed what FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover called the ‘trial of the century’ in Cold War America and is still controversial. Now, Anne Sebba’s masterly, meticulously researched and deeply moving biography finally tells Ethel’s true story – a life barbarically cut short on the basis of tainted evidence for a crime she almost certainly did not commit.


Anne Sebba's brilliant, unforgettable biography is the story of a woman who fell victim to a fatal cocktail of prejudices - anti-Communism, antisemitism and misogyny
Anne Sebba's Ethel Rosenberg is a tour de force, a tale of a woman betrayed and executed. Sebba's painstaking research creates a new picture of a woman caught up in accusations, an activist, a devoted mother sent to the electric chair, a tale of idealism and government's demand for a scapegoat, a moving, fascinating picture of the first woman to be executed in the US for espionage. 'Always remember we are innocent', she said as she died. For years, Ethel Rosenberg has been attacked and castigated. Now Sebba's new access to sources and research tells her real story - of a loyal wife, a woman of principle who became public enemy no 1 for a terrified political class and public - and asks us to make up our own minds
A gripping tale of betrayal, deceit and judicial incompetence
BBC History Magazine
Sebba gets her readers under the skin of both Ethel and her era so effectively that this shameful saga had me alternately close to tears and boiling with rage
Daily Telegraph
This shattering story of a courageous woman swept up in one of America's greatest miscarriages of justice is enthralling and deeply moving. With her usual brilliance, Anne Sebba has brought to light the real person buried under decades of propaganda and has finally succeeded in humanising Ethel Rosenberg. This book is hugely relevant today, it shows us the perils of allowing ideology and hysteria to take precedence over justice. This is a magnificent work, meticulously researched and skilfully crafted
ARIANA NEUMANN, author of New York Times bestseller 'When Time Stopped'
An intelligent, sensitive and absorbing account of the short, tragic life of a woman made remarkable by circumstance. [Ethel] emerges as a stubbornly courageous figure, a woman who towers above the parade of morally grubby, self-seeking and misogynistic figures who conspired to destroy her
Melissa Benn, GUARDIAN
Sebba's painstaking research pulls back the veil of historic projections
Financial Times
Absolutely gripping in so many ways; beautifully written and superbly researched, a brilliant and a fresh take on a famous case. This is simultaneously a Shakespearean tragedy of a woman and family betrayal, a history of American Communism and Soviet espionage in the USA, a very modern story with links to the 21st century and Trump, a web of conspiracies, politics and witch-hunts, and an investigation of treason and justice
Anne Sebba has written a powerful biography of a wife, mother and woman, caught by a system determined to make an example of her and betrayed by those she thought she could trust
Sebba gets her readers under the skin of both Ethel and her era so effectively that this shameful saga had me alternately close to tears and boiling with rage
Was Ethel innocent? Anne Sebba, a masterful storyteller, peels away the layers of historical and sometimes deliberate misinformation to reveal the extraordinary truth. This book will haunt me for some time
Powerful . . . her narrative clings to the reader like ivy . . . a feat of empathy
Masterful, original and painfully gripping, a historic miscarriage of justice laid bare for our times
What a soaring story that challenges on so many levels! Anne Sebba has an uncanny knack of upending historical orthodoxies in compelling style. In this gripping account of Ethel Rosenberg's life and death, she does so again. It's a shocking tale of betrayal, naivety, misogyny and judicial failure. As a woman who maybe loved too well, Ethel remains hard to like, but she's even harder to condemn
This is a magnificent book, one with a hundred strands, woven together with such skill that the only thought one can have at the end of reading is: how did we never know the true story of this remarkable woman?
An almost unbearably terrible story. I was completely held, absorbed and involved with the story of Ethel's short life. Brilliant ... could not be bettered
A tragic and gripping tale, scrupulously documented, of political chicanery, family betrayal and legal perfidy, Anne's Sebba's book has unnerving echoes in the modern world
Anne Sebba's riveting reappraisal not only includes previously unseen letters and testimony but also manages to extract Ethel from her marriage . . . this important and compelling book raises resonant issues around what happens when collective fear leads to hysteria and justice is wilfully ignored
Totally riveting. I couldn't put it down
Sebba's impassioned investigation into this shameful saga concludes that this remarkable woman became a "human sacrifice" to Red Scare hysteria and 1950s chauvinism
An absorbing book
Riveting . . . A concise yet thorough account of a 1953 miscarriage of justice with alarming relevance today
A heart-piercingly brilliant book about a woman whose personal life put her in the cross-hairs of history
An engaging portrait of the woman at the centre of a shameful case in US history
Timely, superbly written and ultimately devastating, this is an American tragedy indeed. I don't think I've ever read a book that has moved me more
Seventy years on Anne Sebba has given Ethel Rosenberg a towering memorial
In Anne Sebba, Ethel Rosenberg has found the ideal biographer, sympathetic without being blind to her faults and a sure understanding of the period. Her portrayal is compelling . . . it is impossible to read her account of Ethel's last days without being moved
A compelling story of love, betrayal, misplaced idealism, and brutal and legal political manoeuvring
A riveting account of "the Dreyfus case of Cold-War America". Ethel Rosenberg's execution in 1953 united the Pope, Einstein and Picasso in condemning her conviction as both a crime against humanity and an assault on America's idea of itself. As Sebba shows to scathing effect, with a message that will strike contemporary nerves, Ethel placed truth above fake news, and being a good wife and mother above being a good Communist. She had wanted to be an opera singer, but here she sings out for all women who have been misunderstood and wronged, and refuse to bow down