As a child, Elizabeth Winthrop Alsop, along with her five brothers, was raised to revere the tribal legends of the Alsop and Roosevelt families. Her parents’ marriage, lived in the spotlight of 1950s Washington where the author’s father, journalist Stewart Alsop, grew increasingly famous, was not what either of her parents had imagined it would be. Her mother's strict Catholicism and her father's restless ambition collided to create a strangely muted and ominous world, one that mirrored the whispered conversations in the living room as the power brokers of Washington came and went through their side door. Through it all, her mother, trained to keep secrets as a decoding agent with MI5, said very little. In this brave memoir, the author explores who her mother was, why alcohol played such an important role in her mother’s life, and why her mother held herself apart from all her children, especially her only daughter. In the author’s journey to understand her parents, particularly her mother, she comes to realize that the secrets parents keep are the ones that reverberate most powerfully in the lives of their children.
About the Author
Elizabeth Winthrop Alsop (www.elizabethwinthropalsop.com) is the author of over sixty works of fiction for all ages, including the novels Island Justice and In My Mother’s House. Robert Stone selected her short story, “The Golden Darters,” for Best American Short Stories. Her fantasy novels for children, The Castle in the Attic and The Battle for the Castle, are considered classics of the genre. Daughter of Spies is her first memoir.
"An extraordinary and riveting true life story, 'Daughter of Spies: Wartime Secrets, Family Lies' by Elizabeth Winthrop Alsop is a unique, absorbing, and fascinating World War II era memoir." —Midwest Book Review
"It is an extraordinary challenge for anyone to write a compelling, emotionally honest, personal memoir. To write one in parallel with the public life of a nation that unspools alongside--in this case, much of the 20th-century history of our country--is almost unimaginably difficult. Elizabeth Winthrop Alsop, in Daughter of Spies, a recounting of her parents’ long marriage as well as her family’s prominent role in the affairs of postwar America, has managed this brilliantly, and has done so with perception, wit, humor and enormous compassion. This is the story of a family through the lens of history. Intensely moving, and beautifully done."—Geoffrey Douglas, author of Class: The Wreckage of an American Family
"Alsop goes deep enough into the exploration of the parent-child relationship so that even those of us who don’t share her Brahmin legacy, are touched by her story, her longing, her reach toward the people who gave her life. Daughter of Spies is an ancient journey forged with love and fraught with anxiety, but one worth telling, for it deals with the most primal connection of all: a mother and her daughter."—Tovah Feldshuh, author of Lillyville: Mother, Daughter and Other Roles I’ve Played
"Daughter of Spies is a masterpiece. Everything about the Alsops comes to life; their families, their houses, their children, their time." —Donald E. Graham, former publisher of the Washington Post
"As a fellow Washingtonian and the offspring of an FBI agent and a CIA librarian, I found that Elizabeth Winthrop Alsop captures perfectly the sinister atmosphere of Cold War Washington. This multilayered memoir takes us on a rich, cinematic journey of great depth and power." —Tim Gunn, author of Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making it Work
"Daughter of Spies is a fascinating trip to a country—and a capital—that no longer exists. Part memoir, part elegiac tribute to the author’s mother, it is also the story of an extraordinary family that had a powerful influence upon the political and social life of postwar Washington, D.C. In Elizabeth Winthrop Alsop’s book, the Georgetown set comes back to life." —Gregg Herken, author of The Georgetown Set: Friends and Rivals in Cold War Washington
"While deftly evoking the glamour of high society, both in London and in Washington DC, and the tight-lipped secrecy born of war-time espionage – MI 5 and CIA are almost household entities in this family – Elizabeth Winthrop tells how her mother Tish Alsop, having married her American sweetheart at eighteen, had to cope with twelve – twelve! – successive pregnancies and how she struggled with loneliness and addiction, yet maintained her ironic humor to the end. As a daughter, Winthrop is compassionate and clear-eyed; as a writer, she is elegant, even-handed, witty, and incisive, showing that no amount of privilege can protect a woman from misery, and that a stiff upper lip is no solution to pain. The last pages are almost unbearably poignant. Among the chronicles of mother-daughter relationships, this fine memoir gives a fierce lesson in empathy." —Rosalind Brackenbury, author of Without Her and Becoming George Sand
"A beautifully written, deeply honest, memoir. The tales of London during the blitz, and the inside look at the author’s family life when her parents lived at the center of power in Cold War Washington are both compelling and revealing. Most of all, Winthrop illuminates her mother's life with poignancy, sympathy and understanding while chronicling with clarity their often complicated relationship." —Stephen Schlesinger, author of Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala
"Tish Alsop was a charming, beautiful, well-born war bride of a handsome, dashing, brainy war hero-turned-famous-journalist. They lived together at the center of an elite social group, the 'Georgetown set,' at a time when Washington basically ran the world. But Tish, while brave and stoic, was often lonely and sad and, at times, silently, secretly, desperate. Her daughter, Elizabeth, has written a moving memoir, at once chilling and loving, of her lifelong search for her mother." —Evan Thomas, author of The Very Best Men: The Early Years of the CIA