The Sisterhood

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for The Sisterhood:

This has nothing to do with traveling pants.

Quick synopsis:

A look at the women of the CIA from inception to now.

Fact for Non-History People:

In the CIA in the 90s, women filled 40% of positions but only 10% of the highest-level jobs.

Fact for History Nerds:

The first known English female spy was playwright and novelist Aphra Behn in 1666.

My Take on The Sisterhood:

It’s hard being a spy. It’s especially hard when you are a woman spy who is not allowed to get married, have children, or basically do anything someone finds offensive to their tastes. If you don’t believe me, just take a gander at Liza Mundy’s meticulously researched The Sisterhood.

The book is broken up into three sections but really has two sections in my opinion. The first section is about the creation of what would become the CIA during World War II and then covering the Cold War and the run up to September 11th. Mundy focuses on many different women and their day-to-day issues trying to navigate a very sexist CIA. Mundy has a clear vision of how to impart on the reader how many challenges women faced just to hold a job, let alone get promoted.

The second part, which is basically September 11th to today, felt much more uneven. It seems to me that the WWII/Cold War section focused on the women of the CIA with world events in the background. The section on the War on Terror felt like the women took a backseat to the issues of the day. For example, the Iraq War gets laser focus in the narrative and members of the Sisterhood are mentioned almost as an afterthought in discussions about failed national policy and torture. Mundy did a great job in the first part of the book that I couldn’t help but feel the messiness of the past 20 years bogged down the pace and took attention away from the Sisterhood.

I still enjoyed this immensely. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the subject or if you loved Mundy’s acclaimed previous book, Code Girls.

(This book was provided as an advance read copy by Netgalley and Crown Publishing.)


A good read for anyone interested in spying. Buy it here!

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The Sisterhood by Liza Mundy
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