Reviewer Conny Withay:Operating her own business in office management since 1991, Conny is an avid reader, volunteers reading the Bible to the elderly, and makes handmade jewelry. A cum laude graduate with a degree in art living in the Pacific Northwest, she is married with two sons, two daughter-in-laws, and one granddaughter.
Author: Cynthia Helms with Chris Black
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
“I had always wanted to be my own person, to have my own life and make a contribution to the world. Although I viewed my experience as the mother of four wonderful children as among the most enriching and valuable of my life, this new phase that began in my mid-forties was simply wonderful,” states Cynthia Helms in her book, An Intriguing Life: A Memoir of War, Washington, and Marriage to an American Spymaster.
This one hundred and ninety-nine page hardbound book has a photograph of a mature, contented-looking woman on the front cover. Targeted toward adults who want to learn the behind-the-scenes in political and social Washington D.C. during the nineteen sixties to date, this autobiographical read is from the wife of a key player who hob-knobbed with dignitaries, kings and justices. The book is not a “grandmother did this or that” tome that only those in her family can enjoy, but a firsthand viewpoint of being the spouse, sidekick and dinner hostess to Washington “insiders.” The sixteen pages of black and white photographs are interesting and the over-nine page index includes all names, places and topics discussed.
With the prodding of family and friends, the author writes about her life, starting the first chapter in the 1960s when she is divorcing her first husband, the country is in turmoil over the death of Kennedy and King and she is searching for a new life of her own.
Born in 1923 in Maldon, England as the sixth child living on her parent’s farm before World War II, the young girl was an avid reader who was sent to boarding school, witnessed the coronation of King George VI, became a British boat crew Wren at age eighteen where she once escorted Queen Elizabeth and married an older Navy doctor at an early age. When her husband went to work at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, she awkwardly acclimated to the new American lifestyle and gave birth to four children.
The young family moved to Washington D.C., doing more international travel to Canada, Algiers, Columbia and Tunisia and started socializing with more Washington movers, shakers and socialites. In 1966 she meet Richard Helms, asked for a divorce in 1967 when the idea was rarely instigated by women and remarried in 1968 to Helms, determined to be true to herself and her beliefs.
Since her second husband was the director of central intelligence, he had constant contact with United States presidents, court justices, public figures and high society personalities. The chapters amass a plethora of who’s who, name-dropping and stories ranging between gossip, rumors and historical incidences. Besides Nancy Reagan, Pat Nixon and the White House, tales are told about Warren Buffet, Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor along with Bill Gates, Henry Kissinger and Paul McCartney. More international luminaries were added such as Moshe Dayan, King Hussein and the shah during trips abroad and when her husband became ambassador to Iran.
In addition to having met so many famous people, the non-religious writer speaks often of her parents, children, and divorce along with her love of working at the Smithsonian Institute and volunteering with Concern, Inc., a women-aimed environmental organization. Her personal recap of having skin cancer melanoma and her husband’s plea bargain legal case about his governmental oaths show her compassion and understanding.
In spite of repetition of stories, references and notables, Helms does a thorough job keeping the reader engaged as she gives her personal and political views of her very intriguing, interesting private and public life.
Follow Here To Purchase An Intriguing Life: A Memoir of War, Washington, and Marriage to an American Spymaster