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Publisher's Summary

This first-ever biography of the enigmatic Whittaker Chambers draws on materials from 40 archives, including still-classified KGB dossiers, to trace the remarkable journey that led Chambers to center stage in America's greatest political trial. This complex portrait is rich in startling new information about Chambers' years as a Communist agent and then defector, hunted by the KGB; his conversion to Quakerism; his secret sexual turmoil; and his turbulent decade at Time magazine, where he rose from obscurity to transform the magazine into an oracle of apocalyptic anti-Communism.

But all this was a prelude to Chambers' memorable testimony against Alger Hiss in the spy case that changed America. Tanenhaus re-creates the Hiss case in all its improbable twists and turns, disentangling the motives that propelled a vivid cast of characters in unpredictable directions.

©1997 Sam Tanenhaus; (P)1997 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Riveting....an invaluable contribution....compelling to read as any espionage thriller." (Commentary magazine)
"[Lewis] masterfully handles this comprehensive biography....The high point, [Lewis'] reading of the Hiss trial, communicates the many suspenseful twists of the event." (AudioFile magazine)
"Tanenhaus writes well and sometimes brilliantly....Expect this book to stoke fires already burning for nearly half a century." (Kirkus Reviews)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

fascinating

This is a great book. Gave me an understanding of a era that has been obscured by cliche. Really changed my perspective of the Cold War and the US/Soviet Union relationship in the decades before.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Witness was much better, but this has some value

As I was listening to this, after having listened to Witness (Chambers' most excellent autobiography) multiple times, I was trying to come up with a reason that would have prompted the writing of this book. Apart from not holding back on some personal details which were unflattering (I can certainly forgive Chambers' the omissions), I cannot think of a significant issue which was covered in this book that was not covered in the autobiography. Perhaps the author's purpose was to investigate and substantiate Chambers' account of event because there was (and is) a persistent campaign by Chambers' enemies to impugn his character in an attempt to discredit his witness. So, if you're going to read to this book, I would say you absolutely must read Witness, and read it before this book.

The narration by Edward Lewis is pretty good.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

excellent

What made the experience of listening to Whittaker Chambers the most enjoyable?

This is a well-written biography by a good journalist and historian, and the audiobook's narration is clean and sharp.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Chambers was a fascinating and complicated man who wrote with eloquence, and this biography conveys it all.

Which scene was your favorite?

The relationship between Chambers and Hiss is compelling. Though Chambers exposed Hiss as a Communist, he never hated Hiss.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

This book (or "Witness") would make an outstanding movie. For a long time, the politics of the case probably made it impossible for Hollywood to tell it the right way, but perhaps now it can be done.

Any additional comments?

The best way to learn about Whittaker Chambers is to read "Witness." This biography is the second-best way.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Life in Times

Chambers' search for his way of life gives us a glimpse of history and politics in 20th Century.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ed Q
  • Eastern PA
  • 03-04-16

All U.S. citizen's should study this history

Would you listen to Whittaker Chambers again? Why?

There are so many names and relationships that will give an even deeper understanding, and either a stronger belief in Chambers's or Hiss's story, of the importance of the investigation and Congressional hearings

What was one of the most memorable moments of Whittaker Chambers?

It's startling how compromised our State Department was by the failure to safeguard information; the reluctance, or failure, to investigate the allegations of the compromise was even more startling. (Those who don't know history are condemned to repeat it.....)

Have you listened to any of Edward Lewis’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

It was impossible to digest that quickly.

Any additional comments?

The story about the man, his family, friends, upbringing and incredible talents was good - the incredible political story of Chamber's communist ties and desire to advance it's principles, and then his realization of the evil that was Stalin and the Soviet view of the world which caused Chambers to completely reexamine his beliefs, was fascinating. How this story is not taught in our schools is baffling.It seems we aren't taught in school about some of our nation's most interesting and influential people/stories - this is one of those stories that helped shape our nation in so many ways, yet most people under the age of 65 have probably never heard of Whitaker Chambers.