The Press Release for Ethel Rosenberg

The Press Release of Ethel Rose

After five years work the moment you read the press release is when you know it’s real … you still don’t have an actual book in your hands, the excitement of which for me has never lessened from that first book, with my name on the spine, many years ago. But the piece of paper announcing to the world what a great book is on its way is almost more important. This is the document that will decide its fate. An advance guard, leading from the front, the harbinger of bestsellerdom, the spearhead that will go ahead of you trumpeting to potential readers what they are about to discover.

And now the press release announcing my newest book, finished in lockdown has made its way into the world. So, with no more fanfare, here it is:

 ** Under embargo until 00.01 10 February ** 


Rights for acclaimed historian, Anne Sebba’s ‘masterful’ biography of Ethel Rosenberg have been snapped up by Miramax Films.  Michael Edelstein will produce through Miramax Films with whom he has a first look deal for television with Sebba attached as consultant and Executive Producer. The deal was brokered by Lesley Thorne at Aitken Alexander.

Weidenfeld and Nicholson acquired publication rights from Clare Alexander of Aitken Alexander Associates and will publish in hardback this, the first biography of Ethel Rosenberg in 30 years and the first to be written with the use of her dramatic prison letters, in June 2021. Using new interviews with Ethel’s two sons and others who knew Ethel, including fellow prisoners, Sebba skilfully brings to life the story of the only woman in the US to be executed for a crime other than murder.

Bestselling author of That Woman, The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess Of Windsor, Anne Sebba said: ‘This is both a story for our time and above all a story of a woman, mother and a 1950’s housewife who dreamt of being an opera singer but instead dared to tell truth to power and paid the ultimate price.’

Alan Samson, Chairman of W&N said:Anne has established herself as one of Britain’s foremost biographers, and we are very proud to publish her. This is the book she was born to write. It is historically important as the scrupulously researched truth behind a shocking injustice, and it is also a marvellous feat of storytelling that will enthral every reader and viewer. With all her trademark precision, empathy and determination to bring women’s history and stories centre stage, Anne shines a spotlight on the story of Ethel to reveal a catastrophic failure of humanity.’

With astonishing advance praise from Claire Tomalin, Philippe Sands and Carmen Callil, Sebba tells the story of how, on 19 June 1953 Rosenberg, came to be executed after spending her final three years in prison, two of them in solitary confinement. She was thirty-seven years old and the mother of two small children. Her case, America’s Dreyfus case, is of deep significance today at a time of world tension, imprisonment of political opponents, and conspiracy rumours focused on a resurgent Soviet Union. Yet even today, at a time when the Cold War seems all too resonant, Ethel’s conviction for conspiracy to commit espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union, is still controversial. The story of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg refuses to die; this is an important moment to recount not simply what FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover called the ‘trial of the century’, but also a timeless human story of a supportive wife, loving mother and idealist who had her life barbarically cut short for a crime she almost certainly did not commit after a flawed trial. Ethel’s story lays bare a nation once again deeply divided and unable to live at peace with itself.

Ethel Rosenberg: A Cold War Tragedy will publish in hardback, audio and ebook on 24 June 2020, priced £20.00.

For all media enquiries please contact Maura Wilding: or 07915388571

Notes to Editors

Advance praise for Ethel Rosenberg: A Cold War Tragedy

‘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’ – ANTHONY HOROWITZ, author of The Magpie Murders

‘Masterful, original and painfully gripping, a historic miscarriage of justice laid bare for our times’ – PHILIPPE SANDS, author of East West Street

‘Absolutely gripping in so many ways; beautifully written and superbly researched, a brilliant and a fresh take on a famous case.’ – SIMON SEBAG MONTEFIORE

‘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’ – CAROLINE MOOREHEAD

‘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’ CLAIRE TOMALIN

‘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?’ CARMEN CALLIL

‘Totally riveting. I couldn’t put it down’ VICTORIA HISLOP

‘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…’ ANITA ANAND

‘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’ SONIA PURNELL

‘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 is a magnificent work, meticulously researched and skilfully crafted’ ARIANA NEUMANN, author of New York Times bestseller When Time Stopped

‘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.’ KATE WILLIAMS

Anne SebbaAnne Sebba

Anne Sebba is one of Britain’s most distinguished biographers. Formerly a Reuters correspondent based in London and Rome, she has written ten works of non-fiction, mostly about iconic women, and presented BBC radio documentaries. She is the author of the international bestseller That Woman, a biography of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor

Sebba read History at King’s College London and her first job was at the BBC World Services in the Arabic Department. Her previous book, Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved and Died in the 1940’s won Franco-British Society prize and film rights have been sold, with a multi episode TV drama planned.

She has written many other critically acclaimed books of non-fiction, mostly about iconic women who enjoyed using power and influence in different ways such as Enid Bagnold, Mother Teresa, Laura Ashley and Jennie Churchill. She has also written several short stories and introductions to reprinted novels. Her biography, That Woman, The Life Of Wallis Simpson, Duchess Of Windsor, quickly became a bestseller on publication. Anne’s discovery of a new archive of letters and diaries shedding dramatic new light on this important story was the subject of a Chanel 4 TV documentary, The Secret Letters, based on her work.

Sebba makes regular television appearances, has presented radio documentaries about women including Harriet Cohen and Joyce Hatto – both pianists – is an official lecturer for the The Arts Society, formerly the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (Nadfas). She is a former Chair of the Society of Authors, now on the SOA Council, and former President of ArtsRichmond. She is a Trustee of the National Archives Trust and a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research.

She has three children and six grandchildren and lives in London.

Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Weidenfeld & Nicolson is one of the most prestigious and dynamic literary imprints in British and international publishing, we pride ourselves on bringing provocative, award-winning and lasting works  of fiction and non-fiction to a popular audience, and specialise in beautifully produced books, exceptional writing and new ideas.

In non-fiction Weidenfeld & Nicolson’s range covers current affairs, history, biography, memoir, narrative non-fiction, popular science, music and sport. Authors include Simon Sebag Montefiore, Adam Rutherford, Keith Richards, Antony Beevor, Nicholas Crane, John McEnroe, Malala Yousafzai, A A Gill, Philippe Sands, Mark Kermode, Bettany Hughes, Tina Brown and Henry Marsh.

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Where every story matters.

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Founded in 1991, the Orion Publishing Group today publishes under eight main imprints: Gollancz, the UK’s No.1 science fiction and fantasy imprint; Orion Fiction, a heartland for brilliant commercial fiction; Orion Spring, home of wellbeing and health titles written by passionate celebrities and world-renowned experts; Phoenix, a new literary-commercial imprint for books that combine great writing with great storytelling; Seven Dials, for the very best commercial non-fiction, beautifully designed and produced; Trapeze for commercial fiction and non-fiction books that start conversations; Weidenfeld & Nicolson, one of the most prestigious and dynamic literary imprints in British and international publishing; and White Rab

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