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Washington has provided a setting for many a tale of politics and passion, and in Hope Hale Davis’ Great Day Coming: A Memoir of the 1930s (Steer Forth Press, 337 pp., $24), those streams converge. Unfortunately, the convergence disappoints. A Midwest erner who had established herself as a writer and radical in Manhattan by the time she came to D.C. in April 1933, Davis found in the first flush of the New Deal the impetus to join the American Communist Party. Great Day Coming tells how Davis and comrades pushed the Party line from their civil service jobs (roll over, Walt Winchell, and tell McCarthy the news!), and how, when Davis’ husband, economist Hermann Brunck, cracked from the strain of the infiltrator’s life, she struggled to pull him back into the world. While demonstrating succinctly her status as a premature New Leftist—for Davis and her ilk, 30 years before the Port Huron Statement, the personal was unalloyedly political—the writer drops only passing hints of Washington as the city began its ascent into the big time. Intent on portraying her youthful experiences, Davis eschews anchoring details except in brief and tantalizing references, as in one scene where she drives the paranoiac Brunck home to Virginia from a cell meeting on Foxhall Road NW. Bound down Arizona Avenue and across the pre-1936 edition of Chain Bridge, she begins to sense how unhinged he is as he grills her on philosophical conundrums: “[M]y answer was lost in the rattle and clank of chains and planks as we crossed above black rocks and cascading water. Tonight for the first time this scared me, and I drove faster than was safe on the narrow bridge.” In this brief passage, as in others set in the downtown Woodward & Lothrop’s, Chestnut Lodge and St. Elizabeths mental hospitals, Union Station, and apartments around Georgetown and Fairmont Heights, Great Day Coming elides glimpses of a bygone Washington worth volumes more than the author’s well-meaning stint as one of Uncle Joe’s useful idiots.