☆☆➹⁀☆ 4.5 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆
About the Book:
In 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission: “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.”
The target in their sights was Virginia Hall, a Baltimore socialite who talked her way into Special Operations Executive, the spy organization dubbed Winston Churchill’s “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.” She became the first Allied woman deployed behind enemy lines and–despite her prosthetic leg–helped to light the flame of the French Resistance, revolutionizing secret warfare as we know it.
Virginia established vast spy networks throughout France, called weapons and explosives down from the skies, and became a linchpin for the Resistance. Even as her face covered wanted posters and a bounty was placed on her head, Virginia refused order after order to evacuate. She finally escaped through a death-defying hike over the Pyrenees into Spain, her cover blown. But she plunged back in, adamant that she had more lives to save, and led a victorious guerilla campaign, liberating swathes of France from the Nazis after D-Day.
Based on new and extensive research, Sonia Purnell has for the first time uncovered the full secret life of Virginia Hall–an astounding and inspiring story of heroism, spycraft, resistance, and personal triumph over shocking adversity.
Virginia Hall’s story is absolutely amazing. It is both frightening and enlightening. I cannot imagine her fortitude given her physical limitations and wartime pressures. Her initiative and cunning were admirable. The undying loyalty of the French resistance fighters who worked with Ms. Hall proved to me that she was not only a good spy, but a good leader.
Her humility in avoiding accolades for all that she accomplished was probably partially due to her devotion to the confidentiality of her spying efforts. However, that humility undoubtedly did not serve her well in her post-war career, as she clearly was not given work that reflected her incredible achievements throughout WWII. Further hindering her post-war career was gender discrimination as women, no matter what their war-time contribution were expected to return to homemaking.
Thanks to author Sonia Purnell persistence in researching the limited records and pursuing first-hand interviews with relatives, readers can learn about an unsung and mostly unknown American hero of WWII.
Overall, the audiobook narration was good, however, I didn’t care for the decision to sometimes change the voice of the narrator to reflect a direct quote from one of the characters.
About the Author: Sonia Purnell is a biographer and journalist who has worked at The Economist, The Telegraph, and The Sunday Times. Her book Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill (published as First Lady in the UK) was chosen as a book of the year by The Telegraph and The Independent, and was a finalist for the Plutarch Award. Her first book, Just Boris, was longlisted for the Orwell prize.
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