A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Chosen as a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by NPR, the New York Public Library, the Seattle Times, the Washington Independent Review of Books, BookBrowse, the Spectator, and the Times of London
“Excellent…This book is as riveting as any thriller, and as hard to put down.” -- The New York Times Book Review
"A compelling biography of a masterful spy, and a reminder of what can be done with a few brave people -- and a little resistance." - NPR
A never-before-told story of Virginia Hall, the American spy who changed the course of World War II, from the author of Clementine.
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. A Woman of No Importance is the breathtaking story of how one woman's fierce persistence helped win the war.
British journalist Purnell (Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill) vividly resurrects an underappreciated hero and delivers an enthralling story of wartime intrigue. Virginia Hall, a spirited young woman from a once-wealthy Baltimore family, embarked on an overseas career as a clerk with the State Department in 1931 after finding that women were not welcome in the Foreign Service. Despite impressive work, she was barred from taking the diplomatic corps entrance exam for unexplained reasons. Two years later, a gunshot wound in a hunting accident cost her half of her left leg. Despite her disability, Hall drove ambulances for the French army after the war started. An undercover British agent noticed her, and she was hired by the Special Operations Executive to recruit Resistance workers in France. Posing as a newspaper reporter, Hall established a vast underground network that pushed back against the German invaders. In late 1942, with her cover blown, Hall escaped France via a dangerous trek across the Pyrenees to Spain. When the SOE refused to send her back to France, she joined the American Office of Strategic Services to facilitate D-Day operations. Though the broader contours of Hall's story will be familiar to those who've read about wartime France, Purnell does a fine job of bringing Hall's story to life. Fans of WWII history and women's history will be riveted. Illus.
Customer ReviewsSee All
A Woman of No Importance
A great sense of immediacy: I felt as if I were there with the saboteurs and radio operators. At times I felt confusion with the chronology of events: so many activities occurring within a short period. War is confusing! Some parts reminded me of “The Alice Network “. Well researched. I enjoyed seeing the photos at the end of the book.
I could not put this book down
Great read! Very nicely timed with The 75th anniversary of D day. Many historical books have a fair amount of drag, but this one keep delivering. We forget how sexist the history of the US has been until you read something like this. A throughly enjoyable book.
A Woman of No Importance
An incredible story about a woman of superhuman endurance and determination that is told like a thriller. I am in awe of her.