NATIONAL BESTSELLER • The dramatic, untold true story of the extraordinary women recruited by Britain’s elite spy agency to help pave the way for Allied victory in World War II
“Gripping. Spies, romance, Gestapo thugs, blown-up trains, courage, and treachery (lots of treachery)—and all of it true.”—Erik Larson, author of The Devil in the White City and Dead Wake
In 1942, the Allies were losing, Germany seemed unstoppable, and every able man in England was on the front lines. To “set Europe ablaze,” in the words of Winston Churchill, the Special Operations Executive (SOE) was forced to do something unprecedented: recruit women as spies. Thirty-nine answered the call, leaving their lives and families to become saboteurs in France.
In D-Day Girls, Sarah Rose draws on recently declassified files, diaries, and oral histories to tell the thrilling story of three of these remarkable women. There’s Andrée Borrel, a scrappy and streetwise Parisian who blew up power lines with the Gestapo hot on her heels; Odette Sansom, an unhappily married suburban mother who saw the SOE as her ticket out of domestic life and into a meaningful adventure; and Lise de Baissac, a fiercely independent member of French colonial high society and the SOE’s unflappable “queen.” Together, they destroyed train lines, ambushed Nazis, plotted prison breaks, and gathered crucial intelligence—laying the groundwork for the D-Day invasion that proved to be the turning point in the war.
Rigorously researched and written with razor-sharp wit, D-Day Girls is an inspiring story for our own moment of resistance: a reminder of what courage—and the energy of politically animated women—can accomplish when the stakes seem incalculably high.
Praise for D-Day Girls
“Rigorously researched . . . [a] thriller in the form of a non-fiction book.”—Refinery29
“Equal parts espionage-romance thriller and historical narrative, D-Day Girls traces the lives and secret activities of the 39 women who answered the call to infiltrate France. . . . While chronicling the James Bond-worthy missions and love affairs of these women, Rose vividly captures the broken landscape of war.”—The Washington Post
“Gripping history . . . thoroughly researched and written as smoothly as a good thriller, this is a mesmerizing story of creativity, perseverance, and astonishing heroism.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
In this gripping history, Rose (For All the Tea in China) skillfully details the lives of a handful of ordinary women living in dreary occupied France who also happened to be highly trained agents for the London-based Special Operations Executive (SOE). Often parachuting under a full moon behind enemy lines, these women and their male colleagues blended in with the locals as they set up networks and trained resistance fighters for D-Day. They were chosen in part for their unflappable temperaments; the fearless Andr e Borrel, for example, reveled in her work as a saboteur, serenely riding away on her bicycle as her charges exploded. Unassuming Mary Herbert used a planned pregnancy as the ultimate cover no one would suspect a young mother of spying. The yearlong delay in freeing France resulted German double agents infiltrating, with devastating results for the SOE operatives as Allied generals bickered over landing dates, Odette Sansom suffered years of torture and tuberculosis in Ravensbruck while still protecting the network but these largely unheralded volunteers depleted German tank divisions, boosted French morale, and quite possibly served as the inspiration for Ian Fleming's James Bond. Thoroughly researched and written as smoothly as a good thriller, this is a mesmerizing story of creativity, perseverance, and astonishing heroism.