A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II

Sonia Purnell. Viking, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-7352-2529-9
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. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 01/31/2019
Release date: 04/09/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-0-7352-2530-5
Library Binding - 978-1-4328-6999-1
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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