A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERChosen as a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by NPR, the New York Public Library, Amazon, the Seattle Times, the Washington Independent Review of Books, PopSugar, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, BookBrowse, the Spectator, and the Times of London Winner of the Plutarch Award for Best Biography
"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 meticiulous history that reads like a thriller. - Ben Macintyre 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.
- ISBN-13: 9780735225299
- ISBN-10: 073522529X
- Publisher: Viking
- Publish Date: April 2019
- Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Page Count: 368
A Woman of No Importance
Sonia Purnell, the bestselling author of Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill, captures the thrilling story of a female spy in A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II, a groundbreaking biography that reads like a spy thriller.
Purnell’s subject is Virginia Hall, the daughter of a proper Maryland family, who sought to elude her mother’s social control and embrace her own desire for an adventurous life by applying with the U.S. State Department. But despite superior language skills and test results, Hall found herself stuck in low-level clerical jobs as result of the era’s ingrained sexism.
Hall was stationed as a clerk in Turkey when a hunting accident resulted in the loss of her left leg. Despite near-fatal blood infections and the pain of walking with a prosthetic, Hall later volunteered as an ambulance driver for the French army in 1939. Her bravery and passion for France made her an attractive recruit for Britain’s Special Operations Executive, the secretive spy organization given the nod by Winston Churchill to fight the Nazis through James Bond-style espionage. Embedded in Nazi-occupied France, Hall helped organize the French Resistance in ways so ingenious and suspenseful that her previously untold story has recently been optioned for film.
Although documentation of the French Resistance movement exists only in fragments, Purnell ably draws on a variety of sources to create a suspenseful, heartbreaking and ultimately triumphant tale of heroism and sacrifice.