RaveThe Spectator (UK)... meticulous research and eye for human detail ... This is a rich telling of some complex but fascinating history, not solely addressing the female story, but including it within the whole ... It is, however, Moorehead’s sensitive use of the inspiring if sometimes harrowing stories of Ada and her female comrades, Frida Malan, Silvia Pons and Bianca Serra, and the Jewish and partisan circles around them, including that of Primo Levi, that really brings new insight to this account of the liberation of Italy. A useful chronology and list of the principal characters, of which there are many, helps readers to keep track ... This brilliant book restores women to the heart of the Italian resistance story, making clear that they performed all the same activities as the men, while facing precisely the same dangers, if with supplementary goals ... This, at last, is their powerful story.
MixedThe TelegraphThis is high-flown writing. Sometimes it comes off, such as when rooms are \'clouded with cigarette smoke and discord\', or bureaucracy \'kicks into inaction\', turns of phrase reminiscent of the pithy memoirs of Leo Marks, SOE’s brilliant head of coding. Elsewhere, Rose lapses into a more Mills-and-Boon style ... Since the book’s raison d’être is to remind us of the women’s agency, it seems odd to present them in this girlish way ... So many books on women’s contributions to the war reduce them to plucky schoolgirls: The Bletchley Girls, War Girls, Spitfire Girls, Bomb Girls, and The Girls Who Went to War. Now Rose gives us D-Day Girls, as if her subjects were not highly trained servicewomen. Nevertheless, this is a balanced account of three wartime careers that deserve to be better known, and allows Rose to make a fresh assessment of SOE’s achievements as well as its failures, the great courage shown (as well as some cowardice), and the price, as well as the prize, of victory.
PositiveThe Spectator... excellent ... The facts are right, so it is a pity to find a few sweeping statements, such as that Hall ‘alone… changed opinions about women in warfare’, when she was in fact one of several extremely effective female special agents. At the time, as the ironic title of this biography suggests, women were effective partly because they were so often considered to be ‘of no importance’. All too often since, such women are still celebrated for their courage and beauty rather than for their achievements. The great strength of this book is that Purnell has far too much respect for her subject to fall into that trap ... What this book makes evident is that sustained results in the field were down to the skill, character and to some extent the luck of each individual sent to serve, whether male or female, able-bodied or otherwise.