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. This is the story of Virginia Hall, the American spy who changed the course of World War II, from the author of Clementine.
Purnell’s account of Hall’s hectic, amphetamine-fuelled exploits never falters. It recalls Caroline Moorehead’s wonderful book, Village of Secrets, about defiance of the Nazis in Vichy France, but has an added touch of Ben Macintyre’s brio ... tells a redacted life. The erasures owe as much to Hall’s secretive and mystifying nature as to official censorship so it is a marvel that Purnell, who has previously written biographies of Boris Johnson and Clementine Churchill, has discovered so much. It is a pleasure to read a biography in which the author admires her subject so warmly. This might so easily have been a pernickety, fact-finding book, but instead it is a rousing tale of derring-do. Men, women and tomboys will all enjoy the courage and initiative of Virginia Hall.
That whispered-about legend she became during the war years in occupied France deserves to be loudly celebrated now ... Sonia Purnell’s excellent biography should help make that happen. If Virginia Hall herself remains something of an enigma — a testament, perhaps, to the skills that allowed her to live in the shadows for so long — the extraordinary facts of her life are brought onto the page here with a well-judged balance of empathy and fine detail. This book is as riveting as any thriller, and as hard to put down.
... a groundbreaking biography that reads like a spy thriller ... 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.