A Woman of No Importance

A Woman of No Importance

The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win WWII

Book - 2019
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"The never-before-told story of one woman's heroism that changed the course of the Second World War In 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission: "She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her." This spy was Virginia Hall, a young American woman--rejected from the foreign service because of her gender and her prosthetic leg--who talked her way into the spy organization dubbed Churchill's "ministry of ungentlemanly warfare," and, before the United States had even entered the war, became the first woman to deploy to occupied France. Virginia Hall was one of the greatest spies in American history, yet her story remains untold. Just as she did in Clementine, Sonia Purnell uncovers the captivating story of a powerful, influential, yet shockingly overlooked heroine of the Second World War. At a time when sending female secret agents into enemy territory was still strictly forbidden, Virginia Hall came to be known as the "Madonna of the Resistance," coordinating a network of spies to blow up bridges, report on German troop movements, arrange equipment drops for Resistance agents, and recruit and train guerilla fighters. Even as her face covered WANTED posters throughout Europe, Virginia refused order after order to evacuate. She finally escaped with her life in a grueling hike over the Pyrenees into Spain, her cover blown, and her associates all imprisoned or executed. But, adamant that she had "more lives to save," she dove back in as soon as she could, organizing forces to sabotage enemy lines and back up Allied forces landing on Normandy beaches. Told with Purnell's signature insight and novelistic panache, A Woman of No Importance is the breathtaking story of how one woman's fierce persistence helped win the war"--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: [New York] : Viking, [2019]
Copyright Date: ©2019
ISBN: 9780735225299
Characteristics: 352 pages : illustrations, map


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Oct 17, 2020

This is a bio of America's only WWII female spy, Virginia Hall. In times when the war, followed by the cold war was only for men, she overcame many obstacles to fight the German army. She evaded the enemy by sheer cunning and courage. Along the way, she made friends that perished at the hands of the enemy. Though her efforts were well documented and praised by her superiors, she was poorly treated. After WWII, her time with the CIA was anti-climatic. She was treated with disregard and condescension, which led to her retire. She spent the rest of her life quietly with her husband but it seemed she was fairly unhappy.

Sep 19, 2020

The subject of this book is a remarkable person, indeed. Virginia Hall is a name that should be learned for anyone studying WWII and the spy world. She accomplished truly amazing guerilla warfare in an occupied area. Her model of resistance became a basis for both CIA and Special Forces tactics. But the person, Virginia Hall, is more than what she did and that is not well conveyed.

The author had little to go by in Virginia's own words, either in letters or interviews. The author's painstaking research is evident in establishing verismilitude, but it suffers from the lack of insight in Virginia Hall's moods. I am not an inveterate reader of biographies and the litany of events and individuals became a bit of a slog.

But props to the reviewer who taught me a new word - hagiographic.

Sep 09, 2020

This was another excellent book about women who were heroines in WWII. This lady had a prosthetic leg, yet it didn't stop her from doing anything, even taking people to safety through the mountains in winter, on foot, without winter clothing, from Germany to Spain.

Jul 13, 2020

This is a fantastic book worth reading about a remarkable woman that most of us don't know. Author has done a wonderful job and made this book a real page turner. I highly recommend it to everyone. I don't know why a movie has not been made on this woman.

My only suggestion for a future edition is to include some maps of French countryside with the names of places and regions the book so frequently mentions.

Jul 05, 2020

A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE has an extraordinary subject, WWII spy Virginia Hall, but it suffers in the delivery. Much of the book recounts Hall’s exploits behind enemy lines in war-torn France. Hall was an adventurous, formidable, yet secretive woman who, despite having a physical disability, became one of the most successful secret agents in a male-dominated profession. It’s a story of courage, resiliency, and sacrifice that, unfortunately, in author Sonia Purnell’s hands, is, at times, plodding, confusing, and difficult to follow. There are a lot of characters, and Purnell switches between their real and undercover names. I had difficulty remembering who was who and often had to interrupt my reading to refer to the Character List at the beginning of the book or the Index at the end. Virginia Hall deserved better, and perhaps for me, in this instance, a movie (if there is one) would be the better option.

JCLBetM Mar 25, 2020

Remarkable. I'm always amazed when a historic figure is suddenly revealed decades later--how did we not know about Virginia Hall until now? A female American spy in France with a prosthetic leg who not only survived but saved so many others and was considered an immense threat by the enemy?! The author did her research well and then actually crafted an engaging story that brought Virginia to life, rather than simply listing off a bunch of interesting details.

Feb 24, 2020

fantastic read about a hero nobody's heard of. Why? Should be required reading in school.

CircMary Feb 12, 2020

Gripping and amazing story of the strength, determination, and courage of a woman mostly unknown and unrecognized. Now is her time. It reads like the best spy thriller.

Jan 30, 2020

The story of Virginia Hall is most remarkable. She was the only woman that received the Distinguished Service Cross for service in WWII. So, this book is a welcome supplement to the literature of the war. Unfortunately, the book suffers from a hagiographical narrative. There is little in the way of critical assessment of the judgement of Virginia Hall. For example, towards the end of the German occupation of France, the French resistance wanted to engage in larger scale combat in conflict with the wishes of Virginia Hall. In contrast Virginia Hall embarked on small scale (19-man unit) the ultimately did not accomplish anything. It was not clear if Virginia Hall had developed this position or it was based on orders from headquarters. The author remains silent. In another defect this narrative annoying never misses an opportunity to blame men as holding back Virginia Hall never considering that there may be other legitimate reasons in some cases. It seems that Virginia Hall increasingly had an acerbic temperament that could have reasonably limited anyone's career. The narrative set forward by the author also suffers from a lot of speculation and presumption. So it is difficult at times to understand what is fact or conjecture. The author also seems to be unaware of key aspects of the liberation of France when there is a statement to the effect that most people think the Normandy landings represented the end of heavy combat. In fact, many of the landings were lightly opposed. Furthermore, the reader experience would be enhanced with selected maps.

Jan 19, 2020

I read this book a few months ago, but it has stayed in the back of my mind as an inspiration for all women. Virginia was born to be a leader, but sadly, living in a time when ethical practices for equal employment did not exist. Her WWII espionage activities allowed her to step outside her cultural restraints to become a successful & essential figure for the Allies, showing her male counterparts that a woman could thrive when given free reign to do so.

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