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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.
fantastic read about a hero nobody's heard of. Why? Should be required reading in school.
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.
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.
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.
The sheer strength and determination of Virginia Hall, who was a world war II hero for her under-cover work, primarily in France, facing terrible conditions, is amazing. That she accomplished the "impossible" secret missions despite her heavy prosthetic leg only makes it more amazing. Despite her high intelligence and heroism, once she returned to the United States, she had very little professional recognition, however.
I'm looking forward to the movie, which is to star Daisy Ridley, of the final "Star Wars" films.
Why isn't this book a movie already?! The story of this amazing woman must not be lost to history, as those of so many courageous women have been.
I'd love to see this awesome book turned into a movie. Who would be cast as Virginia Hall? Whether that becomes a reality or not, hats off to the author for sharing this story of a woman of tremendous importance as I reflect on what all she did for so many.
This non-fiction account of one of America's (and France's) true heroes is excellent reading. American Virginia Hall was a polyglot with an adventurous streak and a burning love for France, her adopted country. Spurned by the U.S. Diplomatic Corps for being a woman, and sometimes because of her wooden leg, she joined the British SOE to help organize (or organise if you're British) French resistance fighters during WWII. Her exploits are truly amazing, characterized by courage, intelligence, and selflessness. Most importantly, she got the job done and earned the respect, even devotion, of those men and women she led or worked with.
The book is deeply researched. The acknowledgments section is almost a third of the book. The writer does seem to have a detectable feminist bias. She gives Virginia credit for everything and blame for nothing. No doubt there was rampant sexism back then that kept Hall from reaching the roles and ranks she deserved, but as fate would have it, she probably ended up in a role that not only best suited her talents and desires, but was the best possible one for the Allied war effort as well.
I love reading about real strong women figures, and this book certainly has that. I admire how courageous, intelligent, and resourceful Virginia was. At the same time, it was frustrating to read about how her so many of her inept male colleagues put so many barriers in her path, although I have to say I was not surprised to read about this, as gender discrimination is still going on today, in this supposedly "enlightened" time.
This is the riveting story of a truly inspirational woman, Virginia Hall. She overcame tremendous obstacles in her life with good humor, tenacity, and great courage.
Probably the greatest spy in US history. This upper crust "elite" woman fought to be relevant in World War II and wound up leading freedom fighters in France and Balkans against the Germans (and sometimes each other in internal power struggles). Great book for espionage and military history fans and super read for girl power interests.
Virginia Hall was an extraordinary woman, cast in the same mold as verily Joan of Arc, you'll bite your nails throughout the book, wonderfully written, incidentally, worrying for her safety - this amazing story should be made into a film, but who could play the part, I wonder, now that we no longer have Katharine Hepburn
A very fine book, tediously researched, and well written. The title is telling; I had no idea that a woman, so hampered by her time and culture (and her handicap), had accomplished so much in her contributions to freedom while being constantly at great peril. I am not one who generally likes books about war, but this one revealed the behind-the-scenes of both her failures and successes that contributed collectively to the end of World War II.
Shut out of more than typist-type jobs in the State Department, adventurous Virginia Hall manages her own path in the fledgling world of spying and resistance in WW II France. Just amazing. Reads like a thriller. Highly recommended.
One of the finest bio's I have read of late. It read like fiction, and not a dull moment . Most non fiction reads are boring because of the author's style, but this was fast and furious seeing this woman take on tasks that most would shirk from. Kudos to the author for bringing this woman to life.
I found this read to be very well done. There were some places that had me lost, as the author did go in and out of a time frame of action. I would later realize perhaps she was reiterating to bring in (another) more explicit point about Ms. Hall and her teams. I want to encourage readers to take up this book, as a way to learn about some of our past heroic men and women fighting for FREEDOM!!
I agree with the professional reviewers that this is an important book for dealing with an historical person none of us ever heard of. I'll never forget Virginia Hall, now, and wish I could have known her.
I find the book also frustrating, though, because I find the author's writing style tedious and her syntax and punctuation errors maddening. Maybe the errors she makes (misplaced modifiers, dangling participles, incomplete sentences) will annoy only those readers with the "English teacher gene," but readers are now forewarned.
The other technique of the author's that I don't care for is her using too many exclamation marks and superlatives. She early on convinces readers that Virginia Hall and her fellow Resistance members were brave beyond imagining, and so she has no need of reminding us of it every page or so. Also, the writer keeps referring to Virginia as being "glamorous" and other synonyms for beautiful and, again, I wonder why she feels the need to repeat it over and over.
Another thing -- I like that she has lots of footnotes for her sources, but she often attributes feelings and thoughts to the characters without any sources noted, and that's when the book seems (to me, at least) to tip over into fiction. How does the author KNOW that the person was feeling that way?
So I hope that before too long a better biographer will be inspired to write about Virginia Hall's life. It's a life I can appreciate, as should many more of us who can remember WWII, and also those who cannot. You're unlikely to read about Virginia Hall in any mainstream history text, yet I'd rather read about her than about all the well-known (male) stars of the era of whom there is much too much out there (e.g. Eisenhower, Churchill, etc. etc. etc.). Some day I imagine there will be a movie made about the French Resistance that does not leave out Virginia Hall; what a relief that will be!
This book opened my eyes to the important roles that women played in World War II. Virginia Hall was a courageous, smart woman who was part of the French Resistance and SOE. Very well written book. I learned some interesting history .