A Woman of No Importance

A Woman of No Importance

The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II

Book - 2019
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"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, New York] : Viking, [2019]
Copyright Date: ©2019
ISBN: 9780735225299
Branch Call Number: 940.548641092 GOILL-P
Characteristics: 352 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm


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Feb 24, 2020

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

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 18, 2020

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.

Dec 20, 2019

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.

Nov 16, 2019

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.

Sep 18, 2019

Well written story of an incredibly courageous woman.

Aug 09, 2019

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.

Jul 28, 2019

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

Jul 01, 2019

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.

Jun 24, 2019

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.

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