A Woman of No Importance
"An incredible story of under-appreciated heroism." - USA Today "A compelling biography of a masterful spy, and a reminder of what can be done with a few brave people -- and a little resistance." - NPRThe never-before-told story of Virginia Hall, the American spy who changed the course of World War II, from the author of Clementine In 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission: "She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her."The target in their sights was Virginia Hall, a Baltimore socialite who talked her way into Special Operations Executive, the spy organization dubbed Winston Churchill's "Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare." 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.Virginia established vast spy networks throughout France, called weapons and explosives down from the skies, and became a linchpin for the Resistance. Even as her face covered wanted posters and a bounty was placed on her head, Virginia refused order after order to evacuate. She finally escaped through a death-defying hike over the Pyrenees into Spain, her cover blown. But she plunged back in, adamant that she had more lives to save, and led a victorious guerilla campaign, liberating swathes of France from the Nazis after D-Day.Based on new and extensive research, Sonia Purnell has for the first time uncovered the full secret life of Virginia Hall--an astounding and inspiring story of heroism, spycraft, resistance, and personal triumph over shocking adversity. A Woman of No Importance is the breathtaking story of how one woman's fierce persistence helped win the war.

A Woman of No Importance Details

TitleA Woman of No Importance
Author
ReleaseApr 9th, 2019
PublisherViking
ISBN-139780735225299
Rating
GenreNonfiction, History, Biography, War, World War II, Spy Thriller, Espionage

A Woman of No Importance Review

  • Stephanie Crowe
    January 1, 1970
    Purnell has penned another spectacular history of another outstanding woman. I was enamored with the first history of Clementine Churchill. I loved that one!! And this tale of the exploits of Virginia Hall just blew me out of the water!!! This woman was unstoppable, unflappable and fearless in her desire to serve in WWII. She was the primary developer of the French Resistance and worked for the British Secret Service as well the American OSS. She struggled for 6 years in France working to defeat Purnell has penned another spectacular history of another outstanding woman. I was enamored with the first history of Clementine Churchill. I loved that one!! And this tale of the exploits of Virginia Hall just blew me out of the water!!! This woman was unstoppable, unflappable and fearless in her desire to serve in WWII. She was the primary developer of the French Resistance and worked for the British Secret Service as well the American OSS. She struggled for 6 years in France working to defeat the Germans and to say she was marvelous is an understatement. She displayed such leadership that French citizens were easily enlisted to help her and willing to suffer to save their country. Purnell has done exquisite research to bring to life the work of Virginia in great detail! I can’t say enough about this book! It will be my history pick for the year! Loved it
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  • Madeline
    January 1, 1970
    This book tells the important story of an unrecognized hero of World War II--Virginia Hall, one of the few female spies who helped build the French Resistance and assure the success of the Allied invasion of France. Purnell's stunningly detailed research and writing puts us in the action with Virginia, building up tension, emotion and joy as events unfold. Purnell also includes the perfect amount of historical context, to ensure that the reader isn't left drowning. While the many code names and This book tells the important story of an unrecognized hero of World War II--Virginia Hall, one of the few female spies who helped build the French Resistance and assure the success of the Allied invasion of France. Purnell's stunningly detailed research and writing puts us in the action with Virginia, building up tension, emotion and joy as events unfold. Purnell also includes the perfect amount of historical context, to ensure that the reader isn't left drowning. While the many code names and people referenced may be confusing, the story remains focused on Virginia, and all that she has done for France, freedom and representation, of both women and those with disabilities. Virginia's story inspired and awed me in every page, and I can only look up to her as a role model. I am so glad Purnell took the time to research Virginia and give her the attention and respect that she deserved. Virginia's story is one of perseverance, determination, and love of freedom, country, and people that should not be forgotten. We still have much to learn and improve upon from her experience. Women—our capabilities, emotions, and drive—should not be overlooked or ignored, and Virginia Hall's story is a shining example of the consequences, both positive and negative, of this. Thank you to Edelweiss and Penguin for providing me with an advanced readers copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. --I'll write a more detailed account later, but this book is an amazingly detailed account of the story of Virginia Hall, a formidable and trailblazing spy during World War II. Great representation of disability as well!
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  • Donna
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 STARS.This is nonfiction about an American woman who made the French resistance her passion. She fought her way to the center and did so much to assist and direct. She was daring and constantly pushed for results. I enjoyed her story. But I'm not sure I was all that crazy about the audio narration. So 3 stars.
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  • Katie/Doing Dewey
    January 1, 1970
    Summary: An incredible, exciting story about an inspiring, dedicated spy.This is the story of one of the most impressive people I've ever heard of. Despite being an American woman with a disability, Virgnia Hall was one of the first spies of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE aka "the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare"). By surviving a devastating early round-up of SOE agents, she was largely responsible for establishing an SOE presence in occupied France. She recruited agents from al Summary: An incredible, exciting story about an inspiring, dedicated spy.This is the story of one of the most impressive people I've ever heard of. Despite being an American woman with a disability, Virgnia Hall was one of the first spies of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE aka "the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare"). By surviving a devastating early round-up of SOE agents, she was largely responsible for establishing an SOE presence in occupied France. She recruited agents from all walks of life. She executed some of the most daring rescue operations of the war. She risked her own life time and again for others. And through all of this, she fought for the ability to keep doing her job as various superiors doubted her abilities. I don't know that I've heard of anyone else I've admired as much for their determination and daring.As you can probably tell from my summary, I thought this was a pretty incredible story. Truly a case of fact being more unbelievable than fiction and at least as entertaining! The writing was descriptive and engaging. It reminded me of Eric Larson, except author Sonia Purnell did a better job not making things up and noting where the facts were unclear. Her judicious use of direct quotes made this story feel immediate and true. There seem to be some delightful quotes available about the SOE and Virginia. Several made me laugh out loud! Unfortunately, in my review copy, the selection of quotes which had citations seemed random. I'd have liked for every direct quote to be paired with a reference. This didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story though!I loved that this was the story of a woman who was one of the first and most impressive spies of any gender during WWII. I did sometimes wonder if the author was leaning a little too hard into the lone genius myth though. I'm sure Virginia's incredible successes did help convince the SOE to keep recruiting women and to look for other spies with her level of professionalism and lack of ego. Direct quotes make it clear many of her colleagues held her in the highest regard. However, I think the author's emphasis on Virginia's exceptionalism occasionally does a disservice to the women on both sides who served in every military capacity you might think of. I love books like this that shine a light on women who have been left out of many previous histories, but at this point I've read enough histories like this that it's clear exceptional woman are not such an exception.That's a small complaint though and one that is common to many biographies which like to emphasize the importance of their subject. Overall, I loved this story and will definitely be keeping my copy to lend out to anyone I can convince to read it.This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey
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  • Elizabeth A.G.
    January 1, 1970
    A well written and researched book-Sonia Purnell brings to light the life of a mostly neglected American heroine of WWII who was dissatisfied with and eschewed the upper class life that her mother envisioned for her. Defying the convention of a "woman's place," Virginia Hall sought a life that made her feel "alive" and after overcoming discrimination, prejudice, and her disability (a prosthetic leg) found that life working for the British SOE as an agent to thwart the Nazi insurgency in France, A well written and researched book-Sonia Purnell brings to light the life of a mostly neglected American heroine of WWII who was dissatisfied with and eschewed the upper class life that her mother envisioned for her. Defying the convention of a "woman's place," Virginia Hall sought a life that made her feel "alive" and after overcoming discrimination, prejudice, and her disability (a prosthetic leg) found that life working for the British SOE as an agent to thwart the Nazi insurgency in France, helping promote and encourage the French Resistance against the Nazis, and conducting surveillance, espionage, and guerrilla warfare which played no small role in bringing about Allied victory. The author writes about Hall's disguises and code names as well as those of her compatriots as they conduct their covert activities and about the trust and endurance needed among her followers, and also the deception of counter spies that threatened the lives of freedom fighters. Ms. Purnell exposes the grim atrocities of war on a people and the determination of this one woman not to give up despite her hardships and suffering. The author follows Hall's life after the war and the continued discrimination toward her as a woman whose accomplishments were ignored by some in her later career in the American CIA.A worthy read of a woman with determination, selflessness and a worthy cause.
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  • Chrissie
    January 1, 1970
    I guess I should pick up this one by the author too!*****************************First Lady 4 stars
  • Shay
    January 1, 1970
    This fascinating account takes the reader deep into the underground of the French Resistance, and behind the scenes of how the Allies worked to arm and coordinate with fighters inside the occupied country to end the war. Hall’s remarkable adventures make for a gripping, if bittersweet read. After struggling to find her place as a young woman, Hall achieved great success in the war, only to struggle to advance in her later career. What was forgiven under the exigencies of war held her back at Lan This fascinating account takes the reader deep into the underground of the French Resistance, and behind the scenes of how the Allies worked to arm and coordinate with fighters inside the occupied country to end the war. Hall’s remarkable adventures make for a gripping, if bittersweet read. After struggling to find her place as a young woman, Hall achieved great success in the war, only to struggle to advance in her later career. What was forgiven under the exigencies of war held her back at Langley. That she is today recognized as one of the greats is but little consolation for the failure to fully utilize her talents. more
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  • Joann
    January 1, 1970
    Firstly, I won this amazing book in a Goodreads Giveaway for the chance to leave an honest review of this book and what a stunner it is. This book reveals the way women were regarded in the 1930's and 1940's. We have come a long way since then but still have a good way to go yet. Virginia Hall had the skills and leadership abilities that were unrecognized by her so-called superiors. I never knew that these operations had been going on years before D-Day and how much they contributed to the event Firstly, I won this amazing book in a Goodreads Giveaway for the chance to leave an honest review of this book and what a stunner it is. This book reveals the way women were regarded in the 1930's and 1940's. We have come a long way since then but still have a good way to go yet. Virginia Hall had the skills and leadership abilities that were unrecognized by her so-called superiors. I never knew that these operations had been going on years before D-Day and how much they contributed to the eventual allied victory. I enjoyed this book very much.
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  • Marie
    January 1, 1970
    Virginia Hall should by rights be a household name. Her espionage and singular determination to aid the French Resistance is one of the most remarkable war stories I have ever read about, but most people have never heard of her. This extraordinary woman had more grit and determination than many tougher men, and more incredibly, walked with a wooden leg, having lost the leg following an injury as a teenager. Her exploits during Vichy France were nothing short of miraculous, and I thoroughly enjoy Virginia Hall should by rights be a household name. Her espionage and singular determination to aid the French Resistance is one of the most remarkable war stories I have ever read about, but most people have never heard of her. This extraordinary woman had more grit and determination than many tougher men, and more incredibly, walked with a wooden leg, having lost the leg following an injury as a teenager. Her exploits during Vichy France were nothing short of miraculous, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about what she did to help liberate France during WWII.I am awarding 5-stars with one caveat: the writing is not always as sharp as it could be, and I would have liked for the narrative to have been stronger at times. Other than that, I found the book to be well-researched and utterly fascinating.Audiobook performance: I switched to the audiobook when I was a few chapters in, and I liked the audio so much better than just reading this. The narrator brought a lot of life to the story.
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  • Claire
    January 1, 1970
    WOW. everyone needs to read this book, and i say this a lot, but i truly, truly, TRULY mean it this time. this is a story of an amazing superwoman who existed in ww2. she was truly amazing. considering the world STILL knows nothing of virginia hall, this book is so important! we must all pay tribute to the woman trailblazer who single-handedly set up the groundwork for the french resistance in ww2, commanded guerilla forces, and routinely pulled off miracles that saved hundreds of lives. not to WOW. everyone needs to read this book, and i say this a lot, but i truly, truly, TRULY mean it this time. this is a story of an amazing superwoman who existed in ww2. she was truly amazing. considering the world STILL knows nothing of virginia hall, this book is so important! we must all pay tribute to the woman trailblazer who single-handedly set up the groundwork for the french resistance in ww2, commanded guerilla forces, and routinely pulled off miracles that saved hundreds of lives. not to mention she embarked on some of the most dangerous espionage missions during the war, gathered crucial information that, without, d-day and the liberation of france could not have happened, and crossed the pyrennes hiking 10,000 foot mountain ranges all on ONE LEG. because virginia hall was also a disabled woman, making her extraordinary accomplishments so much more amazing. and all throughout her life there were men saying she was weak, inferior, and unable to do anything, simply because she didn't have two legs and was a woman. she is truly a role model and needs to be recognized more. everyone needs to read this book.
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  • May
    January 1, 1970
    "A Woman of No Importance" is about the life of Virginia Hall, who despite being a woman, an American, and disabled (a prosthetic leg), managed to outwit and outlast the Nazis and organize, arm, and train pockets of the Resistance throughout France during the German occupation. (Oh, and fled over the Pyrenees when the Nazis finally figured out who she was.) She then returned to France to aid the Resistance to prepare for the Allied invasion in Normandy. Upon her return back to the United States, "A Woman of No Importance" is about the life of Virginia Hall, who despite being a woman, an American, and disabled (a prosthetic leg), managed to outwit and outlast the Nazis and organize, arm, and train pockets of the Resistance throughout France during the German occupation. (Oh, and fled over the Pyrenees when the Nazis finally figured out who she was.) She then returned to France to aid the Resistance to prepare for the Allied invasion in Normandy. Upon her return back to the United States, she joined up with the OSS and then the CIA, only to encounter deep-seated discrimination due to her gender.Virginia Hall was a woman of immense force of personality, charm, and sense of purpose. She survived unimaginable hardships and loss and built a life for herself on her own terms. This is a well-written biography about a fascinating woman and her importance in the Allied victory in World War II.
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  • Bruce Katz
    January 1, 1970
    An astonishing history of a woman of incredible courage and fortitude. In brief: a woman in a time and place where women were expected to be demure and subordinate, Virginia Hall refused all such expectations. Despite having lost a leg in a gun accident, she set up and ran the most successful spy and resistance operations in Nazi-occupied France, outwitting the Gestapo, their French collaborators, and numerous double agents. I gather there’s a movie about her in the works. She deserves it. It al An astonishing history of a woman of incredible courage and fortitude. In brief: a woman in a time and place where women were expected to be demure and subordinate, Virginia Hall refused all such expectations. Despite having lost a leg in a gun accident, she set up and ran the most successful spy and resistance operations in Nazi-occupied France, outwitting the Gestapo, their French collaborators, and numerous double agents. I gather there’s a movie about her in the works. She deserves it. It almost certainly won’t capture the complexity of her character and the depth of her determination, but it will bring her exploits to a broad audience. A wonderful companion to the other book I recently read about unsung women spies in WW2 France — “Madame Fourcade’s Secret War.” The books differ in style, approach, and narrative flow, but together they capture something truly wondrous.
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  • Bill
    January 1, 1970
    She was dismissed and ignored and treated poorly and yet managed to become the premier linchpin of the French resistance during WWII. She wasn't French. She wasn't British. She was an American woman with a wooden leg. In spite of the multiple rejections and dismissals, her contribution to the Allied victory during the war earned her a Distinguished Service Cross. Despite all the rejection - simply because she was a woman - she persisted. Her contributions to the war effort read like fiction. But She was dismissed and ignored and treated poorly and yet managed to become the premier linchpin of the French resistance during WWII. She wasn't French. She wasn't British. She was an American woman with a wooden leg. In spite of the multiple rejections and dismissals, her contribution to the Allied victory during the war earned her a Distinguished Service Cross. Despite all the rejection - simply because she was a woman - she persisted. Her contributions to the war effort read like fiction. But it was no fiction that her work significantly shortened the Nazi occupation of France. Sonia Purnell's work creating this biography/adventure is masterful.
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  • Rachelle
    January 1, 1970
    After somewhat of a rocky start (with the author being a bit over dramatic in her word choices at times), this turned out to be an incredible and gripping read. Virginia Hall was an amazing woman that did so much for France during WWII despite all of the blatant sexism that she had to endure. I wish I had heard of her before now, because she truly is incredible.
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  • Vendela
    January 1, 1970
    This book and this woman is riveting. A woman with a prosthetic leg who ran one of the war’s most important spy networks and was instrumental in D-day operations—and yet she’s largely unknown.
  • Kappy
    January 1, 1970
    Fascinating. Reveals a woman of persistence, intelligence and determination in the face of many challenges. The narrative reveals once again the higher bar women had to meet and continue to face in order to do the work or live the life that they want.
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  • Lucy Meeker
    January 1, 1970
    What an amazing and fearless story of a trailblazing war hero and a resistance fighter during the Second World War, Virginia Hall was relayed in this wonderful book. She would takes risks where others would not. This was truly a well-written and captivating biography of a heroic woman. I highly recommend this book.
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  • David
    January 1, 1970
    5 stars or more for Virginia Hall, an exceptional person who overcame physical limitations and societal obstacles not to mention the Vichy French and the Nazis often with little else other than sheer force of will. Amazing. The storytelling is the drawback here the author writes a straight forward non-fiction narrative and avoids taking liberties with the available facts for the sake of a smoother story. I suspect the author did as well as one could given the highly secretive nature of the work 5 stars or more for Virginia Hall, an exceptional person who overcame physical limitations and societal obstacles not to mention the Vichy French and the Nazis often with little else other than sheer force of will. Amazing. The storytelling is the drawback here the author writes a straight forward non-fiction narrative and avoids taking liberties with the available facts for the sake of a smoother story. I suspect the author did as well as one could given the highly secretive nature of the work and a subject who eschewed any form of spotlight often including avoiding commendation and praise.
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  • Haley Nixt
    January 1, 1970
    3.5*The content is 5 stars. This was an absolutely fascinating story, and I would love to go back in time and have dinner with Virginia Hall and just pump her for stories because damn. She would have some good stories. However, the reason I took off stars was the writing. While I finished the book in just a few days (this is a great subway read!) and it's very engaging while you're reading, it feels very surface level. I would have appreciated more time developing side characters besides two or 3.5*The content is 5 stars. This was an absolutely fascinating story, and I would love to go back in time and have dinner with Virginia Hall and just pump her for stories because damn. She would have some good stories. However, the reason I took off stars was the writing. While I finished the book in just a few days (this is a great subway read!) and it's very engaging while you're reading, it feels very surface level. I would have appreciated more time developing side characters besides two or three who get particular attention. Towards the end, a lot of names were thrown around that the reader has already seen, and I had to really, really search my memory to remember how they had helped or hindered Virginia. I also would have appreciated more tactics, how did all of Virginia's mission fit into the larger scheme of the war. A lot of the time, the writing felt like it was skimming her story because it moved so quickly. A month would pass, and we would be told that Virginia had done a lot of work, but there was no real discussion of what that work was. But I really, really wish the author and editor would have chosen to integrate sources differently into the narrative. They're used as footnotes, and there's no reference in the text as to how the author acquired the information. For details such as numbers and troop movements, it doesn't matter as much, I don't think, because I assumed she took it from a report or other piece of information (though it would have been nice if the author integrated those in as well, with dates and places; I believe that would have made the narrative feel even more grounded). Where it really mattered was when the author attributed thoughts and feelings to Virginia. This didn't work for me because, as the author said, Virginia almost NEVER talked about her work as a spy. She was very private and she didn't like revisiting those parts of her life, either because it was bad memories or she didn't want to take glory for something that wasn't all that glorious. All of the author's information about her was secondhand, which makes sense because Virginia didn't leave much of a paper trail and she's also dead, so she couldn't be interviewed. When you read the acknowledgements, you're led to assume that a lot of the more personal details came from the author's extensive interviews with Virginia's niece. That's totally fine, she's an excellent source of information. I just wish that in the narrative there would have been a little distancing, even something like: "It's likely, based on discussions with her niece, who knew her well, that Virginia [felt/thought/etc.]..." The narrative is currently written as if the author knows, for sure, this is how Virginia was thinking and feeling at that exact moment, as if she had written it in a diary. But she didn't, and in the later chapters, when the niece is specifically mentioned, she says that Virginia almost never talked to her about her work. So why does the author phrase it like that? It is, admittedly, a very small thing, but I came away with the distinct impression that the author was putting words and feelings into Virginia's mouth. That, combined with the fact that when I closed the book I thought, "Well, that felt very surface-level", made me dock a few stars. tl;dr: The content is 5 stars, hands down; Virginia Hall is a badass and is one of the reasons why the Allies won WWII. The writing is closer to a 3, because sources weren't integrated, thoughts and feelings were attributed to Hall when we cannot say for certain she felt/thought those things, and it wanted to cover so much information that it never dug deep into certain topics (tactics, how Virginia's set up her contacts besides "talking").
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  • Peter A
    January 1, 1970
    The author tells the remarkable and inspiring story of Virginia Hall, who overcame physical as well as social norms to be a leading force in France during the Second World War. Born into a family of above average means (in 1906, in Baltimore Maryland), she has a strong independent streak, and a sense of greater purpose in life. She joined the foreign service, and during a posting in Turkey suffered a self-inflicted hunting accident that resulted in the loss of one of her legs (right below the kn The author tells the remarkable and inspiring story of Virginia Hall, who overcame physical as well as social norms to be a leading force in France during the Second World War. Born into a family of above average means (in 1906, in Baltimore Maryland), she has a strong independent streak, and a sense of greater purpose in life. She joined the foreign service, and during a posting in Turkey suffered a self-inflicted hunting accident that resulted in the loss of one of her legs (right below the knee). With a prosthetic leg, she re-learned to lead a normal life and return to work. When the Second World War started, she was in France, and volunteered to drive ambulances for the French army to transport wounded from the front lines back to Paris. When Paris fell, she was recruited by the newly formed British SOE (Special Operations Executive), and worked under the cover as a newspaper reporter, stationed in Vichy, and later Lyon, France, to help develop networks of resistance fighters. This was a new type of activity for SOE and many of its agents, but her force of personality helped build a network. Later in the war but before the D-Day invasion in Normandy, she returned to France, as a new member of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) the forerunner of the CIA, in which she helped develop more resistance networks to harass the German forces, preventing them from getting to Normandy. Many of the individual actions are “hair-raising”, from narrow escapes from the Germans, to crossing the Pyrenes in November, to planning an “breakout” of prisoners from a high-security prison. And these are historical events, not fiction. The author has done an extensive job in trying to fill in the gaps of the paper records (some where destroyed by fire, others lost, or still classified). She also uncovered information that had been lost, including awards that Virginia Hall received. The author credits her work as helping to win (and shorten) the war with German. Even though she had many successes, she had to overcome male reluctance to entrust women to do field combat, let alone set up resistance networks. When I was reading the book, I thought that many of the chapters could be turned into movies. Evidently, that is the intent, with Daisey Ridley (star of the recent trilogy of star war movies) to play Virginia. See https://ew.com/movies/2017/01/24/dais.... The author deserves credit for bringing to light an unsung heroine and huge contributor to the Allied War efforts, who did not demand a public praising of her work, and also did not tolerate for long the ignorance of several of the males she had to work with. A highly recommended book!
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  • Zeb Kantrowitz
    January 1, 1970
    During the last three years of WW2, Virginia Hall did more than any other agent, MI6 or OSS, to battle the Germans, Vichy French (Milice) and cause sabotage across France. After the Allies landed at Normandy and the South of France, her guerrilla bands harassed the Germans and their French allies by blowing up bridges, roads, and supply columns, preventing many from making it to the Normandy front before the Allies broke out at St Lo.A tom-boy heiress and adventurer from the Tidewater area of Vi During the last three years of WW2, Virginia Hall did more than any other agent, MI6 or OSS, to battle the Germans, Vichy French (Milice) and cause sabotage across France. After the Allies landed at Normandy and the South of France, her guerrilla bands harassed the Germans and their French allies by blowing up bridges, roads, and supply columns, preventing many from making it to the Normandy front before the Allies broke out at St Lo.A tom-boy heiress and adventurer from the Tidewater area of Virginia, had lost a foot while in Turkey when she blew it off accidentally with a shotgun. Never one to let anything stop her, she rehabbed the leg and used a wooden prosthesis, and had a slight limp. Prior to the American entry to the War, she gave her services to the British (she had duel citizenship) and worked for the SOE/MI6 working to set up a spy network in Vichy France. She was so successful that she was granted secret MBE in 1944.Running a spy network out of Lyon, she constantly sent messages to London of troop movements and concentrations. Her biggest problem was double agents who outed many of her people to the Gestapo. It was impossible to tell who was a friend. One of the worst German moles was a French priest whose information helped the Gestapo to devastate her network.After the Americans entered the war, she transferred to the nascent OSS under "Wild Bill" Donovan.She worked mainly in the central massif where she helped to smuggle out to Spain many Allied aviators who had been shot down. Through MI6, she was able to acquire guns, munitions, explosives, money and clothing, to help the Maquis and raise her own Guerrilla army. On D-Day her Army was able to distract and delay the local German and Vichy troops. To this day she is known, in the area as "The Madonna of the Mountains".Unfortunately, like many of her sex, after the war she became a ghost and was rarely used by the CIA to help do in the Eastern Block what she did in wartime France. She received a DSC (distinguished service cross) and was a Captain in the Army Reserve. Her post-war service was frustrating to her, where at one time they tried to make her a filing clerk! When she died, little was made of her wartime work, and only small obits were put into some of the major newspapers in Britain and France.
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  • Cathy
    January 1, 1970
    Virginia Hall was undoubtedly a formidable woman. A woman who spied (extremely effectively) on behalf of both Britain and the U.S. during WWII, then became part of the fledgling CIA at its inception. Hall's story screams "Adventure! Intrigue! and Action!" And, akin to the saying of "Grace Kelly did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels", Hall accomplished all her feats - many of them physically taxing - with a prosthetic leg. All in all, a fascinating subject for a book. P Virginia Hall was undoubtedly a formidable woman. A woman who spied (extremely effectively) on behalf of both Britain and the U.S. during WWII, then became part of the fledgling CIA at its inception. Hall's story screams "Adventure! Intrigue! and Action!" And, akin to the saying of "Grace Kelly did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels", Hall accomplished all her feats - many of them physically taxing - with a prosthetic leg. All in all, a fascinating subject for a book. Purnell clearly has passion for her subject, which you would expect a historian/biographer to have, although that isn't always evident in all biographies. Also to Purnell's credit, the book seems meticulously researched. But...But, A Woman of No Importance is also VERY slow paced and often repetitive in the telling of the story. That same attention to detail in the research comes across in the writing as extremely plodding. At times, the fascinating subject matter - life and death stuff here - seems, a bit...boring. To paraphrase Mark Twain, A Woman of No Importance is a good story, but only somewhat well told.
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  • Bobbi
    January 1, 1970
    Virginia Hall's life is a study in overcoming obstacles. She wanted to be in the U.S. foreign service, but it was a time when women were viewed as being unworthy of such an endeavor. So she signed up to work at embassies around the world as a secretary. Injured in a hunting accident, she learned to walk with a prosthetic leg. Then WWII broke out. She convinced the British to let her go into France (a country she thought of as a second home) and organize a resistance network against the Nazis. Sh Virginia Hall's life is a study in overcoming obstacles. She wanted to be in the U.S. foreign service, but it was a time when women were viewed as being unworthy of such an endeavor. So she signed up to work at embassies around the world as a secretary. Injured in a hunting accident, she learned to walk with a prosthetic leg. Then WWII broke out. She convinced the British to let her go into France (a country she thought of as a second home) and organize a resistance network against the Nazis. She survived more than three years being hunted by the Gestapo, while organizing for hundreds of partisans to receive money, food, ammunition weapons to fight the Germans. She narrowly escaped capture at one point by walking over the Pyranees mountains in the WINTER. (Remember the prosthetic leg.) The Brits refused to send her back to France because wanted posters with her image were up throughout the country, so she signed up with the fledgling OSS (Americans) and went back. The story of this amazing woman's adventures reads like a thriller. And it thrills because it's a real story of a real person's dedication and grueling hard work.
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  • Tom
    January 1, 1970
    A gripping story of a woman of great importance.Virginia Hall's life during World War II reads like several spy movies back-to-back. What she did was incredible, and her story needs to be heard. The irony of the title is that simply because she was a woman she was not properly valued for what she could do and did. Of course the Germans, at least initially, did not consider a lame woman as a threat either. (She had a prosthetic left leg.)The book is most interesting for its portrait of a person i A gripping story of a woman of great importance.Virginia Hall's life during World War II reads like several spy movies back-to-back. What she did was incredible, and her story needs to be heard. The irony of the title is that simply because she was a woman she was not properly valued for what she could do and did. Of course the Germans, at least initially, did not consider a lame woman as a threat either. (She had a prosthetic left leg.)The book is most interesting for its portrait of a person in the right place at the right time to use all her skills and inclinations to further a cause bigger than herself. Her behavior under unimaginable pressure, when she could at any time be picked up, when just walking down the street put her at risk of life and limb, was that of a person finding her true calling, her true self, and this is what most fascinated me. What appears as courage to others was to her a fulfillment of her destiny; when the game was on the line in the final seconds, she wanted the ball.
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  • Cheryl Campbell
    January 1, 1970
    If there was ever a book that exemplifies how one person can make a difference in the world, this is it. It is a tribute to harnassing your powers of observation, having innate people skills, an overarching sense of mission, and an astounding desire to learn new things. Virginia Hall is a classic for this history books, not just for this past century, but for all time. Her story is riveting, and well told. The book is richer for sharing the friends and alliances that she built (and how their sto If there was ever a book that exemplifies how one person can make a difference in the world, this is it. It is a tribute to harnassing your powers of observation, having innate people skills, an overarching sense of mission, and an astounding desire to learn new things. Virginia Hall is a classic for this history books, not just for this past century, but for all time. Her story is riveting, and well told. The book is richer for sharing the friends and alliances that she built (and how their stories fared as well). The experiences she had in the bureaucracy of her employers is, however, nothing new to me. I too could share some of her frustrations with management, given my own prolonged tenure as an engineer on contracts with similar customers. That, though, is but a small part of the book, but an important part. I am so pleased she has received her due, more than 50 years later. And, the final paragraph of the book, suggests a movie may be in the works. Oh, I hope so! What a life!
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  • Dennis Hogan
    January 1, 1970
    Finished A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell, the story of Virginia Hall, an American spy who worked as a radio operator and organizer on behalf of the French Resistance first with the British SOE and later with the American OSS after the British wouldn’t send her back after escaping over the Pyrenees from the Gestapo. A truly remarkable person, targeted by the Gestapo for her success in disrupting the Nazi War effort; hardl Finished A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell, the story of Virginia Hall, an American spy who worked as a radio operator and organizer on behalf of the French Resistance first with the British SOE and later with the American OSS after the British wouldn’t send her back after escaping over the Pyrenees from the Gestapo. A truly remarkable person, targeted by the Gestapo for her success in disrupting the Nazi War effort; hardly an anonymous figure, a woman, with a wooden leg and red hair who spoke French in an American accent. A building is named for her at CIA Headquarters but her efforts were barely recognized in her lifetime, partly because she was a woman and partly because she deferred notoriety to stay operational as a spy. The life expectancy of Resistance fighters behind enemy lines in WW2 was notoriously short but her brilliance in rallying ordinary citizens in defense of France was remarkable.
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  • Sara
    January 1, 1970
    An absolutely amazing woman. The risks she took, the lives she saved, her courage and stamina, all in the face of not only the Nazis but also the men she worked with who had real problems taking orders from a woman. Even the spy organizations she worked for originally assigned her to be a secretary until her astonishing abilities proved her worth----the reason the title is A Woman of No Importance. The Nazis certainly knew her worth and were avid to capture her although they too thought she must An absolutely amazing woman. The risks she took, the lives she saved, her courage and stamina, all in the face of not only the Nazis but also the men she worked with who had real problems taking orders from a woman. Even the spy organizations she worked for originally assigned her to be a secretary until her astonishing abilities proved her worth----the reason the title is A Woman of No Importance. The Nazis certainly knew her worth and were avid to capture her although they too thought she must be a man. Her love for France led her do everything she could to obstruct the Nazis in France's Free Zone by leading many Resistance groups, often against French collaborators as well as the Nazis. I always wonder how I would act in similar circumstances, especially knowing the utter brutality of both French and Germans when they captured these Resistance fighters.
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  • Katherine
    January 1, 1970
    Virginia Hall was next level, ahead of her time. She was a true hero, and I so happy that this book was written. This year I've noticed a plethora of historical fiction novels touting the role of women in WWII resistance efforts, but it's refreshing to read about a real woman thwarting Nazis with subterfuge, obfuscation, and general bad-assery. I'm both in awe of and indebted to Virginia Hall for her tireless, fearless, and committed bravery. She probably wouldn't want this book to exist because Virginia Hall was next level, ahead of her time. She was a true hero, and I so happy that this book was written. This year I've noticed a plethora of historical fiction novels touting the role of women in WWII resistance efforts, but it's refreshing to read about a real woman thwarting Nazis with subterfuge, obfuscation, and general bad-assery. I'm both in awe of and indebted to Virginia Hall for her tireless, fearless, and committed bravery. She probably wouldn't want this book to exist because she was a humble spy, but it's stories like this that give me the courage to continue to fight the patriarchy. So thank you to Sonia Purnell for telling her story and to NetGalley for providing me a copy.
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  • Thelma Fountain
    January 1, 1970
    I received this book in a goodreads giveaway. This is a really fascinating story not just because of the amazing accomplishments this female spy/resistance worker did to help win the second World War. But because she did these things at a time when women were not usually given opportunities to do this kind of work. I really admire her resilience and her ability to overcome obstacles in her life such as her disability. This is a worthy read especially for young women because Virginia Hall is an a I received this book in a goodreads giveaway. This is a really fascinating story not just because of the amazing accomplishments this female spy/resistance worker did to help win the second World War. But because she did these things at a time when women were not usually given opportunities to do this kind of work. I really admire her resilience and her ability to overcome obstacles in her life such as her disability. This is a worthy read especially for young women because Virginia Hall is an awesome role model. I also want to commend the author for the tremendous amount of research done on this book. she did her homework and it shows. sonia Purnell should be proud of this book! Highly recommend.
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  • Kathleen Gray
    January 1, 1970
    Up front- Virginia Hall is one of my personal heroes. She's not widely known, which is appalling because she was incredibly brave and devoted to mission. Hall was not really a socialite (although she was from a wealthy family). Service over self was a theme throughout her life and it's a message that's often lost these days. How she managed to create and run a network in France, escape the Nazis, and then go BACK- amazing. I wish that fans of historical fiction set in this same period would pick Up front- Virginia Hall is one of my personal heroes. She's not widely known, which is appalling because she was incredibly brave and devoted to mission. Hall was not really a socialite (although she was from a wealthy family). Service over self was a theme throughout her life and it's a message that's often lost these days. How she managed to create and run a network in France, escape the Nazis, and then go BACK- amazing. I wish that fans of historical fiction set in this same period would pick up this non-fiction volume because the true story is just so terrific. Purnell has done an excellent job of mining the unclassified materials for this biography; I was impressed. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. This is inspirational and deserving of a wide audience.
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