Wednesday, June 05, 2019

World at War: A Woman of No Importance

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II. Sonia Purnell. 2019. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: France was falling.

Premise/plot: A Woman of No Importance is a biography of Virginia Hall. She came from an upper class background. Though her parents may have had certain expectations for her--a good marriage, raising a family, etc. She had plans of her own. These plans would include getting entangled in politics and government. Her dream job would be to work for the State Department and serve overseas. Realizing this dream in reality was a seemingly impossible quest. She faced discrimination certainly. It didn't help her cause that others saw her as a "cripple" or "disabled." (A hunting accident had led to an amputation of a leg.) But capable she was. Capable she'd prove herself to be over and over and over and over again. If there was no place for her to serve America, perhaps she'd serve France or Britain. Ultimately this is what she did. She served for a time as an ambulance driver in France at the start of the war. After France fell, she went to Britain where she became involved with a spy unit, SOE, she'd go to France undercover as an innocent American journalist/socialite. She'd be a spy and resistance leader. The book focuses extensively on the war years. One gets a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it was like to be a spy--the dangers, the risks, the sacrifices and hardships. Hall faced challenge after challenge with bravery and gumption.

My thoughts: This one was packed with details. It is a complex biography with dozens--if not hundreds--of names and code names. It provides details of spy rings and resistance operations. It is complicated to keep everything straight. Her story would make a lovely documentary or bio flick. Perhaps seeing it on the screen would help. There would certainly be enough suspense and drama to keep you watching.

It is an interesting and important read. Some of the challenges Hall faced were because of her sex and/or disability. There were men who did NOT want to take orders or be under the authority of a woman, even a strong, competent woman who had proved herself through experience. She was not in the military, she had no title/rank to give her the power to enforce her authority. There were spies that were reckless and careless with their business. Not knowing or caring that they were endangering everyone in the spy ring by their behavior.

This is the kind of book you would expect to be super-compelling and intense. I didn't find it so. I found it on the dry, almost boring side--very mechanical. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

Lark said...

I hate when interesting nonfiction reads turn out to be a dry, slow slog.