A Woman of No Importance

By Sonia Purnell,

Book cover of A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II

Book description


Chosen as a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by NPR, the New York Public Library, Amazon, the Seattle Times, the Washington Independent Review of Books, PopSugar, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, BookBrowse, the Spectator, and the Times of London

Winner of the Plutarch Award for Best…

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Why read it?

13 authors picked A Woman of No Importance as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Sonia Purnell vividly captures a pivotal place and time in world history.

She tells the story of Virginia Hall, a woman who became one of the most wanted Allied spies working behind enemy lines during World War II. Even with her prosthetic leg Hall was able to go undercover in Nazi-occupied France. (Before becoming a spy she accidentally shot herself in the foot and her left leg had to be amputated below the knee.)

During the war she had a network of more than a thousand people and helped the Allies reclaim France. President Truman wanted to honor her with…

This is a biography of a woman called Virginia Hall, an American who joined the diplomatic service in the 1930s.

When World War II broke out, she traveled to France and worked in intelligence. She was soon recruiting undercover agents to infiltrate the Nazis. Danger didn’t deter her. She organized a Resistance cell in the forests of the Massif Central. Astonishingly she had an artificial leg from a childhood hunting accident, but she ignored this. 

This is the first I heard about this remarkable, courageous woman. When she returned to the US after the war, she joined what would become…

This is the story of an American diplomat, Virginia Hall, who served in the French resistance.

Virginia Hall, the protagonist in A Woman of No Importance, worked for American and British intelligence. Much of her story was classified until recently.

But once she had access to those documents, author Sonia Purcell was able to weave together a masterly account of this most unusual woman’s brave contributions to the war effort.

From Robert's list on life under Nazi occupation.

Talk about overcoming all odds...A Woman of No Importance is exactly that.

Virgina Hall, an athletic young woman, who has lost the lower part of her leg due to a hunting accident, seeks entry to the foreign service and is rejected. But she’s not about to go home and make cookies.

This is a woman who doesn’t suffer fools, and will put her life on the line for a cause she believes in. An inspirational book that will challenge readers to reach for their higher selves.  

I was deeply inspired by this biography of Virginia Hall, an American undercover agent of the British Special Operations Executive. Posing as a journalist in Vichy France, she supplied the Resistance, trained guerrillas, and freed prisoners from Nazi captivity, becoming the Gestapo's most wanted ‘criminal’. When the danger of capture became too great, she escaped on foot across the frozen Pyrenees into Spain, but later returned as an agent for the American Office of Strategic Services. And all this with a wooden leg!

Virginia Hall was an American spy in Nazi-occupied France during WWII. The genre is non-fiction, but the book flows like historical fiction. Hall is caught up in a male chauvinist world of spies. She is physically handicapped with a limp, but ingeniously turns the defect into an effective disguise. When her supposedly superior male spy handlers fail to provide effective guidance, Hall employs street smarts and courage to create her own spy network. They, of course, take credit for her success and only hamper her operations. This work hits nearly all of my favorite attributes of a story—a woman with…

When I read this book, I couldn’t believe that I and most other people knew nothing about the one-legged American the Nazis called the most dangerous of all Allied spies. This biography is as exhilarating as any good thriller. Throughout Virginia Hall’s sensational career, she dealt not only with the enemy but with needless obstacles posed by men who were her colleagues. With only brief training in spy craft and short-lived college education, the 35-year-old Hall masterminded prison breaks for Allied agents, organized French resistance to that country’s German occupiers, and re-established a broken chain of radio operatives throughout the…

From Victoria's list on American heroes to inspire your teenager.

The Germans called Virginia Hall “the Limping Lady,” as she required the use of a prosthetic leg (“Cuthbert”). They also considered her the most dangerous of all Allied spies – male or female. The second female SOE agent sent into France, Virginia set up an effective network that (amongst other things) was instrumental in helping British airmen, shot down over Europe, escape and return to England.  

But what I found the most astonishing when I read Virginia’s biography, was how she didn’t let anything stop her. Not her disability. Not the Nazis. Not the Pyrenees Mountains, which she hiked over…

How is it that I never heard of Virginia Hall! Do heroines like her even exist anymore? That’s what kept going through my mind as I read this creative nonfiction novel about a courageous American spy who operated in France during the Nazi occupation. What a woman! With barely any training and almost no command of French, she succeeded in building a resistance network despite her debilitating physical disability – not to mention having to prove her worth to men unused to taking orders from a woman!

From Lilianne's list on France that go beyond the rom com.

Purnell’s book introduces readers to Virginia Hall, who served in Britain’s Special Operations Executive during World War Two. She was the first Allied woman to go behind enemy lines and in so doing helped establish spy networks throughout occupied France. Purnell tells how Hall shed her Baltimore socialite lifestyle to answer a higher purpose.

From Cathryn's list on barrier breaking women.

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