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?

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

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.

It is a passion of mine to read the biographies of outstanding people. This one reads like a thriller. After a shooting accident resulted in the loss of her leg, Virginia Hall felt that she had cheated death for a higher purpose. She found that purpose during the Second World War when she became the first female British SOE agent sent into France. Her intelligence work was so vital to the Allies – and so dangerous to the Germans – that it is believed to have changed the course of the war. Virginia was a proud, confident and highly capable…

From Belinda's list on women in WW2.

Who would choose an American woman with a prosthetic leg to help win the war? This book tells the story of the incredibly courageous and tenacious individual who risked her life to do just that. Secret agent Virginia Hall’s selfless exploits behind enemy lines boggle the mind.

From Gail's list on make-do women of WW2.

Over the last few years the female special agents of the Second World War have finally been receiving better attention, with important books on, among others, Noor Inayat Khan by Shrabani Basu, Violette Szabo by Susan Ottaway, and my book on Krystyna Skarbek aka Christine Granville. Purnell's is one of the best, a well-researched look at the life of Virginia Hall, the only agent, male or female, to serve the British SOE, its American counterpart the OSS, and later the CIA. Did I mention that she was a woman and that she had a prosthetic leg?

From Clare's list on female spies and special agents.

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