100 books like Gabrielle Petit

By Sophie de Schaepdrijver,

Here are 100 books that Gabrielle Petit fans have personally recommended if you like Gabrielle Petit. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Madame Fourcade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler

Sarah Steele Author Of The Schoolteacher of Saint-Michel

From my list on formidable females in Nazi-occupied France.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having spent much time in France, I’ve been party to some incredible stories of the war years. The beautiful home owned by friends was once gifted by General De Gaulle to the village baker for his work hiding Resistance messages in loaves of bread; 90-year-old Jeanne remembers her father hiding Jewish families and helping them cross into free France; woodlands are punctuated by wooden crosses marking execution sites. For a writer, this is irresistible material, and it has been an honour to write The Schoolteacher of Saint-Michel and The Lost Song of Paris in tribute to the many acts of bravery and resistance over four long years of German occupation.

Sarah's book list on formidable females in Nazi-occupied France

Sarah Steele Why did Sarah love this book?

On finishing my book, I wanted to write a companion novel, based this time in Paris. My inspiration for the lead character in that book was Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, an extraordinary woman who led the Alliance network in France, operating on behalf of SIS, as MI6 was then known. Her handler Sir Kenneth Cohen described her as the ‘textbook beautiful spy,’ but her intelligence and courage marked her out even more. Marie-Madeleine lived a life on the run, operating under the radar via a string of false identities, and even escaping imprisonment. Lynne Olsen’s riveting account tells the story of Marie-Madeleine’s terrifying existence in Nazi-occupied France, and of a heartbreaking love affair. 

By Lynne Olson,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Madame Fourcade's Secret War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The little-known true story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the woman who headed the largest spy network in occupied France during World War II, from the bestselling author of Citizens of London and Last Hope Island

“Brava to Lynne Olson for a biography that should challenge any outdated assumptions about who deserves to be called a hero.”—The Washington Post

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR AND THE WASHINGTON POST 

In 1941 a thirty-one-year-old Frenchwoman, a young mother born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamour, became the leader of a…


Book cover of Invisible Agents: Women and Espionage in Seventeenth-Century Britain

Clare Mulley Author Of The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville

From my list on female spies and special agents.

Why am I passionate about this?

Clare Mulley is the award-winning author of three books re-examining the history of the First and Second World War through the lives of remarkable women. The Woman Who Saved the Children, about child rights pioneer Eglantyne Jebb, won the Daily Mail Biographers' Club Prize, and is now under option. Polish-born Second World War special agent Krystyna Skarbek, aka Christine Granville, is the subject ofThe Spy Who Loved, a book which led to Clare being decorated with Poland’s national honour, the Bene Merito. Clare's third book, The Women Who Flew for Hitler, long-listed for the Historical Writers Association prize, tells the extraordinary story of Nazi Germany’s only two female test pilots, whose choices and actions put them on opposite sides of history. Clare reviews for the Telegraph, Spectator and History Today. A popular public speaker, she has given a TEDx talk at Stormont, and recent TV includes news appearances for the BBC, Sky and Channel 5 as well as various Second World War history series. 

Clare's book list on female spies and special agents

Clare Mulley Why did Clare love this book?

A few years ago I spoke at the London History Festival alongside Nadine Akkerman, and we realised how much the female spies of 17c Britain and the Second World War had in common, not only conveniently overlooked in their own day, but also disregarded subsequently. This brilliant study explores the gendered dimension of early modern spycraft.

By Nadine Akkerman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Invisible Agents as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It would be easy for the modern reader to conclude that women had no place in the world of early modern espionage, with a few seventeenth-century women spies identified and then relegated to the footnotes of history. If even the espionage carried out by Susan Hyde, sister of Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, during the turbulent decades of civil strife in Britain can escape the historiographer's gaze, then how many more like her lurk in the archives?

Nadine Akkerman's search for an answer to this question has led to the writing of Invisible Agents, the very first study to analyse…


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

David Snell Author Of Sing to Silent Stones: Part One

From my list on wartime books about families torn apart by the conflict in WW1 and WW2.

Why am I passionate about this?

My reading is almost entirely influenced by my own family’s extraordinary history. My mother and father-in-law were both illegitimate. Both suffered for the fact and my father-in-law was 11 years old when he first found out and was reunited with his mother, albeit on a second-class basis compared to his half siblings. My mother trained bomb aimers. My father flew Lancaster bombers and was just 19 years old in the skies above wartime Berlin. My own books combine history, my personal experiences, and my family’s past to weave wartime stories exploring the strains that those conflicts imposed on friendships.

David's book list on wartime books about families torn apart by the conflict in WW1 and WW2

David Snell Why did David love this book?

What I loved about this book is that it is the true story of an American woman living in Nazi-occupied France, where she organised and ran resistance groups and led them in action.

The book, though factual, reads like a fictional novel, and her exploits and shear "daring do" almost beggar belief. She only had one leg, a fact that many who met her were completely unaware of, yet she crossed the Pyrenees on foot in winter!

It didn’t surprise me to find out that the men who "ran" the operations from London and Washington denigrated her achievements and consigned her to obscurity, describing her in the words of the book’s title. But she was a truly amazing heroine, and I would have loved to have met her.

By Sonia Purnell,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked A Woman of No Importance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

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 Biography

"Excellent...This book is as riveting as any thriller, and as hard to put down." -- The New York Times Book Review

"A compelling biography of a masterful spy, and a reminder of what can be done with a few brave people -- and a little resistance." - NPR

"A…


Book cover of A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII

Mara Timon Author Of City of Spies

From my list on real-life, kick-ass female agents of WW2.

Why am I passionate about this?

My mother instilled a love of books in me, and my father fostered my fascination with history – which meant that a good part of my formative years involved books, writing, and watching WW2 films. Years later, when a BBC documentary captured my imagination, I delved into the world of SOE’s female spies, binge-reading biographies and autobiographies. I was struck by their determination, dedication, resourcefulness – and in awe of their exploits. These women were heroes. When an idea for a story took hold, I followed one "what if..." after another until my first novel emerged. While City of Spies is fiction, I tried to stay as faithful as possible to history.

Mara's book list on real-life, kick-ass female agents of WW2

Mara Timon Why did Mara love this book?

Sarah Helm’s biography of Vera Atkins is perfectly titled. On one level, Vera was the 2nd in command of SOE’s French Section, responsible for recruiting, training, and deploying SOE operatives into France. On another level, there were the closely guarded secrets of her own life.

Sarah Helm’s biography revealed a workaholic, an immigrant who became more English than the English, and whose loyalty to her charges, and the Allied cause, was unswerving. After the war, when 118 SOE agent didn’t make it home, Vera launched a personal crusade to find out what happened to them – a mission that took her across Allied-Occupied Germany to the concentration camps. (She found all but one.)

On a side note, Vera Atkins has been fictionalised on both big and small screens, from Ian Fleming’s Miss Moneypenny to Foyle’s War Hilda Pierce. Her legacy remains an inspiration.

By Sarah Helm,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Life in Secrets as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

During World War Two the Special Operation Executive's French Section sent more than 400 agents into Occupied France -- at least 100 never returned and were reported 'Missing Believed Dead' after the war. Twelve of these were women who died in German concentration camps -- some were tortured, some were shot, and some died in the gas chambers. Vera Atkins had helped prepare these women for their missions, and when the war was over she went out to Germany to find out what happened to them and the other agents lost behind enemy lines. But while the woman who carried…


Book cover of A Lab of One's Own: Science and Suffrage in the First World War

Kersten T. Hall Author Of The Man in the Monkeynut Coat: William Astbury and How Wool Wove a Forgotten Road to the Double-Helix

From my list on to think differently about the history of science.

Why am I passionate about this?

The discovery of the structure of DNA, the genetic material was one of the biggest milestones in science–but few people realise that a crucial unsung hero in this story was the humble wool fibre. But the Covid pandemic has changed all that and as a result we’ve all become acutely away of both the impact of science on our lives and our need to be more informed about it. Having long ago hung up my white coat and swapped the lab for the library to be a historian of science, I think we need a more honest, authentic understanding of scientific progress rather than the over-simplified accounts so often found in textbooks. 

Kersten's book list on to think differently about the history of science

Kersten T. Hall Why did Kersten love this book?

When, in the course of my research for my book, I first came across a newspaper article from 1939 reporting on the work of physicist Florence Bell with the stunned headline "Woman Scientist Explains," I think it took me about 5 minutes to recover from laughing. It’s a pity that the local press were more interested in the fact that Bell was a woman rather than her actual science, because only a year earlier she had shown for the first time how X-rays could reveal the regular, ordered structure of DNA. And as an undergraduate of Girton College, Cambridge, Bell’s talents as a physicist should have come as no surprise. For as historian Patricia Fara shows, Girton and the other all-female college, Newnham, were both intellectual crucibles from which emerged a generation of distinguished scientists such as physicist Hertha Ayrton, campaigning chemists Ida Smedley and Martha Whiteley, to name but…

By Patricia Fara,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Lab of One's Own as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

2018 marked a double centenary: peace was declared in war-wracked Europe, and women won the vote after decades of struggle. A Lab of One's Own commemorates both anniversaries by revealing the untold lives of female scientists, doctors, and engineers who undertook endeavours normally reserved for men. It tells fascinating and extraordinary stories featuring initiative, determination, and isolation, set against a backdrop of war, prejudice, and disease.
Patricia Fara investigates the enterprising careers of these pioneering women and their impact on science, medicine, and the First World War.

Suffrage campaigners aligned themselves with scientific and technological progress. Defying protests about their…


Book cover of Women and the First World War

Alison Fell Author Of Women as Veterans in Britain and France After the First World War

From my list on women and the First World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by the First World War ever since I read Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth at the age of 19. When I lived in France in my twenties I started to read French nurses’ memoirs and diaries, and for the last fifteen years or so have continued to read and write about women’s experiences during and after the war as a university academic researcher, often from a comparative perspective. Men’s stories and memories of the First World War still dominate our understanding of it, but I believe that women’s perspectives give us a vital and often overlooked insight into the war and its consequences.

Alison's book list on women and the First World War

Alison Fell Why did Alison love this book?

This is an excellent introduction to the varied experiences of women in the war, both those on active service as workers or volunteers, those who were victims of the war, fleeing their homes as refugees, and those who remained at home, carrying out domestic roles as wives and mothers in what were often difficult circumstances. It is a book I regularly recommend to my students. Although no book could cover all nations and contexts in a four-year global war, it shows not only how the war had an impact on millions of women’s lives, but also how women’s actions had significant impacts on the war and its legacies. It has a useful chronology of the war, and a good bibliography for further reading.

By Susan R. Grayzel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women and the First World War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Women and the First World War provides an introduction to the experiences and contributions of women during this important turning point in history. In addition to exploring women's relationship to the war in each of the main protagonist states, the book also looks at the wide-ranging effects of the war on women in Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and North America. Topical in its approach, the book highlights: The heated public debates about women's social. cultural and political roles that the war inspired Thier varied experiences of war Women's representation in propaganda Their roles in peace movements and revolutionary activity…


Book cover of Unknown Warriors: The Letters of Kate Luard RRC and Bar, Nursing Sister in France 1914-1918

Alison Fell Author Of Women as Veterans in Britain and France After the First World War

From my list on women and the First World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by the First World War ever since I read Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth at the age of 19. When I lived in France in my twenties I started to read French nurses’ memoirs and diaries, and for the last fifteen years or so have continued to read and write about women’s experiences during and after the war as a university academic researcher, often from a comparative perspective. Men’s stories and memories of the First World War still dominate our understanding of it, but I believe that women’s perspectives give us a vital and often overlooked insight into the war and its consequences.

Alison's book list on women and the First World War

Alison Fell Why did Alison love this book?

Although it’s not as well-known as Vera Brittain’s powerful 1933 memoir Testament of Youth, British military nurse Kate Luard’s letters deserve to be widely read, for the vivid and moving picture they paint of life in a front-line hospital in the last two years of the war. Luard had already worked as a military nurse in the Boer War, and was a confident and highly skilled nurse, but it is clear that four years of nursing seriously ill and wounded soldiers often stretched her to her professional and emotional limits. There are lighter moments, too, and Luard pays tribute not only to the men she nursed, but to the courageous and tenacious women she worked alongside. Make sure you also read nurse historian Christine Hallett and Tim Luard’s excellent introduction.

By John Stevens, Caroline Stevens,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Unknown Warriors as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The words of Unknown Warriors resonate as powerfully today as when first written. The book offers a very personal glimpse into the hidden world of the military field hospital where patients struggled with pain and trauma, and nurses fought to save lives and preserve emotional integrity.

The book's author was one of a select number of fully trained military nurses who worked in hospital trains and casualty clearing stations during the First World War, coming as close to the front as a woman could. Kate Luard was already a war veteran when she arrived in France in 1914, aged 42,…


Book cover of They Fought for the Motherland: Russia's Women Soldiers in World War I and the Revolution

Alison Fell Author Of Women as Veterans in Britain and France After the First World War

From my list on women and the First World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by the First World War ever since I read Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth at the age of 19. When I lived in France in my twenties I started to read French nurses’ memoirs and diaries, and for the last fifteen years or so have continued to read and write about women’s experiences during and after the war as a university academic researcher, often from a comparative perspective. Men’s stories and memories of the First World War still dominate our understanding of it, but I believe that women’s perspectives give us a vital and often overlooked insight into the war and its consequences.

Alison's book list on women and the First World War

Alison Fell Why did Alison love this book?

Although they are largely forgotten now, the five to six thousand Russian women who enlisted as soldiers were amongst the most photographed and written about women in the First World War, especially the charismatic but tyrannical leader of the 1st Russian Women’s Battalion of Death, Maria Bochkareva. Stoff’s book gives a highly readable and fascinating account of their formation, their military action, their ill-fated involvement in the defence of the Winter Palace when it was stormed by the Bolsheviks in November 1917, and their reception by the rest of the world as the only battalions of women to carry out officially sanctioned combat roles in the war.

Stoff uses their own memoirs alongside other first-hand accounts by American, British, and French diplomats stationed in Russian in the tumultuous year of 1917, and her book provides a balanced and nuanced analysis.

By Laurie S. Stoff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked They Fought for the Motherland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Women have participated in war throughout history, but their experience in Russia during the First World War was truly exceptional. Between the war's beginning and the October Revolution of 1917, approximately 6,000 women answered their country's call. These courageous women became media stars throughout Europe and America, but were brushed aside by Soviet chroniclers and until now have been largely neglected by history. Laurie Stoff draws on deep archival research into previously unplumbed material, including many first-person accounts, to examine the roots, motivations, and legacy of these women. She reveals that Russia was the only nation in World War I…


Book cover of I Was a Spy!

Kate Breslin Author Of High as the Heavens

From my list on World War One and the hidden world of espionage.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an American novelist and Anglophile who enjoys writing about British history, I never planned to venture into world war fiction, but once a story led me there I was hooked. I love doing deep-dive research and learning about real men and women of the past who faced high stakes: life and death situations and having to make impossible decisions, both on the battlefield and in the hidden world of espionage. Their courage and resourcefulness inspire me, and I realize that even when we’re at our most vulnerable, we can still rise to become our best and bravest when it counts. 

Kate's book list on World War One and the hidden world of espionage

Kate Breslin Why did Kate love this book?

Talk about a real-life action heroine! I grew up loving stories of intrigue and suspense, and Marthe McKenna’s 1932 memoir is like reading a thriller! As a young woman in German-occupied Belgium during WWI, she worked for the Resistance right under the enemy’s nose. I felt her fear as she witnessed brutality or took outlandish risks, and her exploits were incredibly brave for a woman of her time. I was in awe to read the book’s foreword by Sir Winston Churchill himself, lauding Marthe’s extraordinary courage and ingenuity during her ordeal. She taught me that we can all do more than we ever imagined if it means our survival, and her story inspired the high stakes I created in my novel.

By Marthe McKenna,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked I Was a Spy! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“The Greatest War Story of All – Takes rank with All Quiet on the Western Front. She fulfilled in every respect the conditions which made the terrible profession of a spy dignified and honourable. Dwelling behind the German line within sound of cannon, she continually obtained and sent information of the highest importance to the British Intelligence Authorities. Her tale is a thrilling one … the main description of her life and intrigues and adventures is undoubtedly authentic. I was unable to stop reading it until 4 a.m.”

Winston Churchill 1932

With her medical studies cut short by the 1914…


Book cover of Elsie and Mairi Go to War

Wendy Moore Author Of No Man's Land: The Trailblazing Women Who Ran Britain's Most Extraordinary Military Hospital During World War I

From my list on women’s experiences in WW1.

Why am I passionate about this?

Wendy Moore is a journalist and author of five non-fiction books on medical and social history. Her writing has appeared in the Guardian, Times, Observer and Lancet. Her new book is about Endell Street Military Hospital which was run and staffed by women in London in the First World War.

Wendy's book list on women’s experiences in WW1

Wendy Moore Why did Wendy love this book?

Atkinson’s book tells the story of Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm who were friends and motorcycle enthusiasts. When war broke out they joined a voluntary medical unit heading for France and set up a first aid post near the frontline. They were fearless, sometimes reckless, and always cheerful as they saved the wounded. I loved the way Atkinson’s book captured their youthful exuberance and gung-ho courage.

By Diane Atkinson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Elsie and Mairi Go to War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When they met at a motorcycle club in 1912, Elsie Knocker was a thirty year-old motorcycling divorcee dressed in bottle-green Dunhill leathers, and Mairi Chisholm was a brilliant eighteen-year old mechanic, living at home and borrowing tools from her brother. Little did they know, theirs was to become one of the most extraordinary stories of the First World War.

In 1914, they roared off to London 'to do their bit', and within a month they were in the thick of things in Belgium driving ambulances to distant military hospitals. Frustrated by the number of men dying of shock in the…


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