Happy Saturday! Apologies if anyone saw this post earlier this morning with no text, for some reason it was scheduled for 1AM not 1PM and I’m only writing this review this morning! Oops. Today, I’m talking about a nonfiction book that I received in the first Feminist Book Box from Hachette, A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell. Purnell has pieced together the true story of Virginia Hall, a WWII spy.
Quite often while I was reading this, I did actually forget it was nonfiction. The narrative is structured in a way similar to a novel, and it’s certainly as engaging as any WWII spy novel. While Virginia doesn’t engage in many daring, action packed sequences herself, she is instrumental in organising them which is, if anything, more impressive.
The book opens with a retelling of an accident that befalls Virginia before the war commences. As a result of a stray gunshot, Virginia loses her leg at her knee, and is fitted with a clunky prosthetic known as Cuthbert. As a disabled American woman, then, she is hardly an expected candidate for a British spy, which makes her the perfect candidate. She is snapped up by SOE, and sent into Nazi-occupied France in order to send intelligence back to Baker Street. The intelligence she ends up gathering, and the massive network she creates turns out to be incredibly important to the war effort.
Purnell’s writing is really gripping, and the amount of research that went into creating this book is definitely impressive. I flew through this book, reading it over two (non-consective) days, and although I’ve only recently finished it, I can already tell that it’s one that’s going to stay in my head for quite a while to come.
It’s hard to review this, because it isn’t a fiction book, so it’s hard to really discuss the plot. However, Virginia’s life is so unbelievable that it feels at times as though this is actually an invented plot. At one point in the book, she organises a breakout from a prisoner camp, successfully freeing several of her network.
If you’re someone who’s interested in WWII, or espionage, I would definitely recommend this book. Virginia Hall’s life was incredible, and her story deserves to be known. Of course, due to the nature of her work there may well be any number of additional incredible stories that we may never hear about. Still, the amount of her work uncovered by Sonia Purnell in this book is quite enough to establish Hall as a very important asset to the Allied Forces in WWII. Her bravery and intelligence is undeniable.