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The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville Hardcover – June 11, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First edition (June 11, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250030323
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250030320
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #149,798 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, June 2013: Mere weeks after Germany’s 1939 invasion of Poland, a woman the British Secret Services described as a "flaming Polish patriot, expert skier and great adventuress" had made her way back from South Africa to London with a brazen proposal: to ski into Poland from Hungary via the Carpathian Mountains. By the time Hitler's forces fell, Christine Granville had accomplished this and more extraordinary feats, delivering supplies, gathering vital intelligence, and defying expectations. She became Britain's first (and longest serving) female special agent, conducting undercover operations in two occupied countries and missions in numerous theaters of war, rescuing officers minutes before their execution and bringing hundreds of POWs back to the front lines. This story of how a charismatic Jewish Countess and beauty queen--raised to be a sedate society wife--parlayed her crackling vitality, flair for languages, and intrepid determination into action that directly undermined the Nazis makes for a sweepingly cinematic read. Churchill's favorite spy, one of the most decorated female intelligence agents of WWII, and one of her era's most liberated (and desired) women, Granville was driven by a passion for liberty "in love, in politics, and in life in the widest sense." Mulley has a sensitive, elegant, and wry way with Granville's story, informed by deep research into the scant published and complex unpublished material, and coupled with her own new interviews Christine's living friends and their children that vividly humanize her. And while her murder in 1952 at the hands of a jealous lover robbed her of the chance to fully realize her post-war promise, The Spy Who Loved is a marvelous tribute to her life and legacy. --Mari Malcolm

Review

“This summer’s most spellbinding saga of espionage and adventure.” —Vogue.com

“Admirable and overdue.” —Ben Macintyre, The New York Times Book Review

“Oustanding.... While a few books about Christine have emerged in the intervening decades, only now, with the publication of Clare Mulley’s scrupulously researched and expertly rendered biography, do we have a multi-dimensional, uncensored, impartial portrait of the legendary spy—said to be Churchill’s favorite—whose 44-year existence was filled with more eye-popping adventures than we’d find plausible in any novel or movie.” —The Daily Beast

“Well-written and thoroughly researched… One British functionary described [Granville's] dispatches from the field as 'good reading.' The same can be said of Ms. Mulley's biography of this extraordinary woman.” —Wall Street Journal

“A stunning biographical achievement.” — Alison Weir, New York Times bestselling author of Innocent Traitor and The Lady Elizabeth

“Better than any James Bond novel… The most frank and comprehensive tribute yet to Christine… A thrilling account.” —Salon

“Excellent…. A romping adventure of international espionage, grand plots and sex, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance…. [a] well-researched portrayal, a fascinating and riveting account of an exceptional spy's exceptional life…. An exemplary feminist biography, which, without ever slipping into didacticism, takes its subject, her desires and her choices seriously.” —Haaretz

“A dazzling tale.” —Maclean’s

“Mulley gives a remarkable, charismatic woman her due in this tantalizing biography.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“This is a breath-taking story, told with panache and sympathy for an extraordinary heroine. Mulley vividly brings to life not only a resourceful and unusual woman but in doing so helps us understand what makes an ordinary person act with superhuman courage in times of adversity. The Spy Who Loved is required reading for anyone interested in understanding what makes an ordinary person act with superhuman courage in times of adversity. This is a gripping read.” —Anne Sebba, New York Times bestselling author of That Woman

“Not only was Christine Granville Britain’s first woman agent in World War II but carried out some of the most daring missions ever conceived. Her biographer Clare Mulley has provided a vivid account of her activities yet maintains a balanced assessment of the results. Careful research has created sustained tension, vitality and immediacy which are truly page-turning.” —Gordon Thomas, bestselling author of The Pope’s Jews and Gideon’s Spies

“I enjoyed and admired The Spy Who Loved… A really gripping account of the remarkable Christine Granville.” —Simon Mawer, bestselling author of Trapeze and The Glass Room

“An astonishing story, brilliantly told. If a Hollywood movie isn't made about Christine Granville's remarkable life, I'd be amazed.” —Charles Cumming, award-winning author of A Foreign Country

“Impressively researched, and absolutely fascinating. Christine Granville is one of those women you can't help wishing you'd met in real life.” —Jojo Moyes, award-winning author of Me Before You

“Compulsively readable… Clare Mulley has done a dogged piece of detective work piecing together Christine’s ultimately tragic life… She has written a thrilling book, and paid overdue homage to a difficult woman who seized life with both hands” —The Sunday Telegraph (UK)

“Brings alive a glamorous, swashbuckling heroine” —Sunday Times (UK)

“Engrossing biography details the high-voltage life of one of Britain's most remarkable female spies... Fascinating” —Mail on Sunday (UK)

"Mulley's fastidiously researched tome provides the most detailed picture yet." —Sunday Express (UK)

“The brutal end of Christine Granville’s short life – told with terrific élan and mesmerising detail by Clare Mulley – came when the last of a multitude of spellbound lovers stabbed her through the heart in the bedroom of a Kensington hotel…. [a] splendid book… [a] captivating female version of the Scarlet Pimpernel… Christine Granville remains as alive, well and compelling as ever: a figure of radiant magnetism, ruthless determination and a courage that – as several of them attested – could make a strong man shudder.” —The Telegraph (UK) Five Stars (out of five)

"Drawing on an unprecedented range of sources, Clare Mulley’s The Spy Who Loved is a fine account of Christine Granville’s extraordinary war, told with skill and care... Mulley succeeds in making her human... What is quite clear from this inspiring biography is that Granville was as charismatic as she was courageous." —Roderick Bailey, Literary Review

“This is the first book about [Granville] for more than 30 years - and it painstakingly disentangles her complex story and equally complex character.  Clare Mulley has made a fine and soberly thrilling addition to the literature of the undercover war - the sort that does not exaggerate or mythologise… Christine did not want a normal life: all she cared for was freedom, independence and adventure - the more dangerous, the better. This book, massively researched and excitingly told, brings an extraordinary heroine back to life.” —Daily Mail (UK)

“This is a meticulously researched but also highly readable account of [Granville’s] heroic but unfulfilled and deeply tragic life, without any attempt at gloss.  It is one of the most exciting books I’ve read this year.”  —Alistair Horne, The Spectator (UK)

“Assiduously researched, passionately written and highly atmospheric biography… Not just the story of a uniquely brave and complicated patriot, but also a scholarly and tautly written account of secret operations in occupied Europe.” —The Economist

 


More About the Author

CLARE MULLEY is the award-winning author of two biographies:
- 'THE SPY WHO LOVED' tells the extraordinary story of Krystyna Skarbek, aka Christine Granville, Britain's first female special agent of the Second World War, and was published to great critical acclaim in 2012 in the UK, 2013 in the USA.
- 'THE WOMAN WHO SAVED THE CHILDREN', is a biography of Eglantyne Jebb, Founder of Save the Children and perhaps unlikely champion of children's rights, and won the British Daily Mail Biographers' Club prize. Then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called it 'a truly brilliant book'. Clare is still a Campaigns Ambassador for Save the Children, and all royalties from the book go to the charity's international programme work.

Having had three very lively daughters, Clare is now working (when she gets the chance) on a third biography, also set in WWII. Clare is a seasoned public speaker, regularly appears on radio and occasionally writes and blogs for various websites, and British publications. www.claremulley.com

Customer Reviews

Very well written book.
Ervad
The story was about her but I never really felt that I got "her story".
D. McGowen
A great story of a woman of great courage and fortitude.
ganddw42

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Pete Carter on September 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Great book, a well researched historical biography that reads like a thriller in the best possible sense of the word. A real page turner, that to me brought the real Christine to life as a person. In turns; hero, lover, impossible, needy, generous, patriot. Also made me realise how much more there is to learn about the whole WWII story and Polands part in it specifically. Recommended.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Ellen Jackson on July 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The story itself is fascinating, but in the first half of the book the writing is stiff and clumsy.

Ms. Mulley does way too much "telling" and not enough "showing." Facts, characters, and events are piled up one on top of another. Too many pages are devoted to cataloging Christine's movements and a discussion of assignments Christine almost got, but didn't. It's difficult to keep track of the many people who came in and out of Christine's life.

Repeatedly, the reader is told that Christine was charming and magnetic, but her personality doesn't come through. I couldn't connect with her.

Two kinds of footnotes punctuate the text with alarming frequency. The numbered footnotes designate the original source and can be safely ignored by non-scholars. Others elaborate on a point or give additional information. This second category of footnote impedes the flow. Many don't need to be footnotes at all. One example: "Peter Wilkinson's decision was supported by George Taylor." This sentence could easily have been incorporated into the text.

The book catches fire in the second half and becomes a real cliff hanger. From this point on, the story earns its accolades as "stunning" and "engrossing." It's an almost unbelievable tale of a charismatic, courageous, complicated woman. Three stars.
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Format: Hardcover
Krystyna Skarbek (Christine Granville) was of mixed Polish/Jewish background. Her Polish side was aristocratic. Lest it be misunderstood in its Polish context, Mulley clarifies "aristocracy", "With the exception of some Lithuanian princely families, historically Poland's large enfranchised class, or `szlachta', did not hold aristocratic titles. It was traditional for them to regard each other as equals, to be addressed as `dear brother', and even--when Poland was still an independent country--to elect the Polish king. But many of the ancient nobility became so impoverished that they were effectively peasants with coat-of-arms. And many families who sported illustrious titles, as opposed to simply having noble names, owed these to their imperial overlords, who were, as a rule, buying favors." (pp. 2-3).

Christine Granville had a lifelong love for adventure. She was never one to be tied down by rules, customs, or conventions. Repeatedly, Granville displayed uncanny sangfroid (Mulley's term) to function effectively as a spy, and to talk her way out of trouble. Partly owing to that, and perhaps partly to a well-placed bribe, Granville even survived a Gestapo interrogation. (pp. 96-97).

Unfortunately, author Mulley repeats a number of hoary myths about the 1939 war. This is the myth of Polish cavalry charging German tanks (p. 75), and of the Polish Air Force largely destroyed on the ground in the first day or so of the war. (p. 30).

Granville's intelligence work began shortly after the 1939 German-Soviet conquest of Poland. She met with Polish refugees in Hungary. She used her skills as an avid skier to ski into Poland. Granville observed firsthand the brutalities of the German occupation. (pp. 56-on). Poles lived under starvation conditions.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By D. McGowen on June 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am so disappointed. I love reading about this period of history and love spy stories so I thought this book was perfect for me. I couldn't have been more wrong. While the overall story might've been interesting, I could not get past the writing. It was like reading a fifth grader's unedited history report---one fact after the other. Character upon character was introduced with no real purpose or depth. I also felt no connection with Christine. The story was about her but I never really felt that I got "her story". I had such high hopes for this one that it did not live up to.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By adrian garai on June 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A fascinating story of a brave lady. It also gave a good insight into Polish views of allied failure to support. The book could have done with a better editor.
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33 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Gerald Seftel on November 29, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The story is fascinating and the subject's life has a tragic end and one would think that this was sufficiently compelling story. The story line is indded interesting but I found the writing a bit wooden, and it did not come alive for me.
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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful By DavefromNY on October 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Christine Granville (her British cover name) was a Polish aristocrat of unquenchable energy and bravery, who fought the Nazis throughout WW2 and survived by a mixture of great skill and great luck. she was also a torrid lover, wildly attractive to nearly every man she met. she was murdered after the war's end by an obsessed ex-lover. the sort of story that would seem improbable if found in a novel, but is completely true and an inspiration in these sad times today. highly recommended.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By le from Ohio on July 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book was well researched, well documented, and well written. Besides all that, it is one helluva story. Who couldn't love it?
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