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The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville Paperback – May 27, 2014
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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“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
About the Author
CLARE MULLEY is the author of The Woman Who Saved the Children: A Biography of Eglantyne Jebb, which won the Daily Mail Biographers' Club Prize. She is a contributor to The Arvon Book of Life Writing and is a seasoned public speaker. She has written for History Today, The Express, and The Church Times.
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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.
Overall, to really understand Miss Granville (if it is even possible given her untimely death in 1952) then you simply must read this book. Other sources might go into detail of her wartime missions - particularly in France - but to see how she evolved from birth, through childhood, and then the early years of her involvement with SOE then this book is mandatory reading. To me this is the value of "The Spy Who Loved" as it allows the best possible understanding of how she ultimately became what she was...and why she did it.
What will also come out is that Miss Granville displayed extraordinary bravery but clearly had a fragile side which somewhat surprised me. Her love of animals, ambivalence towards children, and sometimes rash acts are all well documented in this book. Of course, she was not professionally trained to be in this business and what she learned was via the "school of hard knocks". Given this "school" was WWII and any potential mistakes - no matter how small - could end in one's immediate death, it is even more amazing she survived at all.
An example of this fragile side is the seemingly simple fact of her birth date. For years I have taken all publicly available information and assumed it was in 1915. After all, even her headstone in London shows this as her birthdate. No, it was not. Ms. Mulley's careful research shows it was seven years earlier in 1908 and even tells you the point when Miss Granville actually changed it. Now that took some superior research when even her headstone proved to be wrong! Further, it also gives a glimpse into Miss Granville's mind regarding her getting older and the impact this might have on her self-image.
Sadly, upon conclusion of WWII the UK had no more apparent use for her skills and experience. At that time the Cold War was just getting started and the English economy was in tatters. To continue the employment of Miss Granville when so many other war veterans were streaming home and looking for a job would be difficult. The focus would be on rebuilding the UK and not continuing funding for a part of the military (SOE) which was suspect in many eyes to begin with. Further, at that time, almost anyone from "behind the Iron Curtain" would be second-class in Western eyes and essentially unemployable other than the most menial jobs. Essentially, she was a stateless person (but still a proud Pole) who was collateral damage from the division of Europe between the West and the Soviet Union.
Get this book...it is worth every cent....and you will find it to be a fine read about a person who displayed incredible acts of courage...and in the end proved to be simply human like us all.
COL (Ret.) William R. Bishop
I have read quite a bit about the Second World War but none quite like this one. It's interesting in the aspect it tells of how the everyday person lived and dealt with having their country invaded and turned into a killing field. It tells the story of those who choose to fight for the allies undercover. I had never heard of the woman until I decided to buy and read this book. It attracted me because it was in a different vein from most war stories. It is well researched and informative. I got online and looked her up, just to see what was said about her. It is a good read. I enjoyed the story and gave the read a unique glimpse into the era and the people who lived it.