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A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by [Sonia Purnell]

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

4.5 out of 5 stars 15,716 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of April 2019: In this fast-paced biography Sonia Purnell tells the story of Virginia Hall, an American spy who worked undercover in France during World War II for Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE). Hall’s story is a surprising one: she began her life in the United States with a mother who wished for the perfect debutante. Hall, however, was more comfortable studying languages, and found herself living abroad and working for the State Department when she lost half her leg in a hunting accident. This setback didn’t slow down Hall at all: she named her wooden prosthetic Cuthbert, drove ambulances in France, and was recruited by a recently formed SOE as a spy in occupied France. Hall posed as a newspaper reporter, enlisting civilians for the French Resistance and establishing an underground network of allies and becoming one of the most important spies during World War II. Purnell does an amazing job bringing Hall’s exploits to life and has crafted a gripping and cinematic biography for an unsung hero of wartime espionage. --Alison Walker

Review

Praise for A Woman of No Importance:

"[An] excellent biography... if Virginia Hall herself remains something of an enigma — a testament, perhaps, to the skills that allowed her to live in the shadows for so long — the extraordinary facts of her life are brought onto the page here with a well-judged balance of empathy and fine detail. This book is as riveting as any thriller, and as hard to put down"
-- The New York Times Book Review

“[A] compelling saga of a remarkable woman whose persistence was honed early on by her battles against low gender expectations and later on by her disability.”
– USA Today

"A gripping take… 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.org

“Never have I read anything like it. Every page is compelling and demands not just to be read, but absorbed. Every act reflects incredible bravery. This is what heroism looks like…Sonia Purnell has ensured Virginia Hall’s place in that great pantheon.”
--FOX News

"Electrifying" 
—Smithsonian.com

“A fitting and moving tribute to an amazing woman.”
The Economist

"
Reads like a detailed novel… Purnell’s fascinating book supports her description of Hall’s life as a ‘Homeric tale of adventure, action, and seemingly unfathomable courage." The Columbus Dispatch
 
"Sonia Purnell has written a riveting account of Hall’s work as a ferociously courageous American spy… [she] writes with compelling energy and fine detail." 
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Purnell’s writing is as precise and engaging as her research, and this book restores overdue attention to one of the world’s great war heroes. It’s a joy to read, and it will swell readers' hearts with pride.”
 Booklist, Starred Review

“A groundbreaking biography that reads like a spy thriller…a suspenseful, heartbreaking and ultimately triumphant tale of heroism and sacrifice.” 
—BookPage, Starred Review

“Purnell vividly resurrects an underappreciated hero and delivers an enthralling story of wartime intrigue…fans of WWII history and women’s history will be riveted.” Publishers Weekly

“A remarkable chronicle...this lively examination…shows how, if Hall had been a man, dropping undercover in and out of occupied Vichy, Paris, and Lyon, setting up safe houses, and coordinating couriers for the Resistance, she would now be as famous as James Bond…Meticulous research results in a significant biography of a trailblazer who now has a CIA building named after her.”
–Kirkus

“Impressively researched and compellingly written, this brilliant biography puts Virginia Hall−and her prosthetic leg, Cuthbert−back where they belong : right in the heart of Resistance history.”
—Clare Mulley, author of The Women Who Flew for Hitler: A True Story of Soaring Ambition and Searing Rivalry
 
“In this astonishing, intriguing book, Sonia Purnell presents one of the most breathtaking stories yet told of female courage behind enemy lines. Its strength lies not only in Purnell’s intimate and moving portrayal of Virginia’s secret work, but also in the new light shed on the betrayal, bravery, and bungling of Churchill’s Special Operations Executive for which Virginia worked.”
—Sarah Helm, author of Ravensbrück: Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women
 
“What a fascinating story! Sonia Purnell skillfully takes you deep into the covert operations Virginia Hall led in Nazi-occupied France. Readers will find this tale of her cunning and courage riveting.”
—Douglas Waller, author of Wild Bill Donovan: The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B07DN155VV
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Penguin Books (April 9, 2019)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ April 9, 2019
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 31977 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Sticky notes ‏ : ‎ On Kindle Scribe
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 368 pages
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 15,716 ratings

About the author

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Sonia Purnell is the highly acclaimed biographer, journalist and public speaker whose New York Times bestselling book 'A Woman of No Importance' about the heroic American one-legged spy Virginia Hall is out now. The tale of extraordinary derring-do has been acclaimed as 'one of the most breathtaking stories yet told of female courage behind enemy lines' and has been optioned by JJ Abrams and Bad Robot in tandem with Paramount Studios for a major Hollywood movie with Daisy Ridley attached to star. Her book is one of USA Today's Five Must Reads and has been hailed as 'gripping' by NPR and 'a very smooth read about a rocky life' andas 'brilliant' by the Irish Times while The Economist said: 'As tales of wartime derring-do go, it would be hard to beat'. 'It's a joy to read,' said Booklist, ' and will swell readers' hearts with pride.' Sonia's book has also been hailed as one of the best Books of the Year in The Times of London. Details of forthcoming lectures in the US will appear shortly on her website www.soniapurnell.com

Her last book - the bestselling Clementine: The Life of Mrs Winston Churchill' - also received fulsome praise on both sides of the Atlantic and was shortlisted for the Plutarch prize for Best Biography of the Year. Critics hailed it as 'admirable', 'engrossing', 'eye-opening', 'scrupulous' 'enthralling' 'compellingly readable' and 'full of surprises.' Praise poured in from such esteemed sources as Lynne Olson, the Wall Street Journal, Amanda Foreman, Miranda Seymour, Margaret MacMillan and Blanche Wiesen Cook. The Daily Telegraph and Independent named it as one of the best books of 2015. Members of the Churchill family have also given a warm welcome to a work that drew on a variety of new sources, as well as the considerable expertise and material of the Churchill Archives in Cambridge and the Imperial War Museum in London.

The book is also published in the UK under the title, First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill. Sonia's first work 'Just Boris: A Tale of Blond Ambition' was long-listed for the Orwell prize for best political writing and was variously described as 'brilliant' 'rollicking' and 'devastating'. A distinguished journalist and commentator, Sonia lives in London with her husband and two sons.

Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5
15,716 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on July 11, 2021
29 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on February 15, 2021
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Top reviews from other countries

s
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite simply, a brilliant read.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on April 21, 2019
41 people found this helpful
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Chris
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Biography
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on July 21, 2019
31 people found this helpful
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Kevin Martin
4.0 out of 5 stars Modern semi-revisionist account of a key early SOE agent
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on June 14, 2022
7 people found this helpful
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TemmaD
5.0 out of 5 stars An unforgettable heroine - and a story for our times
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on May 29, 2019
26 people found this helpful
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Ken Richmond
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book read so far this year
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on August 18, 2019
24 people found this helpful
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