Sonia Purnell, the bestselling author of Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill, captures the thrilling story of a female spy in A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II, a groundbreaking biography that reads like a spy thriller.
Purnell’s subject is Virginia Hall, the daughter of a proper Maryland family, who sought to elude her mother’s social control and embrace her own desire for an adventurous life by applying with the U.S. State Department. But despite superior language skills and test results, Hall found herself stuck in low-level clerical jobs as result of the era’s ingrained sexism.
Hall was stationed as a clerk in Turkey when a hunting accident resulted in the loss of her left leg. Despite near-fatal blood infections and the pain of walking with a prosthetic, Hall later volunteered as an ambulance driver for the French army in 1939. Her bravery and passion for France made her an attractive recruit for Britain’s Special Operations Executive, the secretive spy organization given the nod by Winston Churchill to fight the Nazis through James Bond-style espionage. Embedded in Nazi-occupied France, Hall helped organize the French Resistance in ways so ingenious and suspenseful that her previously untold story has recently been optioned for film.
Although documentation of the French Resistance movement exists only in fragments, Purnell ably draws on a variety of sources to create a suspenseful, heartbreaking and ultimately triumphant tale of heroism and sacrifice.