First Impression Friday: “A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II” by Sonia Purnell

I’ve currently given up on Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil, and so I decided to take a look at what else I had sitting on my Kindle, unread and unloved. I think Endurance just hit so hard that finding another non-fiction book to read after it (and finding another fiction book to follow the Winternight trilogy!) is going to be difficult.

I think this one might get it, though.

From Book Shop:

In 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission: “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.”

The target in their sights was Virginia Hall, a Baltimore socialite who talked her way into Special Operations Executive, the spy organization dubbed Winston Churchill’s “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.” She became the first Allied woman deployed behind enemy lines and–despite her prosthetic leg–helped to light the flame of the French Resistance, revolutionizing secret warfare as we know it.

Virginia established vast spy networks throughout France, called weapons and explosives down from the skies, and became a linchpin for the Resistance. Even as her face covered wanted posters and a bounty was placed on her head, Virginia refused order after order to evacuate. She finally escaped through a death-defying hike over the Pyrenees into Spain, her cover blown. But she plunged back in, adamant that she had more lives to save, and led a victorious guerilla campaign, liberating swathes of France from the Nazis after D-Day.Based on new and extensive research, Sonia Purnell has for the first time uncovered the full secret life of Virginia Hall–an astounding and inspiring story of heroism, spycraft, resistance, and personal triumph over shocking adversity. A Woman of No Importance is the breathtaking story of how one woman’s fierce persistence helped win the war.

It sounds wrong to say it, but I have always enjoyed reading books set in the era of World War II, whether they be fiction or non-fiction. (I read Diary of a Young Girl like six times when I was in sixth grade.) I read In the Garden of Beasts, which is also terrifying to read in our current political climate, because it shows how America can ignore fascism rearing its ugly head, just like we’re doing in today’s world.

I read the Maggie Hope series last year (or was it earlier this year? I’ve lost all track of time), and while they were good popcorn books, in terms of accuracy and facts they were a hot mess. I can’t remember why I picked up A Woman of No Importance, but it was probably to read something true about women spies in World War II.

I am 8% of the way into this book so far, and our protagonist Virginia Hall has already lost her leg in a hunting accident, become an ambulance driver in occupied France, and lost her only way home because she waited too long after resigning to attempt to leave Europe. Virginia is one of those headstrong women who would never be happy having to stay home and be a mother (she’s already broken off two engagements – one formal and one informal). She wants to make a difference in the world, and I am here for that.

The author starts the book out with a disclaimer that there is a lot of information missing regarding Virginia’s accomplishments due to shoddy record-keeping, but everything that is kept is 100% true, no matter how fantastic it may seem.

I am very much looking forward to seeing how Virginia gets the job of saving America in World War II, and I think this book might be able to bring in some of the excitement I’m currently missing from my life (thanks, pandemic).

What are your favorite non-fiction World War II books? Let me know in the comments!

And as always, keep reading.

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