I just finished A Woman of No Importance and realized that I had a book titled The Irregulars on my shelf, and decided I needed to read that one. (“The Irregulars” is the name of Virginia Hall’s spy ring/allies near the end of the war.) I assumed it would be about the same general thing, but much to my surprise, this book features Roald Dahl and takes place in the States instead of in the forests of France.
During the desperate winter of 1940, as the threat of German invasion hung over England, the British government mounted a massive, secret campaign of propaganda to weaken the isolationist sentiment in America and manipulate the country into entering the war on England’s behalf. Under the command of the now legendary INTREPID, the British planted propaganda in American newspapers, covertly influenced radio stations and wire services, and plotted against American corporations doing business with the Third Reich. They also pushed President Roosevelt to create a similar covert intelligence agency in the US, and played a role in the selection of William Donovan as its head. Now for the first time, with great research and reporting, Jennet Conant reveals that the beloved author Roald Dahl was a member of Churchill’s infamous dirty tricks squad, and tells the full story of how he was recruited to spy on the Americans during World War II.
When I was little, Roald Dahl was one of my favorite authors. Sure, I’ve only ever read two of this books – George’s Marvelous Medicine and The BFG – but I enjoyed watching Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory/Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory whenever they came on TV. I had no idea he was a British spy during World War II. If you want to know how long I’ve had this book, I’ve written “Valentines Day 2015” on the inside front cover. I guess five years isn’t too bad.
Conant starts off her preface by saying that “spies are notoriously unreliable narrators,” and that while she has done as much as she can to make sure the book is truthful and factual, it remains that a lot of the information regarding this time in history is still classified and at some points, she has had to use her best judgement as to what is true and what is not.
I do get the feeling that this is going to require some concentration to really understand all that’s happening, but hopefully not as much as A Woman of No Importance.
Do you have any other World War II era books you’d like to suggest to me? Let me know in the comments!
And as always, keep reading.