January Book Review: 'A Woman Of No Importance'

Jan 26, 2021

The book, A Woman of No Importance  The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell is the true story of an American woman, Virginia Hall, who lived, survived and even excelled in the 'man's world' of espionage and war in France during World War II.

Sonia Purnell is an award-winning British author.  She spent more than three years searching through documents in England and the United States relating to the activities of Virginia Hall as well as interviewing people in France who had known her.  The result is a remarkable biography of a woman who broke barriers for women and helped win World War II.

Virginia Hall worked for the British Secret Service (British Special Operations Executive Services) from 1939-1942 and for the American SecretSservice (Office of Strategic Service) from 1943 until after the end of the war.

Hall was tasked with sending information back to England detailing German troop strength and movements in France as well as establishing French Resistance groups.  In both areas she was highly successful.  She enlisted a wide variety of French people to aid in acquiring information about German troop movements:  French police officials, prostitutes, nuns, merchants and criminals.  She created one of the largest and most effective resistance movements in France, of which she was the leader.

The German Gestapo named her the most dangerous spy in France and did everything they possibly could to locate and eliminate her.

When the allies invaded Normandy, Hall led her resistance group in well planned and orchestrated attacks on German troops in the inland area of France. The attacks prevented several divisions of German troops from reinforcing those German troops at Normandy, thus allowing the Allies to gain a foothold and to begin to move inland from the coast of Normandy.

For her actions in wartime France, Hall was awarded the highest honor the French government can award a civilian.

Virginia's exploits are the stuff of legend.  She was truly a remarkable woman and leader of men in their resistance to the German occupation of France.  And, of interest, she accomplished all this while moving around France on her prosthetic lower left wooden leg.

The book, A Woman of No Importance, is a well-researched, interesting, and readable book and can be found at our local libraries.