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

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Juliet Stevenson

13 Hours 54 Minutes

Penguin Audio

April 2019

Audio Book Summary


Chosen as a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by NPR, the New York Public Library, Amazon, the Seattle Times, the Washington Independent Review of Books, PopSugar, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, BookBrowse, the Spectator, and the Times of London

Winner of the Plutarch Award for Best Biography

“Excellent…This book is as riveting as any thriller, and as hard to put down.” -- The New York Times Book Review

'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

'A meticiulous history that reads like a thriller.' - Ben Macintyre

A never-before-told story of Virginia Hall, the American spy who changed the course of World War II, from the author of Clementine.

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.

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  • HollerinRat

    This book completely gripped me. It kept me on the edge of my seat until the end. Highly recommend!

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  • Victoria Pore\'

    Great, loved the bravery in this character!

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  • Jennifer J. Knight

    Long, but inspiring.

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  • Cynthia C.

    What an amazing story of spectacular effort by this American hero! It is wonderful that women are finally hearing stories of significant contributions in many fields by so many women. Reminds me of the women in “Hidden Figures” and what they went through for a higher purpose. It is important that the stories of accomplished women continue to be told so progress for equal rights is not abandoned. ALL roles for women are to be respected, especially Motherhood. But the civil rights for women are still not complete. I hope authors like Sonia Purnell continue unabated in their efforts to enlighten society.

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  • Kate K.

    Somewhat of a long slog. Amazing woman. It’s not explained how she did what she did. It’s just a lot of the amazing things she accomplished. A real feather in the cap of the United States no thanks to the cia. I didn’t finish the book but got through to the end of her career in espionage.

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  • Sara C.

    This was an incredible story. I appreciate the research and well written account of what Virginia Hall did before and during WWII. Her personality comes across in her correspondence. I'm impressed with her ability to find people willing to risk their lives for freedom and her ability to build effective networks from scratch. When roadblocks stopped her because of her disability, gender, politics, or other people's egos -- she found a way around them, "the backdoor" as the author puts it. Virginia's entire service was never about her, it was about how she could make a difference in winning freedom. I enjoyed learning of the part she played in France during WWII, and also the stories of her contacts, agents, and friends, as well as how the overall events of the French resistance and Allied forces played out. I also loved the narrator -- she is enjoyable to listen to. She has a pleasant British accent and does a great job with the French and American accents.

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  • Karen L.

    I loved this book! I had not checked the name of the narrator and thought for sure it was Emma Thompson! It was not, but Juliet Stevenson was great.

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  • Jackson A.

    Impressive story of fortitude, endurance and bravery — Virginia had many challenges and obstacles to overcome which she did with cunning, pluck and a bit of luck.

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