Top positive review
History that's much better than fiction
Reviewed in the United States on April 12, 2019
Having read a number of books on the history of espionage, and espionage in the Second World War in particular, I can say that this may be the most interesting and illuminating account of operations in Occupied and Vichy France ever written in English. I would say that it “reads like a novel,” except no, it reads much better than a novel.
Also a very important corrective to the lack of appreciation of female intelligence operatives during the Second World War. It is not really surprising, but nevertheless infuriating, to see how badly female agents were treated by the men in charge of Allied intelligence operations. Eventually, after her skill and heroism became so evident, SOE and OSS, and the French, did come around to recognizing Virginia Hall’s contribution. But I have to suspect that there were many other women, making great sacrifices, who were never recognized. (And then there was the shameful treatment of Josephine Baker, who was recognized by the French, but ignored by her own country because of racism as well as sexism.) A Woman of No Importance is straight history, and no feminist rant. But in the course of telling this story, Sonia Purnell has made a real contribution to feminist history.