“Valor rarely reaps the dividends it should.”

On October 15th, the Central Library Brown Baggers book group met virtually to discuss A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win WWII by Sonia Purnell.

This book tells the story of how, in 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission: “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.” This spy was Virginia Hall, a young American woman–rejected from the foreign service because of her gender and her prosthetic leg–who talked her way into the spy organization dubbed Churchill’s “ministry of ungentlemanly warfare,” and, before the United States had even entered the war, became the first woman to deploy to occupied France. Virginia Hall was one of the greatest spies in American history, yet before this book, her story was untold.

While the Brown Baggers were very impressed with Virginia Hall and her achievements, many were underwhelmed by the quality of the writing, and found it hard to get through at points. Some found Hall herself so compelling they were not bothered by the writing, and all expressed admiration for the impact Hall had on the world, and history, especially in the face of extreme disadvantage and prejudice from her own side. 

The Brown Baggers will meet again virtually on Thursday, November 19 at noon to discuss The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris.  Please email kfarrell@jmrl.org for details on how to participate from your computer or phone.

Books Mentioned:

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John Le Carre

The Night Witches by Garth Ennis

True Grit by Charles Portis

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania  by Erik Larson

Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy, France by Carolyn Moorehead

Madame Fourcade’s Secret War by Lynne Olson

Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill by Sonia Purnell

Woman of No Importance (play) by Oscar Wilde

Other books on Virginia Hall:

Hall of Mirrors by Craig Gralley (historical fiction recounting Virginia Hall’s life)

The Wolves at the Door by Judith Pearson

Films:

 Julia (1977)

Links:

Deadline – ‘Paramount Buys Spy Novel ‘A Woman of No Importance’ for ‘Star Wars’ Daisy Ridley’ by Mike Flemming Jr.

IMDB – Upcoming Movie Page

NPR – ‘Female WWII Pilots: The Original Flygirls’ by Susan Stamberg

Women Airforce Service Pilots (general information)

Night Witches (general information)

About JMRL Central Reference

Librarians in the reference department at the Central Library of JMRL.

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