A Woman Of No Importance: Book Review

A Woman Of No Importance-The Untold Story Of The American Spy Who Helped Win World War II, By Sonia Purnell.

Chosen as Best Book Of The Year by NPR, the New York Library, Amazon, the Seattle Times, the Washington Independent Review of Books, PopSugar, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, BookBrowse, the Spector, and The Times of London.

Virginia Hall-A Baltimore Socialite

Virginia Hall
Virginia Hall

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 Urgentlemanly 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 ordering 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 guerrilla campaign, liberating swathes of France from the Nazis after D-Day.

Sonia Purnell (author) Examines The Life Of Hall

Throughout this lively examination of the life of Virginia Hall (1906-1982), British biographer and journalist Purnell shows how, if Hall had been a man, dropping undercover in and out of occupied Vichy, Paris, and Lyon, setting up state houses, and coordinating couriers of the Resistance, she would now be as famous as James Bond.

Hall dreamed of a career in the American Foreign Service-but over and over she was relegated to the secretary’s desk.

In 1933, a freak hunting accident in Turkey left her with an amputated left leg, a horrendous experience that only seemed to steel her resolve to live her life as she pleased.


Virginia Hall volunteered to drive ambulances for the service de Sante’ de Arme’es, after the outbreak of Nazi aggression in 1939 and subsequently the invasion of France. When a fortuitous meeting with an agent of the Special Operations Executive, the fledgling British secret service, sealed her fate.

Impressed by her courage, poise, and Independence the Special Operations Executive tasked Hall with returning to occupied France to help coordinate the work of local Resistance leaders and future SOE agents.

Purnell writes, Hall’s appointment, “was an outstanding act of faith in her abilities, which had for so long been belittled or ignored.”.

Hall’s daring efforts in the breakout of Resistance prisoners in the Vichy-run internment camp of Mauzac, in March 1942, was a stunning achievement considering the enormous danger of getting caught and tortured by the Gestapo.

About The Author: Sonia Purnell

Sonia Purnell
Sonia Purnell

Sonia Purnell is a biographer and journalist who has worked for The Guardian, The Sunday Times, and the Daily Telegraph. Her book, Clementine: The Life Of Mrs. Winston Churchill (published as First Lady in the U.K.) was chosen as a book of the year by The Telegraph and The Independent, and was a finalist for the Plutarch Award. Her first book, Just Boris, was long listed for the Orwell prize.

Remaining An Enigma, Hall Operated In The Shadows

Hall, operated in the shadows, and that was their she was happiest. Even to her closest allies in France, she seemed to have no home or family or regiment, merely a burning desire to defeat the Nazis.

They knew neither her real name nor her nationality, nor how she had arrived in their midst. Constantly changing in her looks and demeanor, surfacing without notice across whole swaths of France, only to disappear again as suddenly, she remained an enigma throughout the war and in some ways after it, too. Hall made a statement that she is “unwilling to talk about what she did.”. Even up to the day she died, in 1982.

Tracing And Tracking This Story: Purnell’s Quest For The Truth

The Resistance
The Resistance

Purnell writes: “Even now, tracing her story has involved three solid years of detective work, tasking me from the National Archives in London, the Resistance files in Lyon, and the parachuted drop zones in the Haute-Loire, to the judicial dossiers of Paris and even the white marble corridors of CIA headquarters at Langley.”.

Her search led her through nine levels of security clearance and into the heart of today’s world of American espionage.

Purnell goes on to state that she had to operate in enemy territory with a former member of Britian’s Special Forces and ex-intelligence officers from both sides of the Atlantic. She goes on to say that she tracked down files that were missing, and discovered that others remain mysteriously lost or accounted for. Purnell goes on to say: “I have spent days drawing diagrams matching dozens of code names with scores of her missions, months hunting for remaining extracts of those strange ‘disappeared’ papers; years digging out forgotten documents and memoirs.”.

How One Woman Changed The Tide Of History

Occupied France
Occupied France

This is not a military account of the battle for France, nor an analysis of the shifting shapes of espionage or the evolving role of Special Forces, although of course, they weave a rich and dramatic background to Virginia’s tale.

This book is rather an attempt to reveal how one woman really did help turn the tide, in the end, into resolve and ultimately triumph, even against the backdrop of a horrifying conflict that casts its long shadow over the way we live today. How women can step out of the construct of conventional femininity to defy all the stereotypes, if only they are given the chance. And how the desperate urgencies of war can, perversely open up opportunities that normal life tragically keeps closed.

In Conclusion

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.

If you have any questions or want to leave a comment, please do below and I will get back with you as soon as I can.

A Woman Of No ImportanceIf you would like to purchase this book, please do Here” A Woman Of No Importance

All The Best,


EMAIL: bobbi@greatpoliticalbooks.com

10 thoughts on “A Woman Of No Importance: Book Review”

  1. A booklover is always in search of a good book review before buying one. And this is exactly the kind of review one would want to read. I had thought of getting myself a copy of this famous book but I wanted to read a good review about it first. The author has done a commendable job in this review. In such a concise manner, the author has captured the essence of the book so beautifully. Everything has been explained so well and yet without revealing much. It is great to review. Thanks for sharing with us.

    1. Thank you Samantha for your comment, and I totally give this dramatic thriller and a piece of history and 5 out of 5 stars and for any person interested in history, especially such history that more than likely would never of been told if not for Sonia Purnell’s intensive investigations in order to write this book. I hope you enjoy reading this wonderful book. Thanks again.

  2. A great article,

    Thank you for this information that is definitely something that we do not need to lose from history so I am so pleased that you have shared with us. I must admit I found this subject so fascinating and so will my mother so I have sent her the link too.

    Such bravery to share thank you

    1. Thank you Imelda for your comment, and it is a wonderful look into history that might of never been told, but not for Purnell’s intensive investigations into this brave lady, Virginia Hall. I hope your mom enjoys my post and tell her she can ask me anything that she wants to know about this book.

  3. Wow thank you so much for this post! I am passionate about History and I felt so inspired by the story of Hall. I had never heard of it before and you have totally made me want to go ahead and read the book right away. Truly an inspiring woman who deserves a place in History she never got. As a frenchman I cannot help but be thankful for people like her. Thanks again for bringing this to my attention.

    1. Thank you Kit for your comment, and it is true, if not for the years of investigations that Purnell did, this story might have never been told. Great read and it shows us how close we all were to losing our freedoms, and being from France, it truly does hit home for you I bet. Anyway enjoy the book and come back any time. Thanks again.


  4. WOW! I had no idea. You give so many reasons as to why I need to read this book! Women are left out of so many stories and I cannot wait to read this one. Knowing the author’s journey for information, gives an interesting aspect and an all around appeal for this book. Thank you for the recommendation.

    1. You are welcome Jenny, I am so proud to be promoting this book, because how the author shows where she came from as a socialite and how she became a huge asset to winning the War. Such a dramatic and brave story that Virginia Hall lived and didn’t speak of, but for records and some intensive investigations from the author, this story might never have been told. I hope you enjoy the book. Thanks again.

  5. Hey nice review you have there, your booksis quite interesting and full of historical facts. I must commend your efforts in writing such a concise book like this despite the enormous task that is involved in writing a book. Nevertheless, I would love to purchase the book in other to go through it and have a full understand of how American got their victory in World war 2

    1. Thank you for your comment Edahnewton, I appreciate the statement that I wrote this book, but I did not write this book, it was written by Sonia Purnell, and she did a wonderful job of investigation and interviews to get the information on such a courageous woman as Virginia Hall, thanks for your purchase and enjoy the book.

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