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A Woman of No Importance

The Untold Story of Virginia Hall, WWII's Most Dangerous Spy
  • Author
    • Sonia Purnell
Regular price £12.99
Regular price Sale price £12.99

An astounding story of heroism, spycraft, resistance and personal triumph over shocking adversity.

'A rousing tale of derring-do' THE TIMES * 'Riveting' MICK HERRON * 'Superb' IRISH TIMES


In September 1941, a young American woman strides up the steps of a hotel in Lyon, Vichy France. Her papers say she is a journalist. Her wooden leg is disguised by a determined gait and a distracting beauty. She is there to spark the resistance.

By 1942 Virginia Hall was the Gestapo's most urgent target, having infiltrated Vichy command, trained civilians in guerrilla warfare and sprung soldiers from Nazi prison camps. The first woman to go undercover for British SOE, her intelligence changed the course of the war - but her fight was still not over.

This is a spy history like no other, telling the story of the hunting accident that disabled her, the discrimination she fought and the secret life that helped her triumph over shocking adversity.

'A cracking story about an extraordinarily brave woman' TELEGRAPH

'Gripping ... superb ... a rounded portrait of a complicated, resourceful, determined and above all brave woman' IRISH TIMES


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  • Published: Apr 02 2020
  • Pages: 416
  • 196 x 126mm
  • ISBN: 9780349010168
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Press Reviews

  • Douglas Waller, author of Wild Bill Donovan: The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage
    Fascinating! careful research and skilful writing, Sonia Purnell, in A Woman of No Importance, takes you deep into the covert operations Hall led in Nazi-occupied France, first for the British and then for the Americans. Readers will find this tale of her cunning and courage riveting
  • Clare Mulley, author of The Spy Who Loved and The Women Who Flew for Hitler
    Impressively researched and compellingly written, this brilliant biography puts Virginia Hall - and her prosthetic leg Cuthbert - back where they belong: right in the heart of resistance history
  • Sarah Helm, author of If This Is A Woman and A Life In Secrets
    Riveting ... one of the most breath-taking stories yet told of female courage behind enemy lines ... An intimate and moving portrayal
  • Deborah Frances-White, author of The Guilty Feminist
    A gripping, relevant and timely read about a remarkable woman from a talented writer
  • Kirkus Reviews
    Remarkable ... this lively examination... shows how, if Hall had been a man, dropping undercover in and out of occupied Vichy, Paris, and Lyon, setting up safe houses, and coordinating couriers for the Resistance, she would now be as famous as James Bond... Meticulous research results in a significant biography of a trailblazer who now has a CIA building named after her
  • Publishers Weekly
    Purnell vividly resurrects an underappreciated hero and delivers an enthralling story of wartime of WWII history and women's history will be riveted
  • Richard Davenport-Hines

    The Times, Book of the Week
    Purnell's account of Hall's hectic, amphetamine-fuelled exploits never falters. It recalls Caroline Moorehead's wonderful book, Village of Secrets, but has an added touch of Ben Macintyre's brio ... A rousing tale of derring-do'
  • Oldie
    Sonia Purnell has exhaustively researched Virginia Hall's career in archives in many countries, and she writes with authority and in vivid detail. This book is a cracking story
  • Spectator
    Excellent . . . Purnell's meticulous research into Hall's life and work has taken her not only through British SOE papers and resistance files in France, but also through nine levels of security at the CIA in Langley
  • Jane Shilling

    Evening Standard
    Purnell's extensive research brings the facts of Virginia's life into brilliant focus
  • The Economist
    With her thriller-writer's style and copious new research, Purnell has written a fitting and moving tribute to an amazing woman
  • Deirdre O'Brien

    Sunday Mirror
    Brimming with moving tales of courage in the face of tyranny, this is a worthy tribute to an incredible figure
  • Jane Warren

    Gripping . . . With this book, the true extent of Hall's heroic contribution to the war effort is known at last
  • Anne de Courcy

    A cracking story of an extraordinarily brave woman . . . extraordinarily well-researched . . . thrilling
  • Tablet
    Courage, resourcefulness, ingenuity: Hall possessed them all, and in Purnell she has found the ideal biographer
  • Rebecca Wallersteiner

    The Lady Book of the Week
    An inspiring account of an extraordinary woman's bravery that will keep you gripping your seat
  • Best
    This true tale of courage will take your breath away
  • Max Hastings

    Sunday Times
    It is easy to see why Hollywood is showing interest in Purnell's account of Hall, an authentic heroine who was also American, disabled and a woman. "Marie" thoroughly deserved her laurels
  • Independent
    Virginia Hall was considered the most dangerous of all the Allieds' spies by the Nazis - and her the untold story of the American with a wooden leg who became the French Resistance's key intelligence contact is finally revealed
  • USA Today
    An incredible story of under-appreciated heroism
  • NPR
    A compelling biography of a masterful spy, and a reminder of what can be done with a few brave people -- and a little resistance
  • Mail on Sunday
    Purnell mixes telling detail with narrative verve to convey both the excitements of Hall's precarious existence and the force of her indomitable spirit
  • Mick Herron

    New York Times
    The extraordinary facts of [Hall's] life are brought onto the page here with a well-judged balance of empathy and fine detail. This book is as riveting as any thriller, and as hard to put down
  • Irish Examiner, This summer's top reads
    The remarkable life of the American Second World War spy Virginia Hall is due to get the Hollywood treatment - the Star Wars actress Daisy Ridley is slated to play her on screen. In Hall's biography by Sonia Purnell all the details of her incredible adventures are gathered together for a breath-taking read
  • Telegraph Best Holiday Beach Reads
    Soon to be a film starring Daisy Ridley, Purnell's life of the SOE agent Virginia Hall is a cracking story about an extraordinarily brave woman
  • Irish Times
    As gripping as any thriller ... a superb biography ... Purnell nimbly takes the reader through Hall's complicated manoeuvres all over central France and beyond. And in doing so, she paints a rounded portrait of a complicated, resourceful, determined and above all brave woman
  • Country Life
    This compelling story has remained under wraps until now, with the publication of Sonia Purnell's dramatic and extremely well-researched account.
  • Laura Battle

    Financial Times
    [A Woman of No Importance is] Sonia Purnell's astonishing account of the wartime escapades of special ops agent Virginia Hall . . . Hall's actions, which helped galvanise the Resistance movement, were guided by an indomitable spirit and fierce sense of purpose, and her perilous escape over the Pyrenees in November 1942 makes for nail-biting reading
  • Daily Telegraph

    A cracking biography of Virginia Hall, the tall, beautiful, one-legged Special Operations Executive agent who in 1941 was sent to occupied France undercover as a journalist to mobilise résistants ahead of D-Day. She became, in the Gestapo's view, the Allies' most dangerous spy.