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review 2019-07-01 18:22
It's all about the D-Day Girls

 

 

D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II

Sarah Rose

Hardcover: 400 pages

Publisher: Crown; 1st Edition (April 23, 2019)

ISBN-10: 045149508X

ISBN-13: 978-0451495082

https://www.amazon.com/D-Day-Girls-Resistance-Sabotaged-Helped/dp/045149508X

 

 

Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton

 

With D-Day Girls,  Sarah Rose has provided us with a valuable service not only in terms of setting the historical record straight for the women of the S.O.E. (Special Operations Executive), but for the history of the treatment of women in general even when they gave their countries the very finest in the way of self-sacrifice, courage, and heroism.

 

The stories of three women saboteurs , in particular, demonstrate just what skilled and brave women contributed during the occupation of France by the Nazis from 1939 to 1945.  We are told about scrappy Andrée Borrel, a demolitions expert  eluding the Gestapo while blowing up the infrastructure the occupying German army relied on. The "Queen" of the S.O.E. was Lise de Baissac, a fiercely independent Parisian who lost everything due to her wartime service. And there was my favorite heroine of the bunch, Odette Sansom, who saw S.O.E. service as a means to lead a more meaningful life away from an unhappy marriage. While she finds love with a fellow agent named Peter Churchill, she ended up being a two year prisoner, horribly tortured by the Germans.   These women, along with their compatriots both male and female, helped lay the groundwork for D-Day by innumerable acts of sabotage, orchestrated prison breaks,  and the gathering of intelligence for the allied war effort.

 

But D-Day Girls  has a much deeper and wider canvas that three biographies. The stories of the three spies are painted against a detailed backdrop that includes the policy-making of the Allies leadership, how the chiefs of the S.O.E. came to involve women in their behind-the-lines operations, and how the changes in the war effort shaped what the various operatives were and were unable to accomplish. We learn about their training, the reactions of male superiors to the use of women at all, the bungles as well as the successes, the very human dramas the women became involved in,  the competition between the various intelligence agencies, how the spy networks were unraveled by the successful Nazi infiltration, and the very vivid settings from which the women operated. We learn about the costly mistakes some operatives performed, the lack of following the procedures they were taught, and the process of getting the materials and new agents parachuted in from RAF planes.

 

Rose is able to avoid a dry retelling of all these events with almost a novelist's descriptive eye. For example, she doesn't merely tell us about an explosion resulting from a well-place bomb--she gives us a sensory breakdown of what happened moment by moment, second by second in color, smell, and sound. She doesn't merely tell us about the black parachute drops,  but how they took place out in the quiet French countryside.

 

It's difficult to lay this book down as we revisit often forgotten corners of World War II history with often fresh perspectives. Many revelations are only possible now that many formerly classified documents have been brought to light and many misogynist points-of-view have been replaced by what actually happened.

 

In many ways, the tales of what happened to these women after the war ended are the saddest passages in the book. Because they were not part of any official military service, they were denied the full recognition and appreciation they deserved.  Even though they had been indispensable during the war, after VE day they were relegated to the second-class status of women everywhere. There's more than one lesson in all that.

 

 

So readers who love spy stories, those interested in World War II,  devotees of women's studies, and those focused on D-Day celebrations this year shouldn't be the only audience D-Day Girls should enjoy. It's a wonderfully vivid and descriptive multi-layered account that should engage any reader who likes well-written non-fiction.

 

 

Note: I'm aware that this year, a related book, Madame Foucade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Larges Spy Network Against Hitler by Lynne Olson was also published. It's on my summer reading list as well. Spy buffs, stay tuned--

 

 

This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on July 1, 2019:

https://waa.ai/XA7U

 

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review 2019-04-22 16:01
"D-Day Girls", by Sarah Rose
D-Day Girls - Sarah Rose

The spies who armed the resistance, sabotaged the Nazis, and helped win World War 11 

This is a dramatic true account of extraordinary women recruited by Britain who helped win the day on June 6, 1944 and pave the way for Allied victory.

Drawn from declassified files, diaries and oral histories, as per her notes, Ms. Rose did intensive research and has written a story of five remarkable women. These courageous women are Andrée Borrel, Odette Sansom, Lise de Baissan, Yvonne Rudellat and Mary Herbert. It is also the story of fearless men who worked by their side: Francis Suttill, Gilbert Norman, Peter Churchill and Claude de Baissic. Together, they destroyed train lines, ambushed Nazis, plotted prison breaks, and gathered crucial intelligence. Some never made it home.….

France and Environs 1940-1944.

Interesting:

A most heavy read, this account is a fascinating and important story not only of the women who worked as spies but also of the members of the resistance in France and the SOE (Secret Operations Executive) Office whose agents played key roles in the D-Day invasion. Sara Rose takes us on the dangerous journey they had to face in enemy territory. 

Not so much:

It is a hard book to get into, the narrative lacks some cohesion and something is lost in the way it is told. The story jumps from event to event, from person and person sometimes using their code names other times their real names all this with little warning. I found this distracting and mostly confusing. It also reads like it was thrown together, much unorganized, more like a history professor’s lecture notes, a person that wants to say a lot but doesn’t have time to do so. Staying focus was a challenge and I wanted to abandon this book many times but I persevered wanted to know who would make it home….

In Conclusion:

Writing a non-fiction is a daunting task. Ms. Rose has nevertheless provided us with an overall picture of the war and has supplemented her words with a lively bibliography at the end. This book is an addition to the WW11 histories and not meant to be an easy and quick read. 

I stay on the fence on this one. 

I received this ARC from Crown Publishing via NetGalleys for my thoughts

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review 2019-03-12 23:27
D-DAY GIRLS by Sarah Rose
D-Day Girls - Sarah Rose
D-DAY GIRLS by Sarah Rose
I had to keep reminding myself that this was “real non-fiction” and keep reading. Unfortunately I had just read a fictionalized account of the resistance in France that covered many of the same women/events in this book.
D-DAY GIRLS is well researched and well written. It does jump from person to person and event to event with only a new chapter title to give warning. I found this disconcerting and jarring. The notes are wonderful and enlightening.
Odette, whose exploits begin in the early days of the “Firm” and continue to end of the war, was a fascinating woman. The angst of the old guard in deploying women to danger and possible death is a continuing story even today.
History buffs will love this book. The minutia, letters and intimate details will carry them through. A person wishing a lighter tale or more “plot” should find another book covering the same era.
4 of 5 stars

 

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review 2014-01-24 13:09
For All the Tea in China
For All the Tea in China: Espionage, Empire and the Secret Formula for the World's Favourite Drink - Sarah Rose

bookshelves: nonfiction, autumn-2012, history, published-2009, biography, colonial-overlords, victorian, recreational-drugs, war, fraudio, china, india, gardening, pirates-smugglers-wreckers

Read on November 05, 2012




Read by the author herself.





Blurb - A dramatic historical narrative of the man who stole the secret of tea from China.

In 1848, the British East India Company, having lost its monopoly on the tea trade, engaged Robert Fortune, a Scottish gardener, botanist, and plant hunter, to make a clandestine trip into the interior of China's territory forbidden to foreigners,to steal the closely guarded secrets of tea horticulture and manufacturing. For All the Tea in China is the remarkable account of Fortune's journeys into China; a thrilling narrative that combines history, geography, botany, natural science, and old-fashioned adventure.

Disguised in Mandarin robes, Fortune ventured deep into the country, confronting pirates, hostile climate, and his own untrustworthy men as he made his way to the epicenter of tea production, the remote Wu Yi Shan hills. One of the most daring acts of corporate espionage in history, Fortune's pursuit of China's ancient secret makes for a classic nineteenth-century adventure tale, one in which the fate of empires hinges on the feats of one extraordinary man.


Camellia sinensis:









Robert Fortune, the tea thief. From wiki: Robert Fortune (16 September 1812 – 13 April 1880) was a Scottish botanist, plant hunter and traveller, best known for introducing tea plants from China to India. Robert Fortune was born in Britain on 16 September 1812, at Kelloe, Berwickshire.



This does have the tang of 'must publish my dissertation or bust', feeling; the author delivers this in rather a dramatic and staccato'd fashion.

Can't fault the historical research and it is enjoyable enough for a solid 3*

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review 2013-05-09 00:00
For All the Tea in China: Espionage, Empire and the Secret Formula for the World's Favourite Drink
For All the Tea in China: Espionage, Empire and the Secret Formula for the World's Favourite Drink - Sarah Rose Ms. Rose has written a very interesting popular history, that would have been strengthened with more detailed discussions of several subjects: e.g., the relationship between tea and opium, the tea manufacturing process, the playing out of the demise of the East India Co., and the rise of the tea clippers. This book is really a brief intro to the China tea trade and the role that Robert Fortune played therein. I feel about this book the way Sarah Rose feels about the lack of a sufficiently detailed, and well-written history of the Honorable East India Company.
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