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review 2020-05-29 20:21
Code Name Madeline: A Sufi Spy in Nazi-Occupied Paris
Code Name Madeline: A Sufi Spy in Nazi-Occupied Paris - Arthur J. Magida

Please note that I received this via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review.

This was really good. I don't know what else to say. Magida did a great job with telling us the story of Noor and how she came to be a spy. Magida also has pictures of Noor's family and different locations that helped tell her story. I also loved that he included further reading for those out there that want to read more information. I finished this book at 80 percent, the remaining parts of it were notes.


"Code Name Madeline: A Sufi Spy in Nazi-Occupied Paris" follows Noor Inayat Khan. She is flying in a plane under the cover of night during a full moon into France. From there Magida traces her family's history (her father was Inayat Khan and was descended from nobility, her mother was Ora Ray Baker, an American). Magida goes into Khan's family and their disapproval of Ora and then we get to Ora's birth in Moscow of all places. The book jumps forward and then we are following Noor as she decides to do what she can to resist Hitler and the Nazi regime. Her story is one of determination and also sadness because you find out what became of her. I had never heard of her before this book and I have to say that Magida did her justice.

The writing I thought was crisp and was filled with so many historical tidbits it keeps you reading. Magida is able to fan your interest with not boring you to death which many writers of history are not that great at.


The flow of the book was really good and was broken up with pictures of Noor, her family, and other things. It really made her came alive to me with the addition of the pictures.

The setting of Europe during the Nazi regime is heartbreaking. Finding out what became of Noor and others during the war still boggles my mind. You wonder how human beings can be so cruel to each other. 

The ending to me is bittersweet:


At the close of the day when life's toil fades away,

And all so peaceful sleep,

No rest do I find since Thou left one behind, 'Till

Death around me doth creep.

Bitter nights of despair hath made fragrant the air,

Tear drops hath turned into dew,

I watch and I wait 'till Thou openeth the gate, And

Thy love leadeth one through.

"untitled," Noor Inayat Khan

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text 2020-05-28 21:42
Reading progress update: I've read 19%.
Code Name Madeline: A Sufi Spy in Nazi-Occupied Paris - Arthur J. Magida

Enjoying reading about Noor. So far Magida has set up her family's backstory and now we are at the start of WWII. I have to say I love the little historical anecdotes he has dripping through this book. His comments on Jefferson and Paris and how Jefferson often needed to away from people was great. Also his comments on Hitler, Chamberlain, Daladier, and Mussolini are good.

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review 2020-05-28 18:39
A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell
A Woman of No Importance - Sonia Purnell

This is an engaging book about a totally badass historical figure, though I’m left unconvinced that the author really had enough information to write a book about her.

Virginia Hall was an American woman who, during WWII, worked undercover in France for first the British and later the American intelligence agencies. She helped organize and arm the French Resistance, spied for the Allies, and later even directed guerilla activities herself. She faced incredible dangers to do so, and with about two years behind enemy lines, spent much more time in France than most operatives, despite the comrades regularly being hauled off by the Gestapo to be tortured and sent to death camps. She had plenty of adventures and near-misses, including once having to escape over the Pyrenees on foot in winter, an even more impressive feat given that she walked on a wooden leg after shooting herself in the foot years before.

Hall is certainly an impressive figure, and I am glad to have learned about her and enjoyed the book. After the first couple of chapters early on, relating the first 30-odd years of her life before sneaking into occupied France, the book is overwhelmingly focused on high-tension WWII exploits, and written in a fluid style that makes for quick reading. I’ve read my share of WWII books considering this is not my favorite subject, but I learned some new things here about the French Resistance, and the book introduces readers to numerous impressive men and women who risked and sometimes lost their lives fighting the Nazis.

That said, Hall herself – no surprise here – was secretive, and refused to share war stories even in later years with the niece to whom she was close, so I have some questions about where all the author’s information comes from. In particular, the author is quick to describe Hall’s thoughts and feelings about events without attributing them to any particular source, leaving me to suspect she made them up. Also, that same reticence on the part of the book’s subject left me confused about just how Hall was accomplishing the things she did. Somehow, Hall would arrive in a place where she knew no one, and despite Purnell’s repeated insistence that Hall was security-oriented and had no patience for loose-lipped operatives, within as little as two days she would have some new person apparently in on the secret, risking their life to accompany her on dangerous missions, while she risked hers in trusting them. Obviously Hall was an excellent judge of character since this virtually always worked out, but the book doesn’t give any sense of her methods, probably because the author doesn’t know.

I also came away with the sense that Purnell was perhaps a little too enamored of her subject, heavily criticizing anyone Hall didn’t get along with. It’s interesting that Hall’s career never really went anywhere except in occupied France: before the war she largely seems to have been held back in her attempted diplomatic career by gender prejudice, and it was at least partially the same story afterwards in her years with the CIA. However, I couldn’t entirely share the author’s indignation with the CIA’s failure to fully utilize Hall’s talents when during the decades after WWII the agency was busy toppling democratically-elected progressive leaders in Latin America to replace them with right-wingers who were friendly to American business interests and whose torture and murder of dissenters was pretty similar to the Nazis’ methods. While Hall’s having a desk job during those years doesn’t exempt her from her share of moral culpability – which Purnell never acknowledges – it at least lets the book focus instead on the straightforward excitement of the French Resistance years, with everything after that summed up in a single chapter at the end.

As an interesting and enjoyable book that introduced me to an impressive woman I would not otherwise have known about, I found this worth reading. But it’s sufficiently biased and speculative that I find it a bit difficult to recommend.

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text 2020-05-27 16:49
Reading progress update: I've read 1%.
Code Name Madeline: A Sufi Spy in Nazi-Occupied Paris - Arthur J. Magida

Well this takes place in France and is not my country of residence. I need to finish this NetGalley book soon anyway, it's getting published in June. 

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review 2020-05-26 14:23
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - Steven L Hopp,Camille Kingsolver,Barbara Kingsolver

Honestly this is more of a 3.5 star read, but since Goodreads does not allow for half-stars, I rounded this up to 4. I think too much of the book had Kingsolver talking down to readers and acting as if those of us not working the land are less than those who do. I rounded up though mostly because when Kingsolver focuses on the history of the vegetables or animal husbandry in this book it makes it something special. If she left off her limited world view of politics this wouldn't have irked me so much. 


"Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" is a memoir written by Barbara Kingsolver. I guess she was one of the leading voices in the whole eat local movement. I kind of laugh about that since I grew up in the 90s, my whole family ate locally. Most people I know did in PA. We had farms nearby and we would get our meat and milk from them but my whole family had "kitchen gardens." My grandmother, aunt, and mother would can vegetables during the summer and put things away in our cold basement so we could have vegetables during the winter. This is a pretty long-winded way of saying black people been eating from the land since slavery. Kingsolver without meaning to though makes the whole book about a small predominantly white town she lives in, in VA and focuses on farmers. I don't know why the US has this weird view of farmers as salt of the Earth, real Americans, but we tend to fetishisize them along with soldiers. 


Kingsolver also at one point she brings up red states and blue states and defends conservatives and my eyes would not stop rolling. Yeah, conservatives to me in the US means, okay with racism as long as it does not affect their day to day life. I know this was written in 2007, but this was the 10 year anniversary of the book which means this got republished after the rise of Trump which shows that she saw what was going on with farmers getting screwed and still kept some of the tone-deaf text without editing. I can't even talk about her comments about Katrina and her whole what about the farmers that made me drop my jaw. 


You are now probably going, well Blue why did you keep reading this? Well because of the writings from her daughter and husband. Those two at least realize that eating from the land/locally is not an easy thing to see. Kingsolver's own daughter goes into telling poor people to eat healthier without providing a way for them to do so is just ridiculous. Her husband points out the many ways the US has ignored ongoing issues with regards to farming, and how we process meat and vegetables in our country. When Kingsolver focuses on the history of a vegetable like asparagus and the best time to plant it and harvest it is when the book sang to me. 


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