Thursday, February 3, 2022



I have to confess, I have felt a bit burned out on WWII books, with many books in recent years featuring women as spies, coders, secretaries, land girls, resistance fighters, parachuters, etc. But I appreciated this one. Like THE WOLVES AT THE DOOR, by Judith L. Pearson, about the (historical, real-life) American spy Virginia Hall, this book, based upon the Australian Nancy Wake, a newspaper free-lance writer turned resistance leader, has the feel of the real.

The book is well-written, well-researched, and engaging, and my gripes are small: at times, I found the language a bit fraught, loading up the emotions somewhat improbably and with references that feel somewhat forced. (From page 87: Frank opens his mouth and I know where he's going so I stick my finger right in his face. "Don't you dare say, 'But what about George Eliot?' Don't you dare! Mary Ann Evans made her choice and so did I!'") I wasn't sure what the narrative gained by the chapter-by-chapter shifting among years, from 1944 to 1936 to 1939. I also didn't understand why sections from Nancy's husband Henri are dropped in (with a rag-right margin instead of justified), as I felt they didn't add materially to the story. Still, it's an engrossing page-turner, and I recommend it.

Opening lines: "I have gone by many names. Some of them are real--I was given four at birth alone--but most are carefully constructed personas to get me through checkpoints and across borders. They are lies scribbled on forged travel documents. Typed neatly in government files. Splashed across wanted posters. My identity is an ever-shifting thing that adapts to the need at hand."

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