The Untold Story of Britain's First Female Special Agent of World War II
In June 1952, a woman was murdered by an obsessed colleague in a hotel in the South Kensington district of London. Her name was Christine Granville. That she died young was perhaps unsurprising; that she had survived the Second World War was remarkable.
The daughter of a feckless Polish aristocrat and his wealthy Jewish wife, Granville would become one of Britain's most daring and highly decorated special agents. Having fled to Britain on the outbreak of war, she was recruited by the intelligence services and took on mission after mission. She skied over the hazardous High Tatras into occupied Poland, served in Egypt and North Africa, and was later parachuted behind enemy lines into France, where an agent's life expectancy was only six weeks. Her courage, quick wit, and determination won her release from arrest more than once, and saved the lives of several fellow officers―including one of her many lovers―just hours before their execution by the Gestapo. More importantly, the intelligence she gathered in her espionage was a significant contribution to the Allied war effort, and she was awarded the George Medal, the OBE, and the Croix de Guerre.
Granville exercised a mesmeric power on those who knew her. In The Spy Who Loved, acclaimed biographer Clare Mulley tells the extraordinary history of this charismatic, difficult, fearless, and altogether extraordinary woman.
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, June 2013: Mere weeks after Germany’s 1939 invasion of Poland, a woman the British Secret Services described as a "flaming Polish patriot, expert skier and great adventuress" had made her way back from South Africa to London with a brazen proposal: to ski into Poland from Hungary via the Carpathian Mountains. By the time Hitler's forces fell, Christine Granville had accomplished this and more extraordinary feats, delivering supplies, gathering vital intelligence, and defying expectations. She became Britain's first (and longest serving) female special agent, conducting undercover operations in two occupied countries and missions in numerous theaters of war, rescuing officers minutes before their execution and bringing hundreds of POWs back to the front lines. This story of how a charismatic Jewish Countess and beauty queen--raised to be a sedate society wife--parlayed her crackling vitality, flair for languages, and intrepid determination into action that directly undermined the Nazis makes for a sweepingly cinematic read. Churchill's favorite spy, one of the most decorated female intelligence agents of WWII, and one of her era's most liberated (and desired) women, Granville was driven by a passion for liberty "in love, in politics, and in life in the widest sense." Mulley has a sensitive, elegant, and wry way with Granville's story, informed by deep research into the scant published and complex unpublished material, and coupled with her own new interviews Christine's living friends and their children that vividly humanize her. And while her murder in 1952 at the hands of a jealous lover robbed her of the chance to fully realize her post-war promise, The Spy Who Loved is a marvelous tribute to her life and legacy. --Mari MalcolmAbout the Author:
CLARE MULLEY is the author of The Woman Who Saved the Children: A Biography of Eglantyne Jebb, which won the Daily Mail Biographers' Club Prize. She is a contributor to The Arvon Book of Life Writing and is a seasoned public speaker. She has written for History Today, The Express, and The Church Times.
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