In June 1952, a woman was murdered by an obsessive colleague in a hotel in South Kensington. Her name was Christine Granville. That she died young was perhaps unsurprising, but that she had survived the Second World War was remarkable. She was one of Britain’s most daring and highly decorated secret agents, and the intelligence she gathered was a significant contribution to the Allied war effort.
©2012 Clare Mulley (P)2013 W F Howes Ltd
"Engrossing…as thrilling as any fiction" (Mail on Sunday)
"Compulsively readable... Clare Mulley…has written a thrilling book, and paid overdue homage to a difficult woman who seized life with both hands" (Sunday Telegraph)
"A stunning biographical achievement." (Alison Weir)
Avid reader of history, biography, and true crime.
Christine Granville was a fascinating and captivating woman (at least to the men who knew her), but her outstanding characteristics were patriotism, courage, and determination. Her courage was amazing: some of her exploits had me on the edge of my seat and she narrowly escaped with her life several times, as well as saving the lives of many others. She attracted the loyalty of the men to whom she was close both in her private life and undercover work (with much overlap between the two), so much so that much of her story remained hidden until Clare Mulley conducted the painstaking research which forms the basis of this book. The Spy who Loved is interesting from the beginning to the sad end and, as well as detailing Christine's extraordinary life, it presents a lot of information about Poland, undercover operations, relationships during wartime, sexism in that era, and what happened to secret agents after the war. Maggie Mash is a very competent reader and does a fine job with this book.
"Marred by the narration"
This tells the story of a Polish born woman with a Jewish mother finds herself entangled in dangerous courrier work during the Second World War and it also recounts her somewhat chaotic love life. The story is interesting in itself and when the narrator contents herself to read the biography in her normal voice it is an enjoyable listen and she reads well. Unfortunately she finds it necessary to 'enliven' the direct quotes from various sources with a number of grating imitations of Polish, French and other accents which are very inaccurate and her impersonations of gruff male voices are extremely irritating to say the least. Whenever she attempts to characterise the female lead she also uses a sort of high pitched whine which makes listening unbearable.
I think narrators should retain a neutral tone when reading biographies. Had this narrator done so the book would have been a five star rating for me.
"Fascinating life story"
I was fascinated by the story and all the events of this amazing womans life. I also learnt so much about Poland that I had not realised before. I think the style might be harder work to read than to listen to but I was so interested in all the details, maybe partly because I have Polish family.
The occasions where she faced down dangerous situations so calmly.
No, but I though it was very well read
The horrors of war are always hard to listen to, so there are some very disturbing passages.
I'm afraid I gave up on this and didn't finish. I got about a quarter of the way through. I couldn't tell if it was flat reading or flat writing but it just became tedious and I didn't care what she did next. It ought to have been an exciting tale given the life she lead, but it wasn't.
"A story about amazing courage."
This is an account of the extraordinary exploits of a Polish aristocrat who spied for Britain during WWII. She was beautiful and clever, and possessed nerves of steel and amazing courage. We should put up statues to such people who risked their lives in terrifying times, yet this woman was treated with far less than the adulation she deserved at the end of the war. As a Brit I was ashamed to discover how the "Establishment" dropped her like a hot potato once their need for her was over. I am sure a man would never have been so poorly treated, yet this brave lady's story was unknown to me before listening to this well-researched book. Excellent reading and never to be forgotten true story.
"Human 2nd world war story with a difference."
Christine is a very inspirational lady, so pleased the book was written and her story shared.
well read, good accents, tone and pace.
The first few chapters that set the scene are a bit long, but once it gets going, it is very interesting and shows how many people played a role in winning the 2nd world war.
"A tedious narration of an enthralling tale"
The narration became rather annoying and hard to follow due to Maggie Mash's insistence of using accents for reported speech from eye witnesses. Had she simply continued to read in her own voice, without the pauses that came before and after each 'voice', the story would have flowed much better.
Christine Granville, born Countess Kyrstyna Skarbek, was a Polish agent of the Special Operations Executive during World War II, and reportedly, "Churchill's favourite spy". A woman of extraordinary dedication, bravery and resourcefulness, she is a true heroine of the period, even if she may have been, ultimately, a little unbalanced.
I almost put this book down unfinished, but I am so glad that I didn't. I must have been about half way through before I finally engaged with her story and found myself really interested in what would happen next. The author seems to have had a rather academic approach to this book and, for me, there was too much background and heavy detail which made it seem as though Mulley was determined to ensure all of her careful and thorough research was included, at the expense of pace and suspense. On many occasions I became confused with the names of the many people involved in Christine's life and found myself jumping backwards and forwards trying put everything straight in my mind.
Christine poses in the wreckage of a bridge she and the French resistance had just blown up in southern France. © Imperial War Museum
It wasn't until I reached Christine's work as an SOE agent in occupied France, that the story came alive for me. Her work with the Maquis is the stuff of legend and this is where I found myself becoming engrossed, unwilling to put the book down, wanting to know what would happen next. The risks that she took on behalf of others are astounding and show how fiercely determined and addicted to danger she was. That she achieved what she did as a woman in what was most definitely a man's world is almost unbelievable and there are many, many men who owed their lives to her tenacity and her actions.
Members of the Maquis and British officers in the Queyras Valley. Left to right: Gilbert Galletti, Captain Patrick O'Regan, Captain John Roper, Christine Granville (Countess Krystyna Skarbek) and Captain Leonard Hamilton (Blanchaert). © Imperial War Museum
I found it unthinkably sad that after all her efforts during the war, Christine Granville was effectively cast aside by both the British government and indeed the very country she had worked for when the war came to an end. The bureaucracy that she had to content with in order to gain her certificate of naturalisation and subsequently her British Citizenship was appalling. The difficulties she had finding employment in post-war England due to her nationality and gender were unforgivable.
Christine came across at times as a spoilt child who always wanted, and indeed expected, to get her own way. She was a ferociously driven and independent individual. She was admired by men, who saw her grace and beauty, but less so by women who saw her as 'nothing special'. Indeed, many men felt more than simple admiration for Christine and it would appear that she was never lacking a romantic liaison or a bedfellow when she felt the need for one. And I suppose this is where the title for her biography came from. "The Spy Who Loved" is an unfortunate label for this remarkable woman. It sensationalises one element of her obviously very complex character - her promiscuousness. For a woman who was willing to sacrifice everything for the war effort, to support the allies and ultimately to see her country free, it seems grossly unfair that it is this element that has been showcased, presumably in order to sell the book telling her amazing story.
It is tragic that her death, almost innevitably at the hands of a reportedly jilted lover, in a hotel lobby in 1952 meant that she did not live to see her beloved homeland, Poland, become a free country.
brilliant insight into a woman I never knew existed, well read with good indication through voices as to direct quotes
"I am in love"
What a woman. If this was a fictional story, it would be hard to believe it could happen. The things she gets away with and manages to pull off. And the ending .... This should be a film.
"Could have been much more entertaining"
No. I found this book rather dull. I know it is a fact based story, but I feel it could have been made more interesting.
Not at all. What these women did through the war holds a huge fascination.
I found her tone a bit aggressive.
I learnt something of the history of Poland, stuff you don't tend to hear much of.
A string of facts collected together in an uninteresting way.
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