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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.
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.
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.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Where does The Spy Who Loved rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
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.
What was one of the most memorable moments of The Spy Who Loved?
The occasions where she faced down dangerous situations so calmly.
Have you listened to any of Maggie Mash’s other performances? How does this one compare?
No, but I though it was very well read
Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
The horrors of war are always hard to listen to, so there are some very disturbing passages.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
This book book tells the story of Christine Granville, Polish aristocrat turned spy during the Second World War. A fascinating story which was incredible convoluted and intricate as only a spy biography could be. Perhaps not a bedtime listen but one needing so we concentration.
Gripping never the less.
What would have made The Spy Who Loved better?
If the narrator had read straight from the book and not used European accents in the dialogue the book would have been better.
What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?
The historical perspective was interesting and I was initially hooked by 'Great Lives' BBC R4 (here Clare gave a good insight into the subject). The authorship of the book, however, didn't allow me to warm to the heroine - maybe that was the point?
What didn’t you like about Maggie Mash’s performance?
Overall diction and pace of story telling was very good. The European accents (for Polish dialogue) she was forced to read made a mockery of the book. It was very irritating to listen to and I had to give up half way through.
If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Spy Who Loved?
Read straight from the book. Let the listener work out who says what.
Any additional comments?
It is insulting to eastern Europeans to be portrayed as guttural speakers who are heard speaking English with a gruff, heavy accent. It is frankly ridiculous to listen to, as it must have been to read for the narrator - poor lady.
An insight into SOE activities during the Second World War through a Polish female agent working for the British. The author conveys a sense of Krystyna's own story-telling with a twist of incredulity. Stories in big landscapes of brave men and women when Europe was unstable. A good story, well written, performed with verve, enjoyable for the context - for the descriptions of Poland and life in Cairo. Highly recommended.
Is there anything you would change about this book?
Change the narrator! Poor accents sadly spoil this book, they unnecessary.
What did you like best about this story?
The story is based upon a real person who's life was extraordinary to say the least.
How did the narrator detract from the book?
Whiney voice and poor accents often grated me and stopped me from just enjoying the otherwise fantastic story
Could you see The Spy Who Loved being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?
Absolutely. This book would make an excellent film if done right but might be better as a mini-series or box set.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Christine is a very inspirational lady, so pleased the book was written and her story shared.
What about Maggie Mash’s performance did you like?
well read, good accents, tone and pace.
Any additional comments?
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.
Did the narration match the pace of the story?
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.
Any additional comments?
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.<br/><br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>Christine poses in the wreckage of a bridge she and the French resistance had just blown up in southern France. © Imperial War Museum<br/><br/>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. <br/><br/> <br/>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<br/><br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>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.<br/><br/><br/>
I loved this account of a brave and flawed woman who was a genuine hero of WW2.
A brilliant narration by Maggie Mash made this a thoroughly enjoyable biography of a woman that I had not ever heard of before The Spy Who Loved. I am glad I know about her now.