Based on the true story of a group of young women who were recruited in Britain, during WWII, to serve in the French Division of The Special Operations Executive, the book is filled with historic facts about their training, innocence and bravery in the face of enormous danger. The SOE trained these women for espionage and all types of weapon use. Dropped into France, in secret, they became different people, and they performed whatever assignments they were given, often completely on their own, facing untold danger. Many did not survive the effort.
The author, Simon Mawer, introduces us to Marian Sutro when she is a young girl of 19. A member of the WAF, she is recruited into this spy machine and parachuted into France with several new identities. She enters the maelstrom of war, young and a bit naïve, however, she is forced to mature quickly. She and other recruits become romantically involved with each other, although it is against regulations, so in addition to this exciting tale of espionage, there are forbidden romantic liaisons and love stories taking place. Romance can fog the mind and compromise their ability to think clearly, but the constant danger makes them behave carelessly and foolishly sometimes. There is always so much at stake; this behavior becomes a release for tension. Marian’s mission is of the highest priority and her life is always in danger. There is no shortage of mystery or intrigue. We witness murder and betrayal, fear and courage, in the face of monumental danger. If caught, awful consequences await them.
This historic piece of fiction, about a group of people engaged in the effort to end World War II that I had never heard about before, is really engaging and eye opening. Working alongside freedom fighters who often believed that the women were unworthy of the task, whose beauty was distracting, they must nevertheless prove themselves and do their job in the face of the resistance, rudeness, and mistrust.
I particularly liked the descriptive use of language. It made what might have been a mundane spy story, leap off the page. There was little use of crude language, inappropriate sex and whatever other contrivance other writers of late seem to be wont to do; instead, Mawer uses the language effectively to tell the story by creating images that are revealing. For instance, body odor is the scent from an armpit, an image the reader can appreciate.
I found the reader of this audio to be excellent. Her vocal expression made the content clear. Her use of voices brought the characters to life and her tone seemed pitch perfect to me.