Review: The Invisible Woman

The Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Following the life of the remarkable American spy Virginia Hall, Erika Robuck's novel "The Invisible Woman" gives readers a richly researched account of the only woman to win the Distinguished Service Cross during WWII, along with the French Croix de Guerre and the British OBE (Order of the British Empire). Hall worked for the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) and the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), working to aid the French Resistance, helping downed airmen escape capture, providing cash and information to the Resistance groups like the Maquis. What makes Hall's story incredible is that she was disabled- she walked with a prosthetic leg and her limping gait put her at greater risk both because it made her more easily identifiable and her escapes harder pull off. Virginia Hall was never caught and was arguably the most successful spy working for the allies during WWII.

After beginning her work in France as an ambulance driver, Hall fled to Spain, then England after France fell to the Nazis in 1940. A chance encounter in Spain led to contact with Nicolas Boddington of the newly created SOE. Hall went back to France as the second female agent but remained there disguised as an older woman for many months. Initially working as a wireless operator (termed "pianist"), Hall established many of the protocols used by future SOE/OSS agents, and founded an operation called "Heckler" to undermine the Germans. When Germany invaded Lyon, Hall escaped in 1942 by walking over the Pyrenees to Spain. Sent back again under the auspices of the OSS, Hall bravely returned in a new disguise with the cover name "Diane." This novel focuses heavily on this second tour of espionage, highlighting stakes that were frighteningly high- when she returned she was given six weeks to live by her handlers because wireless operators were so often outed and killed.

This was an excellent read and leaves the reader with a sense of awe about how gutsy and smart Hall was.

The audiobook is nicely narrated by Caroline Hewitt.

I received a digital review copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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