“On Baker Street, at No. 64, a government office was hiding in plain sight of heady wartime London, operating under a false name: Inter Services Research Bureau, or ISRB…It was special. It was secret. It fell outside the ordinary command structure of both the Civil Service and the military, answerable only to the war’s most senior planners. With Europe in the balance, this shadow organization was staffing up for the battle that would end the war.” ~Sarah Rose, D-DAY GIRLS: THE SPIES WHO ARMED THE RESISTANCE, SABOTAGED THE NAZIS, AND HELPED WIN WORLD WAR II
The dramatic, untold true story of the extraordinary women recruited by Britain’s elite spy agency to help pave the way for Allied victory in World War II.
In 1942, the Allies were losing, Germany seemed unstoppable, and every able man in England was on the front lines. To “set Europe ablaze,” in the words of Winston Churchill, the Special Operations Executive (SOE) was forced to do something unprecedented: recruit women as spies. Thirty-nine answered the call, leaving their lives and families to become saboteurs in France.
In D-Day Girls, Sarah Rose draws on recently declassified files, diaries, and oral histories to tell the thrilling story of three of these remarkable women. There’s Andrée Borrel, a scrappy and streetwise Parisian who blew up power lines with the Gestapo hot on her heels; Odette Sansom, an unhappily married suburban mother who saw the SOE as her ticket out of domestic life and into a meaningful adventure; and Lise de Baissac, a fiercely independent member of French colonial high society and the SOE’s unflappable “queen.” Together, they destroyed train lines, ambushed Nazis, plotted prison breaks, and gathered crucial intelligence—laying the groundwork for the D-Day invasion that proved to be the turning point in the war.
Rigorously researched and written with razor-sharp wit, D-Day Girls is an inspiring story for our own moment of resistance: a reminder of what courage—and the energy of politically animated women—can accomplish when the stakes seem incalculably high.
D-DAY GIRLS, by Sarah Rose, represents the finest in narrative nonfiction. It’s as if Rose assigns the reader a mission, parachutes her from an airplane into Occupied France, gives her a bicycle, and fires a gun. It’s a marathon with an ever changing finish line, where runners are constantly getting yanked from the race, some never to return.
And it’s all true.
(I know it’s true. I’ve been researching the SOE and its agents for two years. I hope to tell you more about that soon.)
At turns sympathetic, relatable, inspiring, horrifying, and disastrous, the characters (real people!) and their decisions in wartime France contribute to the book’s compulsive readability. When you finish, you’ll head straight to the internet seeking more information about these people of tremendous courage, fire, and, at times, recklessness and treachery. Devoured in three nights, D-DAY GIRLS made me laugh, gasp, cry, and rage at the evil those diabolical Nazis unleashed on the world.
The question I can’t stop pondering: Could I have risked and suffered what these people risked and suffered in the name of stopping evil? Could I run into a burning building to rescue even just one innocent, or thwart plans for greater fires, knowing it was likely I would not make it out alive?
I still can’t answer that.
Thank God for those who did and still do.
If you are fan of books like UNBROKEN or DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, I highly recommend D-DAY GIRLS.