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The Women Who Lived for Danger: The Agents of the Special Operations Executive

3.76  ·  Rating Details  ·  161 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
The Special Operations Executive was formed by Winston Churchill in 1940 to "set Europe ablaze." In the SOE women were trained to handle guns and explosives, work undercover, endure interrogation by the Gestapo, and use complex codes. In The Women Who Lived for Danger, acclaimed historian Marcus Binney recounts the story of ten remarkable women who were dropped in occupied ...more
Hardcover, 380 pages
Published September 30th 2003 by William Morrow (first published 2002)
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Regina Lindsey
I became interested in this subject many years ago after reading Ken Follett's Jackdaws. I was sorely disappointed

During WWII, Churchill developed a program entitled the Special Operational Executive which recuited young, attractive women with exellent language skills to undertake special assignment behind enemy lines. The program eventually served as the model for the establishment of America's CIA program. The book opens briefly by discussing the recruitment and training process then highlight
I was fascinated by the subject. However, I have the following quibbles.

a) for a book about women the ratio of stories about their male counterparts: the actual women, was a little disheartening. Now, I am sure there are good reasons for this. For instance, it seems rather obvious that there is often little written information about spies, but, the men were spies too.

b) the book was often dry--in a, "how can you make a story about women blowing up trains in the dead of night prior to D-Day, soun
Jan 03, 2015 Jeanette rated it liked it
This was informative. Having read just before this, several full length non-fiction biographies for 4 of these women SOE operatives, it was somewhat redundant for me. I also knew the endings for about 6 of these lives- and more detail not covered here in their associations for at least 3. This book can't hold a candle to the Ben MacIntyre editions of WWII espionage detailing. And that makes comparisons tough on Binney. So for others, this book might be a 4 star in the depth of overview to their ...more
I'm not saying anything because of my boycott.
This is the most riveting book I've read in a while. I'd pick it up to glance through it for names or photos, read a paragraph, sit down and read to the end of the chapter, then go back and read the whole chapter through from the beginning--without being able to focus on anything else around me. I did eventually make my way through the whole book from front to back.

It's a series of portraits of adventurers and freedom fighters, all working for the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) durin
Gail Amendt
Mar 08, 2014 Gail Amendt rated it really liked it
This is a five star history book with two star writing, so I have chosen to rate this book primarily as a work of history rather than a work of literature. There is an incredible amount of history in this book. It tells the story of ten remarkable women who worked as secret agents with the SOE (Special Operations Executive) during WWII. They came from all walks of life and several different countries. Several were parachuted into occupied France with only a short period of training. Some were ca ...more
Amicus (David Barnett)
I was not unfamiliar with the story of SOE before reading this account of the lives of ten women agents and their courage, daring and resourcefulness. I'd read about Noor Inayat Khan and Violette Szabo in several accounts of this exciting period, but had not previously read about Christina Granville - an agent who served throughout the entire war with amazing distinction, was then dumped by SOE, reduced to doing various servile jobs before being brutally killed by a rejected lover just when it l ...more
Oct 27, 2014 Jessie rated it liked it
This was a book that looked interesting at the International Spy Museum gift shop. I really wanted to hear these women's stories but I felt like this book mainly told the events in their lives but I didn't feel like I knew them on an emotional level, except the excellent chapter about Alix D'Unienville. .
May 21, 2014 Clare added it
Shelves: non-fiction, history

You wouldn't think you could make women who worked for the SOE during World War II—women whose job it was to parachute behind enemy lines and disrupt the Nazis in occupied territories, mainly France—boring, but he manages it. I slogged through about 3/4s of this book before remembering I didn't have to finish it if I didn't want to. (Yes, that is something I have to remind myself. Idk, I know it's weird.)
Mar 30, 2016 Kate rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading about these women's contributions but was not always happy with the way the author discussed them. I was especially angry and frustrated with the way he blamed Christina Granville for her own murder, saying that she had "allowed" the situation to develop. There was also a great deal of focus on a woman's attractiveness. I do think the author went in with good intentions but seriously needs to learn how to speak about women.
Aug 21, 2013 Allison rated it it was ok
Very interesting subject and biographies. Unfortunately, the book itself is poorly organized and awkwardly written. There are a handful of easy fixes to make this book much more readable, such as intertwining the women's stories as the years go on rather than the stand-alone chapters that so isolated the individual biographies. Another would be to structure the writing with fewer direct quotes or a better integration of quotes to the author's writing. The author is obviously passionate about thi ...more
Tara Chevrestt
Apr 04, 2010 Tara Chevrestt rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tara by: Irene
I spent two days picking this up on and off and as a result, took more naps than ever before in my life. I nodded off every time. In all fairness, biographies are not my usual choice of book, but I was pretty excited about this because of the subject matter. Unfortunately, the stories of the women were so bogged down with details I couldn't remember from one page to the next that I couldn't enjoy it as much as I wanted to. Also, I don't care who they took as lovers. I would have preferred the bo ...more
Jan 11, 2016 Catie rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was, I think, a good place to start on this topic since I've mostly read fiction about the subject and wanted a little more historical context to go along with it. I was pleasantly surprised though that this book read so smoothly. It's set up in sections for each of the ten women discussed rather than trying to lay things out chronologically which often I find too choppy and confusing.

As for the stories, parts were hard to read, as is expected with the material, but if they can live it the
Mar 30, 2010 Renee added it
Shelves: read-2010, new
As an American I was not as familier with the explots of some of the agents, who have been asborbed into pop culture. I had hoever, read a book on Vera Atkins (A Life in Secrets) who appears briefly, so I knew some of the stories, and the two books work in tandem, espcially for an American audience.

The stories of the women agents were thrilling and inspiring, and tragic. Even those who survived were not always given their due, which is a tragedy in and of itself. Interesting reading.
AWESOME TOPIC, abysmal writing. I honestly don't understand how you can make this topic seem dry, but Binney achieved that. I was also sad that Nancy Wake wasn't featured in this one, but I suppose we can't have everything in life.

(I suppose Wake, even though she was trained by the SOE, became more of a French Resistance fighter as opposed to an SOE fighter, but still, I thought she at least deserved a mention).
Feb 10, 2012 Georgina rated it it was ok
I tried, but failed. It was just too hard going; the author kept leaping from one subject to the next and then back again, instead of concentrating on one person at a time. I need to try again when I'm in the mood for something factual as I'm ashamed to have given up on a book which was about such an interesting subject.
Jan 13, 2008 Marie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are interested in the woman who went behind enemy lines during the war, risking their all, then this is the book for you. The unashamed bravery of these woman, put us all to shame, I was often left crying over their sacrifice.

Wonderfully written, a must read!
Rosie Beck
Jan 07, 2010 Rosie Beck rated it really liked it
A fascinating book about many of the "special agents" who assisted the SOE in WWII.All pretty much unknown women, some who lived and some who died, with their own special reasons for joining the Resistance. Their bravery was remarkable.
I loved true stories of everyday people turned into heroes. The women who served behind enemy lines in World War II were amazing. The stories could be uneven and I skipped around a bit reading out of order but it was a good read.
I loved true stories of everyday people turned into heroes. The women who served behind enemy lines in World War II were amazing. The stories could be uneven and I skipped around a bit reading out of order but it was a good read.
Sep 18, 2008 Amanda rated it really liked it
I love WWII history and have always had a fascination with espionage so this book is the perfect mix. It's an account of many of the female spies during WWII. The stories of these amazing women read like a movie!
Apr 11, 2012 Candice rated it liked it
The subject of the book is incredible, however, I didn't find the book to be well written.
Amy L.
Sep 21, 2012 Amy L. rated it it was amazing
Amazing story of espionage, double agents and death during WW2..............
Jan 09, 2013 Ruth rated it it was amazing
Well researched and well written and SO interesting.
Jan 06, 2009 Seeing rated it it was amazing
An unexpected history of WWII.
Feb 03, 2008 Marilou rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: WWII buffs; spy story fanciers
More true spy stories of WWII.
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