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The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  1,645 ratings  ·  272 reviews
Acclaimed biographer Clare Mulley tells the extraordinary story of Britain's first female special agent of World War II, a charismatic, difficult, fearless, and altogether extraordinary woman.

The Untold Story of Britain's First Female Special Agent of World War II

In June 1952, a woman was murdered by an obsessed colleague in a hotel in the South Kensington district of Lond
Hardcover, 426 pages
Published June 11th 2013 by St. Martin's Press (first published January 1st 2012)
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3.66  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,645 ratings  ·  272 reviews

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Jun 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommended to AJ by: goodreads voice
These are the top 3 things, in order, that I thought of constantly while reading this book:

1. Poland has had a lot of bad luck (these thoughts popped up partly because I had just read what the Soviets had done to it a few centuries before in Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman). And has one of the blackest histories of WW2. And it needs a lot more attention, appreciation, and historical content shed on it and it's plight.

2. Even fierce, intelligent, noble women spies get marginalized by the
Jan 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant account of a remarkable woman, one of those countless people often reduced to footnotes in larger broader histoory boos who deserve books on their own. Very cripsly and wittily written when that was required, brings in to play the remarkable characters that populated the SOE, heros all and with countless tales to tell. The heroine is a female James Bond of inestimable courage, nerve and wit. The book also lays bare again the betrayal of the Poles by all sides from the start of the wa ...more
Jun 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I bought it after I saw Clare Mulley give a talk on the life of Christine Granville and after half an hour of detailing one impossible feat of heroics after another, Mulley confessed she'd barely got started... Granville's entire professional life as a spy was a series of inspirational impossibilities.

The book is fluid and engaging, written with sophistication, passion and a wealth of research to back it up. Recommended.
Ben Everhart
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
I loved this book. Loved it so much that I don't want to return it to the library. I've finished it. It's sitting here, and yet, I feel compelled to hold onto it for as long as I can. Part of me has to hold back from re-reading it again.

Christine Granville was an extraordinary person and this is a great biography. Page turning while, at the same time, demanding each anecdote be savored. How can you read this and not fall in love with this woman?

World War II is brought to life in such a compell
Lewis Weinstein
UPDATE 12/18/17 ... I read the section on Polish resistance which deals with the days immediately after the German invasion (Sep 1939) ... not much there ... skimming through the rest of the book, I tend to agree with the 1* an 2** reviews on amazon ... this is often disorganized, repetitive and factually unsupported ... the notes and bibliography were virtually useless ... I was actually quite disappointed since my expectations (see below) had been high.


I just read an excellent review of thi
Rupert Colley
May 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
(Originally posted on History In AN Hour:

One can’t help but gasp with admiration at the life and exploits of Christine Granville, one of Britain’s bravest wartime heroines. On reading Clare Mulley’s entertaining biography, The Spy Who Loved, we are introduced to a woman who lived life on the edge and who found ordinary, routine existence a bore. Mulley writes with almost a venerable regard for her subject and rightly so, for one would expect the life of
Aug 07, 2013 rated it liked it
I didn't finish the book, so I almost didn't rate it and write a review thinking perhaps I'd go back to it later; but, really, there are too many books in the world for that. The interesting thing is I didn't stop reading this book because it was horrible (that would be a one star rating); rather, I stopped reading this book because I wasn't connecting with it. I think the subject matter is extremely intriguing (that's why I checked it out in the first place), and the first 150 pages or so were ...more
Jul 07, 2013 rated it liked it
I was disappointed in this book. Christine Granville's story is so compelling that I expected the book to be equally compelling. It wasn't. It's worth reading if you are interested in the topic (as I am). If you're just looking for a "good read", move on.

The first 50 pages were almost tortuous. The author introduced a dizzying number of people (most of whom weren't significant characters). That combined with the Polish names (are half of all Polish men named Andrzej???), the Anglicized version o
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
** I received a complimentary copy through Goodread's First Reads**
First of all I must address that I am an 007 junkie- I love a good entry into the spy genre. I was very happy to be able to preview this book, it's right up my alley and historical as well! Christine Granville led a fascinating life from her birth to a Polish aristocrat and his wealthy Jewish bride to her reinvention as a British spy during WWII. Her life was never dull, she began life wealthy and died as a worker on a passenger
Aug 28, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Liked this but it has a terrible title - this is not a Mills & Boone wartime romance, the title diminishes the actual story and life of a complex and interesting woman living in complex and interesting times.
Aug 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, history
Wow. What a book. What a woman. Amazing, fascinating story of a Polish woman who ended up spying for Great Britain during WWII, working in Eastern Europe, the Mideast, and France, against amazing odds, and having, um, multiple romances along the way. Sometimes at the same time. LOL This was a well written book--I couldn't put it down. I kept telling my husband not to bother me now, Christine just got arrested. :-) Loved it!
Jun 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
I wanted to love this biography, but it was dry, boring and monotonous to follow. It was not written very strongly, simply just a presentation of facts, without really getting to know Christine Granville.
Cold War Conversations Podcast
Feb 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Fascinating story of SOE's longest serving woman agent, and recipient of the George Medal, the OBE and the Croix de Guerre.

Clare Mulley has turned up a little known tale of a woman who fought not only the Nazis but the 1940s prejudices against an independent minded woman.
This is truly an extraordinary book, about an extraordinary woman. I wasn't able to finish it--my reading life sent me off in another direction--but I hope to come back to it.
Melissa MacKenzie
Nov 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely brilliant!
Jul 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating. Wonderfully written. Real insight into British Intelligence. Brave . Heroic. Sexy. True.
It's everything you love when you watch old black and white WW2 British spy movies.
D.J. Cockburn
Aug 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A schoolgirl wanted to know how saintly the school's priest was. When this schoolgirl wanted to know something, she didn't stop wanting to know until she found out. It transpired that the priest wasn't up to the standards of the martyrs he aspired to: when she set fire to his cassock, he stopped the catechism to put himself out.

It was the sort of bold but not entirely direct approach that would characterise the life of the woman who christened Krystyna Skarbek who, after two marriages, numerous
May 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent biography of the Polish Countess who became known as Christine Granville and the first British female special agent of World War II. A story of a fascinating, brave and complicated woman who undertook dangerous work for the 6 years of the war. It is also a story of how she and her country Poland were both let down by the British after the war. Poland bring annexed mainly to the Russians who killed and exterminated as many polish people as they could find and Christine who they cut loos ...more
Stephen Goldenberg
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I recently attended a talk by Clare Mulley on her latest book. It was fascinating and very well presented. And so, I decided to give her earlier book a go. It’s one of a rash of recent books documenting the part played by so many unsung heroines during world war 2. Christine Glanville’s Story is among the most fascinating. Despite the difficulty for a biographer of getting hold of official documents, Clare Mulley’s first hand research with people who knew Granville has provided with an extraordi ...more
Jun 03, 2013 rated it liked it
This was an extremely thorough account of the life of Christine Granville, a Polish Jew who became the first woman to work for the British SOE during World War II. Outfitted in the old wooden skies of yore, she skied over treacherous mountain terrain into occupied Poland, and was parachuted behind enemy lines in France. Amazing courage, indomitable physical endurance, and extremely quick wits all contributed to Christine’s brilliant wartime record. Intrepid determination combined with prevailing ...more
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville is a very detailed and well-researched story of SOE spy Christine Granville, the longest-serving British female special agent of World War II, a native of Poland with unsurpassed loyalty to and patriotism towards her native country. I learned so much about Polish history during and before World War II, as well as the story of the resistance in Poland and in the French Vercors. The tensions between the different groups, individuals, ...more
Ruth Chambers
Oct 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
We owe Clare Mulley a great debt for the outstanding The Spy Who Loved . Impressively researched and rich in detail, this biography not only honors the life and work of Christine Granville, a brave and unique woman, but also the countless brave men and women who fought and sacrificed their lives during World War II. Granville’s jaw dropping bravery as a British spy and her contributions to the war effort assume mythic proportions in this page turning narrative. Said to have been Churchill’s favo ...more
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
My goal is to review every book I read this year. We'll see if it actually happens...This was one of those great nonfiction books that has maybe 3 boring pages, which I've found to be quite rare. The author didn't try to expand the book to 700 pages by adding pointless, boring, repetitive content. I just realized that's a pet peeve. The subject was quite interesting, though you never do feel that you know her. Apparently this was the impression she gave in life, so maybe it's appropriate. She wa ...more
Jun 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Christine Granville was a complicated hero of WWII to say the least. Thank God Mulley presents the entire person, as much as is possible when writing about a spy who didn't like to write letters. Deeply researched. Granville lead an improbably, fearless, messy life. Many fell in love along the way (myself included!). Her treatment after the war and her unnecessary demise move the needle toward the tragic from the bittersweet at the end of the story. I found some specks of dust irritating my eyes ...more
Jun 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, 2013
I repeatedly tried to diagnose Christine, the Polish/British WWII spy whose adventures are chronicled in this extremely well researched biography. I also learned A LOT about WWII (particularly Northern Africa's role), that I wasn't aware of before. While reading, I wasn't sure if Christine's Cluster B traits annoyed me, but the book stayed with me long after I finished reading. Definitely dense in parts, but extremely interesting.
Mar 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An Amazing historical Autobiography of a Polish Contess who was the first Female SOE ( Britain's Special Operations Executive) in WW2. It is a wonderful historical read as well as testament to the bravery and courage women have in spades as much as men do and how ultimately her being a woman in a time when women were not treated with the same equality and given the same status as the men she helped lead and save, ultimately was her undoing.
Kate Lapinski
Oct 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Christine Granville and her remarkable story deserve every star available. This book illustrates the magnitude of WW2 (all the nationalities, all the movement between countries, all the different frontlines and different types of fights, all the logistics and bureaucracies) but also shows the smaller human lives that the global conflict changed or shaped entirely.
I am buying a copy of this for myself and also for my some family members.
Jan 04, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am not used to reading biographies (19th-century novels are more my cup of tea), but I thought this book was well-written and compelling. It started slow but became increasingly more interesting. Not only did I gain a thorough knowledge of one of Britain's most remarkable secret agents, but I also became much more aware of Poland's plight during World War II. A fascinating read!
Christine Leigh
Jun 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Excellent read. It amazes me how quickly sexual , racial, & national prejudices are discarded during the desperation of wartime, AND how even quicker such prejudices return during peacetime.
Liz V.
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Clare Mulley is the award-wining author of three biographies.
- 'The Women Who Flew for Hitler' (Macmillan, 2017) explores the lives of Nazi Germany's only female test pilots, Hanna Reitsch and Melitta von Stauffenberg.
- 'The Spy Who Loved', (Macmillan, 2012) looks at the secretss and lives of Krystyna Skarbek, aka Christine Granville, the first woman to work for Britain as a special agent the war
“Christine did not live, or love, as most people do. She lived boundlessly, as generous as she could be cruel, prepared to give her life at any moment for a worthy cause, but rarely sparing a thought for the many casualties that fell in her wake.” 5 likes
“For a once renowned woman who loved telling tales of dodging bullets, wielding grenades and subverting dogs trained to kill, Christine's story is, surprisingly, little known today.” 2 likes
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