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The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville by Clare Mulley


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The Guardian.

Sam Leith is captivated by a life of ripping yarns and ripping stockings

Sam Leith

3 August 2012

 

Second world war spy stories sometimes give the impression that the war was fought not just half a century ago, but in another universe altogether. If modern war seems to be prosecuted by hubristic technocrats wiggling joysticks in the bowels of the Pentagon, then the key players in the second world war were moustached minor aristocrats escaping from POW camps on motorbikes, roaring across Europe in powerful cars, and concealing microfilm in strings of onions.

 

The title of Clare Mulley's biography, playing on Fleming, indicates that this book is in that tradition. Christine Granville was, at least apocryphally, Winston Churchill's favourite spy. Born Maria Krystyna Janina Skarbek, daughter of a charming but dissolute Polish aristocrat and a Jewish banking heiress, she was described in 1939 as "a flaming Polish patriot expert skier and great adventuress". So she was. In Cape Town when the war began, she sailed to Southampton and presented herself to the British secret service, demanding a job. That she worked for the British would later cause her problems with her compatriots, and that she was Polish would at various times cause the British to mistrust her. But she was determined to do anything she could to help Poland against the Nazis.

 

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

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