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4.6 out of 5 stars
A Life In Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 December 2013
I certainly boil with anger about the lack of justice for acts of barbarism by Nazis and I suspect many others do too. This story shows how a small group of people did not forget their comrades who were murdered and reveals some of the unusual life of this remarkable woman who pursued the murderers.
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on 19 June 2014
There is an undoubtedly very interesting (and potentially explosive) story to be told about Vera Atkins and the work done by the SOE during the war. Does this book do the subject justice?

Well, Yes and No to be honest. There are really 2 different threads to this book, one about Vera herself and another about the agents she (amongst others) sent to their deaths, I felt that both threads suffered from the presence of the other and neither got the attention it deserved.

I couldnt help but feel that the subject matter would have been better served by 2 seperate books.

The information on Atkins herself is scarce and I finished the book with more questions than answers.

Overall, I feel a bit harsh giving it just 3 stars as Helms writing is good, I'll settle for 3 and a half.
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on 25 May 2015
There's so much in this book! Easy to read and compelling in its content, I've thoroughly enjoyed losing myself in its pages.

And I'm so impressed with, not to mention in awe of, the amount of research which the author has undertaken to write this excellent book. As well of the poring over documents in a variety of archives, she's travelled widely to interview people who had something to add to her account, which unlocks some of the previously unknown secrets of the SOE and of Vera Atkins.

Reading it for background and research for the novel I'm currently writing, I'd originally borrowed a copy from my local library. But this book is such a treasure trove of information, as well as inspiration, I eventually had to buy my own copy!
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on 26 September 2012
First off, this is certainly a good read, and it is very good to know more about Vera Atkins, the eminince grise of SOE, who has appeared in the margins of the accounts of numerous SOE operatives' lives and deaths. And for anyone who has not read individual accounts then it will be a fascinating eye opener as to the personalities involved and the terrifying missions they undertook.
However if you are familiar with the broad outlines of the story of SOE this might well be a somewhat frustrating book, which has too much of the author's struggles to follow Vera's trail and too litle evaluation of the controversies - and even ultimately rather too little in the way of conclusions about Vera herself.
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on 19 August 2013
This provides such insight into the mysterious world of the SOE Agents and the dangers they faced. Vera Atkins, herself, has a fascinating life and her own story is enhanced by the twists and turns of the experiences her agents have. I found some of the content hard to read, as years on, I feel we are immune at times to the horror of war, but the story compels you to read on and have faith in mankind, which sometimes happens.
I would certainly recommend this book to readers interested in the Second World War, Le Carre fans and for those that appreciate the fact that history is greater than what is written in a text book!
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on 26 August 2013
I had wanted to read this book for quite a while, but now having done so am somewhat disappointed. The information on Vera Atkins and many aspects of her life remains 'thin' at best. There is a great deal of padding and irrelevant information about researching the book used to counter a lack of real detail. I don't feel I know any more about Vera Atkins than I did from reading some 1950's accounts of SOE. The information on the agents is, on the whole, interesting and seems well researched. I don't doubt the overall quality of the research, but the book doesn't take our understanding forward a great deal.
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on 2 March 2014
This is the second time I have read this book.
For the second time I found the content engrossing and yet disturbing: not only for the descriptions of the heroic workers trained and sent to occupied Europe but also for the declared betrayals, the implied enemy agents within the British organisation, and a hidden agenda, again implied.
I made a visit to Vera Atkin's grave in Zennor churchyard and reflected on her work, as I know it from the book. On balance, she succeeded, in spite of the incompetence of others and class distinction.
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on 29 August 2014
A superb book and so well written. My knowledge of the SOE had been limited to romantic films made in the 1950's, which glamourised the heroics of the female agents. My fascination for the subject grew tremendously through reading this book. Vera Atkins was a remarkable woman but I was left with a few unanswered questions. This did not detract from my enjoyment of the book. The research by the author must have been an immense task, and I commend the author for her skill in offering so much to the reader. A very interesting and thrilling read.
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on 22 April 2014
An enormous amount of research has gone into this book, and it is very well written. But some mysteries still remain - will more be revealed about Vera's early life and the reasons why she tried to keep it such a secret? Was F section part of a plan to deceive the Germans, or were the mistakes as the result of "the fog of war"? Perhaps more will be revealed as additional material is declassified in the future.
Despite the unanswered questions, this book kept me engrossed right to the end - and wanting more.
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on 17 April 2014
I was intrigued by the exert I read of this book and decided to give it a try. It is a fascinating insight of the war that was fought by these people. How brave these men and women were and what horrible deaths most of them had. Also it gives an insight to how bullheaded the people in charge were having no experience at all of what it was like for these people. Vera went about trying to find out about how her girls died and she is to be admired for her stubbornness in insisting that she had to do this. A brilliant read
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