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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 2 September 2007
Odette tells her story to Jerard Tickell with great humility, but this was 1949. She was a brave, charming woman, who was put through terrible torture and lived to tell the tale. But I would love to know a lot more about suh an amazing person, her thoughts on civilian life, postwar Britain, her Nuremberg evidence, how her experience affected her daily life and her involvement with other ex-serviceman and victims of torture. This book is a stark, but all too brief account of her war work and early life.

This particular edition has few of the photographs shown in the original and early editions from 1949-1955, which included the woman guards at Ravensbruck at Nuremberg Court, Col. Buckmaster, British agents being dropped by parachute, Peter Churchill, Fresnes Prison, 'Arnaud', Fritz Suhren and Odette with her children 1945. But it is a must read for the war and historian reader. The current edition has Odette, and with Anna Neagle and the film crew, Odette as an old lady with her GC amongst others. It is an unfinished story as it ends in 1945 and has no biographical story after the war. Since she died in 1995 it is in need of an update now I think.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 14 December 2011
"Odette: The Story of a British Agent is perhaps the most moving of all records of war heroism. In 1942 a young Frenchwoman living in Somerset with her three little girls answered a broadcast appeal for holiday photographs to be sent to the War Office. She was invited to London for an interview, and a startling proposition was put to her. Reluctantly she accepted it. In a few months she had been trained as a British agent and, under the name of 'Celine', infiltrated into Southern France. Her run there was short but lively. She worked with the Resistance Movement, organising sabotage and the reception of parachuted agents and supplies. After six months the Germans arrested her with her commanding officer, known as 'Raoul'. So began her long ordeal in prison and concentration-camp. The Gestapo put certain questions to her; she had nothing to say, even after they had pulled out all her toenails. But her replies on other matters were such as to draw suspicion from her Commanding Officer to herself. The Gestapo condemned her to death, but did not kill her. After a year in a Parisian prison she was moved to the infamous concentration-camp at Ravensbruck. There she was buried for three months in total darkness, and witnessed the mass execution of her fellow-prisoners in the spring of 1945. To save his skin, the Camp Commandant took her with him to meet the advancing Americans. So Odette Sansom lived to receive her George Cross, the highest British decoration for gallantry that can be awarded to a woman. She also holds the M.B.E. and the French Legion d'Honneur. In 1947 she became the wife of her 'chief', Captain Peter Churchill, D.S.O., M.C.

"Absorbing, interesting, continuously exciting, and often extremely moving. It is after Odette was captured by the Germans that this tale rises to the heroic, and when I use the word 'heroic' I use it for Antigone. Nobody who claims to be living rather than existing in this crucial time of ours can afford not to read this book." - Compton Mackenzie

"I confess I could not lay it down. The story of what Odette endured makes the most moving narrative of all the war memoirs I have read." - John Gordon in Sunday Express

Odette's story, as told to a popular novelist - Mr Tickell - of her time in SOE during the Second World War
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 6 September 2009
It tells the true story of Odette Hallows (Samson, Churchill), who became one of the best known SOE agents during WW2, and was turned into a film.

The book begins with her life in France as a child, and her struggle with illness induced blindness. It carries on to her arrival in Britain and her life in the SOE.

It shows her work in France with Peter Churchill (later her husband), and then her capture, torture and consequent imprisonment, how she managed to get back to the American lines and afterwards.

A riveting read. A must for anyone interested in the SOE, or just heroines of WW2
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This book's author was commissioned into the military in 1940 and later became a much published author whose fictional works were primarily of historical subjects. He also wrote factually about specific Wartime events but this was his sole biography and also his best-known work. 'Odette', the story of Odette Sansom's exploits as an SOE agent during WW2 is probably one of the top five relating to that agency's work. When first published in the late 1940s, the book was one of the first to openly discuss the nature and activities of SOE during its lifetime from 1940-46. Previously SOE was known to some but not widely to the public.

Odette was a Frenchwoman who met and married her British husband in 1931 France and then returned with him to live in Britain. After the start of the War, she was one of a great many who responded to an open public request to send in any photographs of the French coast or or any area of France that otherwise may be of interest. She sent several but incorrectly addressed them to the War Office enclosing a brief personal history. The still embryonic SOE invited her for an interview, probably because of her language skills and knowledge of France, without disclosing their intentions and she was recruited. After intensive training, she was parachuted into France in 1942 where she was a courier for a group led by fellow agent Peter Churchill.

Although successful, both were eventually captured, tortured and later sent to spend the remainder of the war in a concentration camp with death sentences. Lying that she was Mrs Peter Churchill and thereby related by marriage to the then Prime Minister (both claims were false), neither was executed as were many others but imprisoned as potential hostages.

Odette survived the War, was duly honoured by the King and also by France with the Croix de Guerre, divorced her husband in 1946 and then in the following year married Peter Churchill. They later divorced and she again married another ex-SOE agent, Geoffrey Hallowes, in 1956. Both died as recently as 2006. Odette's story was made into a highly successful 1950's movie, bearing her name.

Although many of its male agents were often seconded from a military role, the females were volunteers who served under circumstances that were among the most challenging and dangerous imaginable. An agent's working life in France was, on average, under six weeks and the risks were known. That some survived while others did not was sometimes down to luck or circumstances but betrayal was common. Accents could be a giveaway - few Brits then could (and still cannot) speak French or any second language sufficiently well to merge unobtrusively into a community without raising suspicion; native French speakers were always welcomed. This book, and others like it, deserves to be read and for their subjects' selfless courage to be recognised and appreciated.

This copy was purchased pre-used from a major re-seller of such books. Although previous experience with the seller had been good or superb, in this instance it was a major disappointment as condition was far worse than described or expected and extremely poor with a number of different faults plus a large 'Damaged Book' label affixed to the front cover. I had read the original hard-back edition (or a slightly later reprint) some time in the early-to-mid-1960s and it was something that I had long wanted to include in my book collection. The copy I now have will be replaced.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 December 2013
This book started out very boring and badly written. I almost gave up reading it until I got halfway and it improved. You've got to hang in there and not get bored as the exciting bits don't begin until midway through. A WW2 true story follows the journey of Odette Sansom into the Resistance in her native France. Working for the British War Office, her story is told by someone who knew and worked with her. A film was released telling this story. Item arrived on time and in good quality. Worth a buy but don't get bored too quickly with it, it does improve as you read on.
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on 14 March 2010
The story of Odette is above all one of heroism in the face of extreme adversity. Her fortitude and endurance were phenomenal and we must praise that without reservation.
When it comes to assessing the human character through her story, though, one is baffled, bewitched, bothered and bewildered. Her heroic holding out in the face of torture and degradation seems to have rested on a huge pride that resolved that they would not break her coupled with a deep-felt belief in God. This pride was both the driving force of her endeavours as an agent and also responsible for her downfall. It kept her defiant against the bestiality of the Gestapo but also made her conditions worse.
It is certainly true that insouciance and dismissive pride is necessary when faced with the great dangers of her work but it also made her blind to the good sense that is also necessary. To ignore the presence of an Abwehr officer and the traitor Jules and deliver Peter Churchill straight into the arms of Bleicher was just a crazieness that can only have been real - it would never have happened in fiction. Pride seems to cause a blindness that can be fatal.
Odette's survival is also a remarkable twist and it maybe that her preservation of pride against all provocations convinced her captors that she really was related to Churchill. Her fellow officers were all executed and we can only suppose that this name saved her.
The arbitrariness and cheapness of life and death may seem to explain why Odette stayed alive were others used death as a way out. Pride played a great part and this seems to have been in contrast to a religious conviction that union with God was certain. Why stay on in pain and degradation when the alternative is paradise?
Certainly her heroic adherence to duty stands starkly against the combination of bureaucracy, indifference to suffering and sadism that saw Odette shuffled from prison to prison, even as the Reich crumbled. Certainly her shining torch was bright in a world that was manifestly insane. In human terms it contrasted strongly with the Nazi mind-set that obeyed orders and refused to face the inevitable even when reason and sanity were screaming for it. The example she showed balanced the automatism that saw thousands of prisoners shuffled round the Reich when the guards that did it could have been fighting the invaders along with the huge garrisons of hundreds of thousands of soldiers stationed uselessly in Norway, Denmark and Holland.
How brightly her candle shone in a naughty world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 May 2012
This is a very interesting read to those who wish to know and understand some of the danger and risks others took during WWII to fight facism.
The author provides a real `page turner' in terms of leaving you wanting to know `what happens next'! Whilst the work relates to Odette it also captures the hard work and bravery of so many.
The book was written some years ago yet still feels very `fresh'. A must read of our times!
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on 25 September 2014
One of the most gripping accounts of World War 2. It chronicles the true story of one of many women who faced extreme danger, capture and torture to free France of the tyranny of the Nazis. Odette lived through the bestial incarceration of Ravensbruck to tell her story. Through her testimony we can more clearly understand the horrors experienced by her and other SOE women agents who did not survive. A very disturbing account too of the British establishment's lack of interest in the welfare of these women at the end of the war. For bureaucratic reasons they were treated differently by Whitehall than their male counterparts. In captivity their dangers were greater and they were more at risk of torture and mistreatment for they were not given the protection of officer status in the armed forces. Yet they willingly went into action, taking these momentous risks and eventually many faced their deaths with courage and honour.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 August 2013
I have read this book a few times and it is an amazing story of one womans life during ww2, working for the resistance. In the past I have borrowed this book from the library, but it is such a great story I had to have my own copy
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on 5 June 2015
Disappointing. Out of all the SOE books this must be the poorest. It begins slowly and you have to wait well into the story before you get to the real subject. It is poorly written and involves vast amounts of trivia and includes long pieces of dialogue which I doubt are even authentic. I found it a struggle to stay interested particularly concerning the chapters that were not even about Odette or those about her personal life before the war. A truly remarkable story but little justice is done to it compared to other books about SOE women. It is written almost like a James Bond novel rather than the factual accounts found in other much superior books covering the same subject.
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