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A Life In Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE by [Helm, Sarah]
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A Life In Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE Kindle Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 159 customer reviews

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Length: 528 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Review

'Impressive and obsessive . . . a bizarrely fascinating – as well as a chillingly horrific – story' -- LITERARY REVIEW

'Outstanding and meticulously researched' -- SUNDAY TIMES

'The story [Helm] unfolds here – with talent and lucidity – is genuinely thrilling' -- OBSERVER

‘A formidably able book . . . lucidly written, and a solid contribution to twentieth-century history’ -- M R D Foot, THE SPECTATOR

‘A thorough and fascinating reconstruction of a tragedy that encompassed treachery, naivety, inter-service rivalry and, everywhere, bravery’ -- ECONOMIST

‘As fascinating as the best of thrillers . . . compulsive reading’ -- Peter Lewis, DAILY MAIL

‘Carefully researched and engaging biography’ -- Paul Laity, NEW STATESMAN

‘Masterly . . . Sarah Helm has exposed much that was never meant to be known. And we must never forget it’ -- Betty Boothroyd, MAIL ON SUNDAY

‘Sarah Helm reveals a woman whose aloofness obscured an exotic hidden past’ -- MAIL ON SUNDAY

‘This is a gripping concentricity of stories, well told with abundant detail, at a cracking pace’ -- THE TABLET

MAIL ON SUNDAY

‘Sarah Helm reveals a woman whose aloofness obscured an exotic hidden past’

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1287 KB
  • Print Length: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (4 Jun. 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002TXZSOE
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 159 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #52,087 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
My grandfather was Bill Rogers, described in the book as the doyen of the expatriate British community in Bucharest, and I knew Vera very well for 40 years up until her death. I found the book fascinating, particularly on Vera's early life which had been a bit of a mystery to me, but I had to take a lot with a pinch of salt. I tend to agree with reviewer S. Ricks that the author was excessively harsh on Vera and judged her out of context. The Vera I knew had a mind like a steel trap that could pick up any inconsistencies immediately and woe betide anyone who tried to get the better of her. However, she was also an extremely warm and loyal person, as well as vulnerable in certain ways, although it is true that she didn't suffer fools gladly. As S. Ricks states, she was from another era when they believed they had a duty to do whatever they could to protect their way of life from totalitarianism. Of course, Vera felt terrible sending young agents to France and she gave them time to reconsider after explaining to them that there was a strong possibility they would never come back. It was made easy for them to pull out without anyone else ever knowing. On the other hand, we have to take into account that the supply of potential recruits was extremely limited after De Gaulle prevented the British from recruiting French nationals. She talked of her agents often in later years and clearly felt deeply for them as human beings, as well as having a heavy sense of responsibility for those who failed to return which was why she insisted on being allowed to trace them and worked with War Crimes after the war. She once showed me a photograph of the defendants at the war crimes trial sitting like school boys with their headphones on.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A Life In Secrets is by far the best book ive read this year...and the most chilling. I couldnt put it down .These lost SOE agents especially the female operatives, my godness , I am haunted by their photos. The author has masterfully written how Vera Atkins ,after the war found out what had happened to the missing agents .. Each being murdered in a most barbaric way by the Nazis. But dying with great courage that takes your breath away.
This great book should become a classic. I salute those patriots who served their country well.Awesome
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Format: Paperback
There is so much to say about this book. It seems there have been several conspiricies put forward about Vera Atkins, yet this author has dispelled them with excellent research of her own. Vera Atkins was a major player in the SOE (Special Oerative Executives) F (France) section and undertook her own search to find out what had become of her agents. Her boss Buckmaster made some highly damaging decisions, that condemned the lives of many agents, ignoring key information and clues and giving the Germans information that endangered the lives of his agents. Atkins fought against the War office and government to discover the fate of her own people and for the recognition of the women agents who fought as FANY to be recognised as military with the same rights. This book follows the training of the agents, then Veras lone search through the chaotic Allied occupied German and also to the Russian zone. The fate of the female agents was harrowing, all the more so for how the author feeds us the information, in the same way as Vera found it.

There is no doubt that Vera was a phenomenally brave and strong woman but she was always seen as cold. This book deals with much of that and of Veras secret past. Vera's life was surrounded and shrouded in secrets for almost all of it with good reason and the author reminds us of the social and political world and domestic views then which seriously affected Veras life. Even her own family knew virtually nothing about her past and her war work. Vera was awarded for her work but also blamed for it too. Whilst she went out of her way to trace her agents, she also blocked information that could have greatly helped others in the search for their own loved ones.

Many media reviews for this have called it as reading like a thriller.
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Format: Paperback
In "A Life in Secrets," Sarah Helm tells the riveting story of the courageous men and women of the SOE, the Special Operations Executive, who, during World War II, were parachuted into France, and thence into the arms of the Gestapo. The author also delves into the life of the woman who sent them there, the enigmatic Vera Atkins, who, as a perfect spy, covered her traces so expertly--and so completely--that the biographer has been left with more questions than there are answers.

Ms. Helm nevertheless engages the reader from the very first page, beginning with the recruitment and subsequent departure of the seventeen women and seventeen men who were to serve as organizers, couriers, and wireless transmitter operators of resistance circuits in Nazi-occupied France. After stretching the tension to the breaking point, she breaks that narrative thread and weaves in the story of Vera Atkins, who, even though she was a Romanian subject (and thus technically an enemy alien) at the beginning of the war, nevertheless, became a major protagonist in the SOE during the course of the conflict (She was naturalized as a British subject in 1944.). By continually alternating the topic between the question of the fate of the agents and the account of the formidable woman who persistently searched for them in bombed-out Germany after the war, Ms. Helm captivates the reader--who must relentlessly follow the increasingly horrific narrative, through the Ravensbrueck, Dachau, and Natzweiler concentration camps--from the first page to the last.
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