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Odette Hardcover – 6 Sep 2007
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'A wonderful introduction to the Second World War' (Max Hastings)
'Her optimism was inspirational' (Irish News (Belfast))
'Gripping... For all their pain, these are stories of hope' (The Times)
A true World War Two story of an ordinary housewife who worked undercover as a secret agent in occupied France.
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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.
"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
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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I was disappointed with the quality of the book itself.Read more
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