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Worthy, but lightweight account by the last surviving member of the wartime SOE HQ staff.
on 28 July 2017
I am not sure if this book is a 3 or a 5 star, but plumped for the former.
It was a very lightweight romp thro the places she worked and thepeople she knew and worked with in SOE, the WW2 sabotage agency. Her role was largely safely ensconced in an office, but you did get a flavour of the role she performed, which owing to her youth was deemed too young to be infiltrated into France as an agent.
The book was a very easy read for anyone not knowledgable about the workings of F section in SOE, and throughout the book, numerous agents were quoted, with either a brief bio or Noreen's person thoughts on that person. The book therefore wandered thro the war, quoting agents, lamenting the many enemies of SOE, and giving an impression that she 'enjoyed' the excitement of what was happening on the continent, but from safely with Britain.
As an avid reader of many SOE books, I found the content mostly superficial with much of the character pieces too short for my liking, but I did keep reading because there was the odd piece arising which I had never picked up before. If you have never read anything about SOE before it does give you a good broad-brush idea of what It did do during the war, and for that I think it succeeded, but not fully to my expectations.
The final quarter of the book was post-war reminiscing and I think it got a bit maudlin then, but as she represents the last remaining member of SOE attending the reunions, I think she deserves that right, and again I can't really fault her for her repetition of accounts of the many dead courageous colleagues. There is a roll of honour of the 100+ agents as an appendix to the end of the book, where they were acknowledged.
The book was a brave attempt to tell a modern account of Resistance in France during the last war, but there are a great many modern books will tell it much more authoritatively (best being Foot's official offering), but there are none that will tell it in the first person - I was there accounts. I noticed that Bob Maloubier's story is being posthumously being published in English in 2018, and this man was Noreen's last remaining Special Forces wartime colleague. I think she has the right to tell the story in her own way, as she remembers it, unfortunately it did not fully tick all boxes for me, but I do admire her for the effort to get it down on paper.