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on 20 August 2017
What courage! an inspiring read
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on 28 April 2015
No problems at all downloading this book to my kindle or PC.
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on 12 March 2006
Knowing little about Noor Inayat Khan except the legends, this was an incredibly moving biography of the princess who fought for Britain. I found her story to be extraordinary because she was so different from the hardened war operatives - a gentle musician with Sufi inclinations. It must have been so difficult for her in the field, and she must have been so frightened, but she put up such a brave show when she died - her last words of liberté showed they could not break her spirit. The book does a fine job in dispelling the myths and a compulsive page turner.
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on 18 July 2015
Noor Inayat Khan was the daughter of an Indian Sufi mystic of royal heritage and his American wife. The family lived in Paris before the second world war broke out and Noor wrote and published children’s stories. When the Nazis invaded France Noor and her family escaped to England where she joined the WAAF. Later she was recruited by SOE as a wireless operator and returned to Paris in what was one of the most dangerous jobs of the war (average life expectancy of an undercover wireless operator was six weeks).
Noor is an utterly compelling character. While training to be an SOE agent most of her instructors were adamant she should not be used. She was easily flustered, scatter-brained, terrified of weapons. She was also beautiful and thus highly conspicuous – the obverse of ideal for a secret agent. SOE however were desperate for wireless operators. Upon arriving in France she quickly made several highly dangerous mistakes – forgetting passwords, leaving her codes lying about, preserving written versions of all the messages she sent to London which she was told to destroy. And yet, she was to become tremendously courageous and cunning and eventually was the last Wireless operator at large in Paris with the entire Paris Gestapo on her trail.
It has to be said this isn’t a great biography. This isn’t wholly the fault of the biographer (though her repeated reference to British “jets” becomes annoying as surely it’s common knowledge Britain was yet to produce a jet aircraft in 1943/44). By the nature of her work Noor was elusive. The months before her capture she was often alone or liaising with fellow agents who were to be executed by the Nazis. So there are big gaps which have to be filled in with guesswork, which is also true of periods of her captivity in Gestapo prisons.
But was Noor a pawn in a much bigger story? Events in France at this time, six months or so before the Normandy landings, are as shrouded and electric with conspiracy theories as the assassination of JFK. Shrabani Basu, the author of this biography, writes the official and probably sanitised version of Noor’s life. She believes everything’s she told and presents it as a neat and tidy tragic story. That the capture of practically the entire network Noor worked for was down to bad luck and a double agent called Henri Dericourt. It has since come to light that quite possibly Dericourt was a triple agent, secretly working for MI6. It’s more than likely that he wasn’t the only triple agent. So a theory has emerged that it was in the interests of the Allied high command that the Gestapo captured these agents and played back their radios to London allowing the British secret services to disseminate false information to the Nazis. While the Gestapo were giggling at their cunning at coaxing the British to send arms and money right into their hands the British, in what may well have been a triple bluff, were sending these arms drops to the Calais region with the implication that the landings would take place there and not Normandy. In war many difficult decisions have to be made. In that context the sacrifice of twenty or so agents to save the lives of thousands upon thousands of soldiers has a convincing logic. It’s certainly highly suspicious that SOE chose to ignore so many clear warning signs that their agents had been captured and continued to send messages to their wireless sets.
If you’re interested in the female SOE agents sent to France I recommend the brilliant A Life in Secrets by Sarah Helm
And if you’re interested in Noor there’s a very good 40 minute documentary on youtube
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on 30 October 2015
Very pleased with purchase. Good value and professional service. Many thanks!
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on 16 February 2006
A truly fascinating insight into the life of a forgotten heroine. It was a gripping read; Basu has clearly done a lot of research, taking the reader on a journey from her birthplace in Moscow to her final moments in Dachau. Basu also explores the inner workings of the SOE and the many flaws that took place which lead to the tragic demise of Noor and her colleagues. Noor's story as narrated by Basu is very touching, and her haunting beauty makes the tale all the more poignant. I had been previously been unaware of the Indian contribution to the war effort, and Basu's book brings this to light. I would definitely reccomend this to all readers as it has something for everyone.
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on 8 February 2007
This is a beautifully written book that is the perfect blend of thorough research and interesting biography. It is so well researched that I was left with no unresolved questions, and though I found it a harrowing account of a truly brave and wonderful young lady, I felt that this book does her great, and well deserved, honour and justice. It is rare to find such a well written book, highly recommended.
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on 21 August 2009
I grew up reading the Sufi books of Hazrat Inayat Khan from childhood, and these profoundly moving insights into life have guided so much of my ideals since. I was quite shocked when I learned very recently of the very different life his beloved daughter Nur-un-Nissa had tragically cut short.
Hers was an idyllic life with a deeply blissful childhood in Britain. Come World War 2, she opted perhaps incongruently with her upbringing, for service with the Special Ops Executive as a Wireless operator in occupied France. Dubbed the 'Potty Princess' by SOE members, nevertheless she proved outstandingly courageous when finally dropped into France where she lasted a few months typing out vital messages on her wireless. Her death came after Gestapo interrogation and her death was swift on arrival in Dachau where on a shot to the head she was desposed of in the ovens. To read the life changing works of her father is to understand how extraordinarily tragic was the death of this brave young girl, of the noble house of Tipu Sultan. As a War account, this is a well written story of one the thousands of unsung heroes of that terrible period in history revealing the great risks of that courageous organisation the SOE.
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on 16 March 2014
I came across this book in Waterstones, by sheer chance. I bought it as a present for someone else, but in the end read it myself, while being sceptical about how much exactly could be known about this woman's work as a radio operator in Paris in the war. In my view the commercial title does an injustice to this book, about a very remarkable young woman, who, nevertheless, I feel should have left Paris when she had the chance. Her poor family.... and what suffering she endured in the end at the hands of the Nazis. Latterly I have visited her bust in Gordon's Square in London, which I would also recommend. How easy it would have been to fall in love with such a one as Noor Inayat Khan.
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on 24 June 2017
The very moving true story of one of world war two forgotten heroines. This should be included as a mandatory read in secondary schools english GCSE syllabus. The courage of Noor Inayat Khan beggars belief.
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