Hello Readers! I’m sharing today my review of The Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck on the release day of this extraordinary book on famed WWII spy, Virginia Hall. THE INVISIBLE WOMAN by Erika Robuck is the first historical novel to tackle Hall’s story. It picks up Hall’s story during her last mission. A former Baltimore society woman, Hall has long since traded in debutante balls and silk gloves for her gray wig. In March 1944, she is offered the chance to return to Occupied France as part of a new spy network, the OSS. She still has a price on her head from the last mission, and her life expectancy—the time handlers estimate she has before being caught—is a mere six weeks. She goes anyway.
The Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck
Publication Date : February 9th 2021
Publisher : Berkley Books
Genre : Historical Fiction / WWII
Pages : 368
Based on the remarkable true story of an American woman who defied the odds to become the most dangerous Allied spy in France during World War II, comes a gripping historical novel about strength, humanity, and bravery from the bestselling author of Hemingway’s Girl.
March 1944. Virginia Hall wasn’t like the other young society women back home in Baltimore–she never wanted the debutante ball or silk gloves. Instead, she traded a safe life for adventure in Europe, and when her beloved second home is thrust into the dark days of war, she leaps in headfirst.
Once she’s recruited as an Allied spy, subverting the Nazis becomes her calling. But even the most cunning agent can be bested, and in wartime trusting the wrong person can prove fatal. Virginia is haunted every day by the betrayal that ravaged her first operation, and will do everything in her power to avenge the brave people she lost.
While her future is anything but certain, this time more than ever Virginia knows that failure is not an option. Especially when she discovers what–and whom–she’s truly protecting.
Advance Praise for THE INVISIBLE WOMAN
“An extraordinary profile of the immense courage and daring of Virginia Hall and an intimate look at the cost of war, The Invisible Woman is a must-read. “–Chanel Cleeton, New York Times bestselling author
“[A] captivating, page-turning read. . . . The Invisible Woman shines a light on this courageous historical woman, whose pioneering work as an agent deserves recognition.”–Marie Benedict, New York Timesbestselling author of The Only Woman in the Room
“Erika Robuck shows us exactly how biographical fiction should be written: with respect for the historical record, a deep understanding of the subject, and the empathy to allow the character at the heart of the novel to shine through. . . . If you only read one World War II book this year, make it this one.”–Natasha Lester,New York Times bestselling author ofThe Paris Orphan
“Virginia Hall . . . is the stuff of inspiration and legend . . . [with] feats of human goodness and bravery amid some of modern history’s darkest moments. . . . Breathtakingly beautiful.”–Allison Pataki, New York Timesbestselling author of The Queen’s Fortune
*** Many thanks to Stephanie @Berkley for providing review copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. ***
The Invisible Woman was brilliant biographical historical fiction that was based on a real and very famous American woman who played heroical role in history. It was about war, how people and agents worked for liberation, getting back what was taken by enemy, courage, resilience, survivor guilt, PTSD, redemption, getting over guilt, justice, keeping faith, and finding hope and light even after facing and seeing endless darkness.
Writing was emotive, engaging, vivid and steady paced. It was third person narrative from Virginia’s perspective, set during the WWII that started with Virginia’s third mission as American spy in France that covered most important journey of Virginia Hall’s life.
It started with epilogue that showed Virginia’s lively, care free personality before war in 1926 when came to France as a student, how she fell in love with the country. Now it’s 1944, Virginia was back for mission in Nazi infested France, disguised as old invisible woman to keep herself hidden from Nazi eyes and being recognised from her wanted posters all over the France. Her mission was as wireless operator to co-ordinate drops for resistance group and prepare them to make life for Nazis hell from within France when the allied forces join them after the announcement of D-day. She was sent in this mission with two weeks deadline. It was interesting to read if she would outlive those two weeks, if she could complete the mission without being identified, how she would carry out her mission, and what she would encounter in this dangerous journey.
Plot was divided in four parts– four parts of Virginia’s mission with four different identity of Virginia and how in the fourth part she got back her identity from Artemis to Daine to LaMadone and back to Virginia. First part was about character introduction, Virginia’s changed nature, her survivor guilt, her struggle being an amputee, what was her mission in France, how she got recruited first as SOE agent and later as OSS agent, why she had to take disguise, and her first stop and first drop she organised. There were lot of information in this and so much to grasp along with horrors of war that made it hard to read.
Part two was her second stop of the journey where she met friend from her first mission and his family. This part showed the real work of Virginia’s mission and how important it was even though she didn’t have to fight Nazi face to face. This part was emotional. It showed why Virginia had became cold, angry, and mostly guilty and how it was emotionally dangerous for her to get attached to people she worked with.
Third part was about her most important role of the mission- to keep a remote village at the heart of Houte-Loire mountain safe. It wasn’t revealed why that last stop was most important and why she had to guard it with her life until she actually arrived here in this part. This part was struggling, tension filled, emotional, and adrenaline filled. It changed so much in Virginia.
Fourth part was the wrap-up of Virginia’s journey that was done so perfectly. The intermittent scenes from her past showed more about her personal life, change in her personality and what she faced before this mission. It showed her relationship with her mother, how she felt the first heartbreak, how she lost her leg, how she failed her first mission, what happened in that mission and after that, and how she lost her leg and named it Cuthbert. It was not in any particular order. The sudden switch from present to past and back to present was a bit confusing in the beginning but I got used to it after some point. We get the glimpse of all these in first or second part which might look repetitive but the full story of these events were revealed eventually.
Virginia was extraordinary character throughout the book. She was remarkably smart, courageous and resilient thirty-seven-years old amputee. It was mind-blowing to read how dedicated and strong willed she was to make difference, gain identity as a woman, help the country she wasn’t even born in during the war even after losing her leg. Her emotions of guilt, sadness, anger, love, and heartbreak were heartfelt. I admired the way she fought darkness not just from outside but from within, the way she put herself in danger for her friends. Her development throughout the book was simply amazing. It was lovely to see the first crack in Virginia’s war scarred and guilt-ridden heart, how she got over guilt, realised to show compassion and gratitude towards people she worked with, and how she became her old self, Virginia we met as a student in the beginning of the book.
All secondary characters were great. They all were as much a hero as Virginia was. I loved reading about their life and how they fought for greater cause putting their life in danger at all the time and mostly those friends Virginia made who supported her and boosted her confidence and will to keep her demons and doubts at bay.
All the descriptions of characters, Nazi infested France, horrors of war, human capacity for evil, and how people worked in big or even smallest way for resistance and kept the faith and hope was truly great throughout the book. Best thing about the book was, it wasn’t just about liberation of France but, in a way, it was Virginia’s own liberation- freedom of getting her identity back, romancing France without fear, redemption from guilt, and learning to live life once again. But throughout the book what didn’t change in Virginia was her love for France which was another best thing.
Turns were good. Climax was tense and action filled. I enjoyed all scenes from climax till end. I’m so glad author included the early phase of Virginia’s love life that gave much more relief from all the horrors and sadness I read so far. Epilogue that gave happy and satisfactory ending to book.
Afterwards showed extensive research author did in writing this book, what part of the book or scene was fictional and what historical aspect was real. I didn’t know anything about Virginia Hall before reading this book and it was impressive to read about her but what I didn’t expect was even the secondary characters were real people from Virginia’s network. I kept thinking what happened after war to all of them and author didn’t keep me hanging. There was last chapter about ‘what happened to Virginia’s Network (all the agents and maquis characters mentioned in this book)’ at the end. I have just one word for this book ‘wow’.
Overall, The Invisible Woman was inspiring, emotional, raw, gritty, well researched and well written biographical historical fiction about extraordinary American spy of the history.
Erika Robuck is the national bestselling author of Receive Me Falling, Hemingway’s Girl, Call Me Zelda, Fallen Beauty, and The House of Hawthorne. She is a contributor to the anthology Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion and to the Writer’s Digest essay collection Author in Progress. Robuck lives in Annapolis, Maryland, with her husband and three sons.
What do you think about the book and review? Have you read this book or any book by the same author? Have you read any Biographical Historical Fiction, if so Which is your favourite?
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