The Special Operations Executive: Background information when reading The Spy Who Loved

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Spy Who Loved

The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville

by Clare Mulley

The Spy Who Loved by Clare Mulley
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jun 2013, 448 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2014, 464 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
The Special Operations Executive

Print Review

Christine Granville worked for the Special Operations Executive (SOE), an organization set up to assist European resistance movements and according to Winston Churchill, "to set Europe ablaze." The SOE was formed from three different but overlapping units: a propaganda unit known as Department EH run by a Canadian newspaper magnate; Section D, a division of the Secret Intelligence Service focused on sabotage and propaganda; and a department of the War Office, known as MI R. In July 1940, all three were rolled into one organization - the Special Operations Executive.

Although expectations were high for the SOE, there was trouble in the early months. The organization faced three primary challenges: how to recognize resistance movements, how to communicate with them, and how to best support these movements in their fight against Germany. Although Section D and MI R had developed procedures for helping resistance movements on a small scale, the scope of SOE's mission was new. Determining the exact ways that the SOE was going to carry out Churchill's mandate of "setting Europe ablaze" was unclear.

Radio signals were susceptible to interception, making communication with resistance movements particularly challenging. There was only limited contact with Polish and Czech movements. Once contact was made and the resistance movements obtained support, it was difficult to show how SOE was helping them. Much of the work was clandestine and subtle. News of SOE successes often took time to surface. Within the war department in Britain, there was divided thinking on SOE. Many saw the organization as merely a distraction from the real fighting.

Despite reservations and early roadblocks, SOE evolved. It was determined that it was necessary to get agents into the field to work directly with the resistance movements, and by mid-1941 SOE agents began to infiltrate Europe. Many, like Christine Granville, were dropped via parachute at night to their assigned areas. Granville assisted in connecting different resistance groups in France and Italy and helped organize the concealment and distribution of weapons.

Wireless radio developed by SOE Over time, communication methods became more sophisticated. SOE developed a wireless radio that weighed 40 pounds and looked like a standard suitcase. The aim was for every agent to be a qualified radio operator. In addition, each SOE agent had to be trained in self-defense and be able to use weapons and explosives (Granville preferred hand grenades to guns and always had a few on her in case of trouble). Each agent needed a convincing cover story and alias. Every detail mattered - an agent purporting to be a Frenchman could have his, or her, cover blown simply for wearing shoes made in Britain, or looking the wrong way when crossing the road. Because of her flawless French speaking skills, Granville was chosen for work in France, where she was known as Madame Pauline.

After the war, Despite SOE's successes, Clement Attlee, the British prime minister who followed Churchill, ordered SOE be disbanded at short notice because he felt that it was not appropriate to have an organization focused on sabotage and resistance in peacetime. Some of the personnel were absorbed into MI6, others returned to either the regular armed forces or their former peacetime occupations, or joined the civil service. But Granville, who had no former wartime employment to return to and did not want a desk job, found it difficult to secure gainful employment.

This article was originally published in July 2013, and has been updated for the May 2014 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Blind
    The Blind
    by A.F. Brady
    In The Blind, A. F. Brady, a licensed psychotherapist, takes readers inside a residential ...
  • Book Jacket: The Rules of Magic
    The Rules of Magic
    by Alice Hoffman
    Alice Hoffman's Rules of Magic is the long-awaited prequel to one of her most cherished novels,...
  • Book Jacket: Good Me Bad Me
    Good Me Bad Me
    by Ali Land
    Is a psychopath born or made? This is the terrifying question that author Ali Land explores in her ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin

This love story set against the construction of the Eiffel Tower is "vibrant and transportive." (Bustle)

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Seven Days of Us
    by Francesca Hornak

    A warm, wry debut novel about a family forced to spend a week together over the holidays.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Wisdom of Sundays

The Wisdom of Sundays
by Oprah Winfrey

Life-changing insights from super soul conversations.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A Good M I H T F

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.