Summary and book reviews of The Spy Who Loved by Clare Mulley

The Spy Who Loved

The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville

by Clare Mulley

The Spy Who Loved
  • 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

Book Summary

Acclaimed biographer Clare Mulley tells the extraordinary story of Britain's first female special agent of World War II, a charismatic, difficult, fearless, and altogether extraordinary woman.

The Untold Story of Britain's First Female Special Agent of World War II

In June 1952, a woman was murdered by an obsessed colleague in a hotel in the South Kensington district of London. Her name was Christine Granville. That she died young was perhaps unsurprising; that she had survived the Second World War was remarkable.

The daughter of a feckless Polish aristocrat and his wealthy Jewish wife, Granville would become one of Britain's most daring and highly decorated special agents. Having fled to Britain on the outbreak of war, she was recruited by the intelligence services and took on mission after mission. She skied over the hazardous High Tatras into occupied Poland, served in Egypt and North Africa, and was later parachuted behind enemy lines into France, where an agent's life expectancy was only six weeks. Her courage, quick wit, and determination won her release from arrest more than once, and saved the lives of several fellow officers - including one of her many lovers - just hours before their execution by the Gestapo. More importantly, the intelligence she gathered in her espionage was a significant contribution to the Allied war effort, and she was awarded the George Medal, the OBE, and the Croix de Guerre.

Granville exercised a mesmeric power on those who knew her. In The Spy Who Loved, acclaimed biographer Clare Mulley tells the extraordinary history of this charismatic, difficult, fearless, and altogether extraordinary woman.

Chapter 1: BORDERLANDS

Perhaps appropriately for a secret agent, the deceptions and confusions that surround Christine's life start with her birth [Although she was 'Krystyna' until 1941, to prevent confusion I consistently use her adopted name, 'Christine', of which, she later wrote, she was so proud]. One story has it that Christine was born at the Skarbek family estate on a stormy spring evening in 1915, and that her arrival coincided with the appearance of Venus, the evening star, in the sky. As a result she was nicknamed 'Vesperale'. In an even more romantic version of events, she was born 'in the wild borderlands between Poland and Russia', to a family that was noble, 'tough, used to invasions, warfare, Cossacks, bandits and wolves'.1 In fact Christine arrived in the world on Friday 1 May 1908. One of her father's childhood nicknames for her was 'little star', but she was born at her mother's family ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The book is called The Spy Who Loved because Christine was a passionate woman. She loved action and adrenalin. She loved men, and they loved her, and she loved freedom and independence - both for her country, Poland, and for herself, personally. What do you think she was most passionate about?
  2. Mulley writes that Christine "lived boundlessly, as generous as she could be cruel." What do you think were Christine's greatest strengths, and what were her weaknesses?
  3. What do you think Christine would have done with her life if the Second World War had not taken place? What do you think she would have gone on to do with the rest of her life, were it not for her untimely death?
  4. Did you know much about female special agents during the ...
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!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

This biography insightfully explores Christine Granville's ineffable qualities and illuminates a little-known, but fascinating character from history. Christine was indeed a spy who loved. She loved freedom, Poland, a handful of interesting men, and a life full of adventure. Fans of WWII history, espionage, or James Bond will be delighted by this real-life espionage story.   (Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).

Full Review Members Only (1048 words).

Media Reviews

Salon.com

Better than any James Bond novel… The most frank and comprehensive tribute yet to Christine… A thrilling account.

Vogue

This summer’s most spellbinding saga of espionage and adventure.

The Wall Street Journal

Well-written and thoroughly researched

The Daily Beast

Outstanding...more eye-popping adventures than we’d find plausible in any novel or movie.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. [Mulley] gives a remarkable, charismatic woman her due in this tantalizing biography.

The Sunday Telegraph (UK)

Compulsively readable… [Mulley] has written a thrilling book, and paid overdue homage to a difficult woman who seized life with both hands.

Sunday Times (UK)

Brings alive a glamorous, swashbuckling heroine.

Mail on Sunday (UK)

Engrossing biography details the high-voltage life of one of Britain's most remarkable female spies... Fascinating.

The Sunday Express (UK)

Mulley's fastidiously researched tome provides the most detailed picture yet.

The Telegraph (UK)

[A] splendid book… [a] captivating female version of the Scarlet Pimpernel… Christine Granville remains as alive, well and compelling as ever: a figure of radiant magnetism, ruthless determination and a courage that – as several of them attested – could make a strong man shudder

Literary Review

Drawing on an unprecedented range of sources, Clare Mulley's The Spy Who Loved is a fine account of Christine Granville's extraordinary war, told with skill and care... Mulley succeeds in making her human... What is quite clear from this inspiring biography is that Granville was as charismatic as she was courageous.

Daily Mail (UK)

This book, massively researched and excitingly told, brings an extraordinary heroine back to life.

The Spectator (UK)

This is a meticulously researched but also highly readable account of [Granville's] heroic but unfulfilled and deeply tragic life, without any attempt at gloss. It is one of the most exciting books I've read this year.

The Economist

Assiduously researched, passionately written and highly atmospheric biography… Not just the story of a uniquely brave and complicated patriot, but also a scholarly and tautly written account of secret operations in occupied Europe.

Reader Reviews

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!

Beyond the Book

The Special Operations Executive

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, ...

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!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Spy Who Loved, try these:

  • Too Bad to Die jacket

    Too Bad to Die

    by Francine Mathews

    Published 2016

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    A tense and enthralling historical thriller in which British Naval Intelligence officer Ian Fleming attempts to foil a Nazi plot to assassinate FDR, Churchill, and Stalin.

  • Epitaph jacket

    Epitaph

    by Mary Doria Russell

    Published 2016

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    A richly detailed and meticulously researched historical novel which continues the story she began in Doc, following Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday to Tombstone, Arizona, and to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
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!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Stalin's Daughter
    by Rosemary Sullivan
    "There is something fatal about my life. You can't regret your fate, though I do regret my ...
  • Book Jacket: A Certain Age
    A Certain Age
    by Beatriz Williams
    Lovers of high-society gossip, there's a new set of players in town. A good 20 out of 23 of our...
  • Book Jacket: The Romanovs
    The Romanovs
    by Simon Sebag Montefiore
    The Romanovs chronicles the reigns of the 20 individuals who were considered members of that dynasty...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Miss Jane
    by Brad Watson

    "Starred Review. Sensitive, beautifully precise prose. Highly recommended." - PW

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Secret Language of Stones
    by M. J. Rose

    "A fantastic historical tale of war, love, loss and intrigue."
    – Melanie Benjamin

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Sweet Caress
by William Boyd

William Boyd's Sweet Caress captures an entire lifetime unforgettably within its pages. It captivates.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Summer Stunner
Summer Giveaway

Win 5 books, each week in July!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W M T N, W C F All

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.

 
X

BookBrowse Summer Giveaway

We're giving away
5 books every
week in July!