Thursday, November 3, 2022

Review: One Woman’s War

Title: One Woman’s War
Author: Christine Wells

Publisher: 4th October 2022 by HarperCollins Australia - William Morrow Paperbacks

Pages: 350 pages

Genre: historical fiction, World War II, espionage, women’s fiction 

My Rating: 5 cups


From the author of Sisters of the Resistance comes the story of WWII British Naval Intelligence officer Victoire Bennett, the real-life inspiration for the James Bond character Miss Moneypenny, whose international covert operation is put in jeopardy when a volatile socialite and Austrian double agent threatens to expose the mission to German High Command.

World War II London: When Victoire "Paddy" Bennett first walks into the Admiralty's Room 39, home to the Intelligence Division, all the bright and lively young woman expects is a secretarial position to the charismatic Commander Ian Fleming. But soon her job is so much more, and when Fleming proposes a daring plot to deceive the Germans about Allied invasion plans he requests the newlywed Paddy's help. She jumps at the chance to work as an agent in the field, even after the operation begins to affect her marriage. But could doing her duty for King and country come at too great a cost?

Socialite Friedl Stöttinger is a beautiful Austrian double agent determined to survive in wartime England, which means working for MI-5, investigating fifth column activity among the British elite at parties and nightclubs. But Friedl has a secret--some years before, she agreed to work for German Intelligence and spy on the British.

When her handler at MI-5 proposes that she work with Serbian agent, Dusko Popov, Friedl falls hopelessly in love with the dashing spy. And when her intelligence work becomes fraught with danger, she must choose whether to remain loyal to the British and risk torture and execution by the Nazis, or betray thousands of men to their deaths.

Soon, the lives of these two extraordinarily brave women will collide, as each travels down a road of deception and danger leading to one of the greatest battles of World War II.

My Thoughts

To take a figure from such a well franchised outfit as James Bond is bold and daring - much like the characters in this novel! Promising to tell the real story of Miss MoneyPenny (007 fans will know her well) was a fantastic idea and executed brilliantly in the hands of historical fiction writer, Christine Wells. Having read and loved her other books, I knew I would be in for a treat and I was not disappointed. 

‘The good news, however," Godfrey interrupted, raising his voice a little, "is that your intelligence assault unit has been given the go-ahead. You are to undertake and supervise all of the selection, training, and planning for your team in preparation for the North African invasion.’

Until reading this book, I had never really considered Ian Fleming’s 007 novels and from where he may have drawn his fictional characters. In this book, Fleming was very much a secondary character, however, his work in Britain's Naval Intelligence Division during WWII made sense as it was sure to provide loads of inspiration. I loved Christine’s surmise that ‘Paddy’ Bennett, who was Fleming's secretary/assistant, could indeed be the inspiration for the role of Miss Moneypenny. Having an analytical mind earned her the trust of Fleming and his superiors and a door into the planning of Operation Mincemeat - a seemingly far-fetched plan to divert the Nazis. The work she did in the NID for the MI5 during WWII made for great reading. Friedl Stottinger, an Austrian national, who became a German double agent preferred working with the British. She was the perfect character to bring the glamour and high society to this tale, where she secretly learnt of important Nazi secrets. 


One Woman’s War is a fascinating, well researched book that I enjoyed from cover to cover. Christine has crafted a spy novel worthy of Ian Fleming’s, James Bond himself. A definite must read of two unforgettable, real-life female operatives during WWII. 

‘On her final day in Room 39, Paddy packed up the very few personal items on her desk into a little box. For a moment, she took a good look about her, drinking in the scene of organized chaos, the ringing telephones, the clatter of typewriter keys and the zing of the bell, the insistent buzz. .. buzz... buzz from Godfrey's office that brought one of his officers running. It had been the scene of such tension, of late nights, of triumphs and crushing defeats, and at times, it must be said, of excruciating tedium. From this day on, Room 39 would close its doors to her. She would never again be privy to the secrets of the NID, never step inside Godfrey's office and debate matters great and small with him and Fleming, never sit at her desk and type a memorandum filled with outlandish plots to confound and misdirect the Germans.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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