If it wasn’t for Historical Honey’s #SecretBookClub, I would never have discovered this gem of a book. For, you see, I’m an armchair historian who is very firmly comfortable with a few different eras, but WWII is not usually one of them.
Enter The Spy Who Loved, a biography of Christine Granville, AKA Krystyna Skarbek. Christina’s story is one of massive contrasts: despite being the daughter of a count, her mother was Jewish, meaning that she was seen as an outsider in Polish society. Despite this, she went on to be a freedom fighter and top spy for the British. She managed to survive some of the most dangerous and desperate situations in the war, yet she was murdered in 1952 by a crazed former lover. It was a sad end for such a heroine.
I loved this book. I found it hard to get into originally, but once the tale started to evolve and describe Christine’s exploits in the name of freedom, I was hooked. I started to wonder why she wasn’t better known, why we don’t teach schoolchildren about her. She was a truly remarkable woman (a fact which many men left heartbroken in her wake could also attest to!)
Claire Mulley’s writing style is exciting and at points almost reads like a novel. I loved reading this book at the end of a long day; it’s one of those stories that I think if you pitched it as fiction to a publisher, they would never believe you in a million years. Who would believe a Polish aristocrat (and a woman, no less!) skied into Poland to avoid the Nazis? Or who negotiated the release of her lover and two other men only minutes before they were due to be shot?
All riled up
The book also left me angry: angry at the way the British treated her, because she was a woman; the way the Polish treated her because she was viewed with suspicion. It also made me wonder if ever I would have been as brave as Christine had been when it came down to the wire.
Ultimately, this is a gripping book with glamour, danger and intrigue and I just couldn’t put it down.