The dramatic, untold story of the extraordinary women recruited by Britain’s elite spy agency to help pave the way for Allied victory.
In 1942, the Allies were losing, Germany seemed unstoppable, and every able man in England was fighting. Churchill believed Britain was locked in an existential battle and created a secret agency, the Special Operations Executive (SOE), whose spies were trained in everything from demolition to sharp-shooting. Their job, he declared, was “to set Europe ablaze!” But with most men on the frontlines, the SOE did something unprecedented: it recruited women. Thirty-nine women answered the call, leaving their lives and families to become saboteurs in France. Half were caught, and a third did not make it home alive.
In D-Day Girls, Sarah Rose draws on recently declassified files, diaries, and oral histories to tell the story of three of these women. There’s Odette Sansom, a young mother who feels suffocated by domestic life and sees the war as her ticket out; Lise de Baissac, an unflappable aristocrat with the mind of a natural leader; and Andrée Borrel, the streetwise organizer of the Paris Resistance. Together, they derailed trains, blew up weapons caches, destroyed power and phone lines, and gathered crucial intelligence—laying the groundwork for the D-Day invasion that proved to be the turning point in the war. Stylishly written and rigorously researched, this is an inspiring story for our own moment of resistance, in which women continue to play a vital role.
"Gripping...Spies, romance, Gestapo thugs, blown-up trains, courage, and treachery (lots of treachery) —and all of it true." —Erik Larson
“It is inspiring, empowering . . . I have never read a book like this. Even if you think you don’t like nonfiction, pick up this book.” — Sarah J. Maas, author of Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses
“Thoroughly researched and written as smoothly as a good thriller, this is a mesmerizing story of creativity, perseverance, and astonishing heroism.” —Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
“Comprehensive and compelling . . . Readers get to know these amazing women as individuals as their duties unfold against the backdrop of the war. . . . Rose smoothly integrates developing events with biographical details and glimpses into French wartime society, creating a digestible and easy-to-follow story. This satisfying mix of social history and biography . . . should engage a wide audience.”—Booklist (starred review)
“D-Day Girls, written with novelistic detail, weaves together five women’s narratives using historical research from contemporary periodicals, archives, and interview records. . . . [D-Day Girls is part of] a new library and a more robust approach to analyzing women’s essential role in war.”—Foreign Policy
““D-Day Girls” brims with detail, akin to the nonfiction narratives of Erik Larson and Laura Hillenbrand.” — Women’s Wear Daily
“The mission is this: Read D-Day Girls today. Not just for the spy flair—code names, aliases, and operating covers—but also because this history feels more relevant than ever, as an army of women and girls again find themselves in a fight for the common good.”—Lily Koppel, author of The Astronaut Wives Club
“Sarah Rose’s D-Day Girls is not only a page-turning spy story that reads like fiction, it’s a highly relevant account that will, at long last, inscribe the names of three remarkable female spies—Andrée Borrel, Odette Sansom, Lise de Baissac—into our history books.”—Susannah Cahalan, author of Brain on Fire
“With skill and heart, Sarah Rose captures the adventures of an extraordinary group of women who kept the resistance alive during the darkest days of World War II, risking everything to liberate their loved ones, their nations, and democracy itself. Spies and saboteurs, high explosives, ingenious deceptions, dirty poems transformed into cryptologic keys—I couldn’t stop reading.”—Jason Fagone, author of The Woman Who Smashed Codes
“Sarah Rose’s edge-of-the-seat spy thriller weaves the incredible stories of World War II’s forgotten heroines—daring, modern, and key to defeating the Nazis in France. Brilliantly researched and gorgeously written—with a cameo from Winston Churchill—this is the D-Day book the world has been waiting for.”—Karen Abbott, author of Sin in the Second City and Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy
“Sarah Rose has worked wonders to provide a fresh, thrilling account of the female spies whose courage and audacity helped win the day on June 6, 1944.”—Alex Kershaw, author of The Bedford Boys and Avenue of Spies
“[D-Day Girls takes] a kaleidoscopic view of that momentous day.” — The New York Times
“Meticulously crafted.” — Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Women are the Hidden Figures of D-Day.” — Business Insider
“We want to start a movement to put Andrée Borrel, Odette Sansom, and Lise de Baissac back in the history books — read this thriller in the form of a non-fiction book to find out why.” — Refinery 29 (Best books of April 2019)
“Rose delivers a swift moving . . . expert blow-by-blow account. . . . A readable spy thriller that fights against the idea of ‘the original sin of women at war.’”—Kirkus Reviews
“This is a fascinating history of spycraft, narrow escapes, and of a side of the war worth rediscovering.” — B&N Reads
“This book is remarkable and one that deserves to be read.” — Book Riot