Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck

The Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck is a fictionalized account of Virginia Hall's work in occupied France during about the final 6 months before the invasion of Normandy during WWII. Virginia Hall was an American socialite who helped build and support the French Resistance. 

During the time this portion of Virginia's story takes place, she's dealing with her own personal trauma and also post-traumatic stress after her Resistance network was betrayed and most of the people she worked with fighting the Nazis were arrested, possibly killed, although she's uncertain of what's become of her friends. After spending some time in the UK, she is back in France, rebuilding a Resistance network, calling for supply drops to support her recruits and the local Maquis living in a nearby forest, and helping to hold them back from sabotage efforts until she gets the signal that D-Day is coming, so that they can do the most damage to bridges and rail possible without time for reprisals. 

I recently read about half of A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell, which is a biography of Virginia Hall, and I confess I was a little thrown at the beginning of The Invisible Woman because I hadn't come anywhere close to the dates in which this particular part of Hall's time in France took place. So, at first I thought the author had fictionalized a great deal. Then, I realized it was me that was off. It's been a couple of months since I set A Woman of No Importance aside so I was discombobulated, date-wise. But, once I realized the dates were off in my head, I found the story gripping and captivating. Virginia Hall was an incredibly heroic woman and I believe Erika Robuck did an amazing job of bringing her to life. 

Highly recommended - An engrossing story of heroism, danger, and the horrors of war. The only problem I had with The Invisible Woman was that I had difficulty keeping the characters straight because there were so many of them. It didn't occur to me to pull out my copy of A Woman of No Importance, which has photographs of many of the key characters, who were real. There is a lot of information to digest because of the complexity of working as a spy in an occupied nation during war but the author presents it well and I found the story fascinating and ultimately satisfying. 

Side note: I got to hear a little about Erika's writing process, yesterday, when she was a guest author in the online writing workshop I'm taking, this month, and I think it's of interest that she chose to write the novel in 3rd person because Virginia kept her story close and was such a private woman that Erika felt like she needed to keep a bit of distance. She believed Virginia Hall's personal preference probably would have been not to have her story told at all so it was necessary not to crawl into her head and tell her story in 1st person. I think that was a wise choice. 

Also, wow, I loved hearing about Erika's writing process. She is incredibly disciplined and I loved how she described the way the characters who need their story told come to her in an almost mystical way. It sounds like she has two more WWII stories under contract, one to be released in the spring of 2022. You can bet I will be putting them on my wish list as soon as I'm able. 

©2021 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

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