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. Believing that Britain was locked in an existential battle, Winston Churchill had already created a secret agency, the Special Operations Executive (SOE), whose spies were trained in everything from demolition to sharpshooting. Their job, he declared, was to “set Europe ablaze.” But with most men on the front lines, the SOE was forced to do something unprecedented: recruit women. Thirty-nine answered the call, leaving their lives and families to become saboteurs in France.
In D-Day Girls, Sarah Rose draws on recently declassified files, diaries, and oral histories to tell the thrilling story of three of these remarkable women. There’s Andrée Borrel, a scrappy and streetwise Parisian who blew up power lines with the Gestapo hot on her heels; Odette Sansom, an unhappily married suburban mother who saw the SOE as her ticket out of domestic life and into a meaningful adventure; and Lise de Baissac, a fiercely independent member of French colonial high society and the SOE’s unflappable “queen.” Together, they destroyed train lines, ambushed Nazis, plotted prison breaks, and gathered crucial intelligence—laying the groundwork for the D-Day invasion that proved to be the turning point in the war.
Rigorously researched and written with razor-sharp wit, D-Day Girls is an inspiring story for our own moment of resistance: a reminder of what courage—and the energy of politically animated women—can accomplish when the stakes seem incalculably high.
About the Author
Sarah Rose is the author of For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History. She has written for the Wall Street Journal, Outside, The Saturday Evening Post, and Men's Journal. In 2014, she was awarded a Lowell Thomas Prize in Travel Writing.
“Gripping, queasily so: Spies, romance, Gestapo thugs, blown-up trains, courage, and treachery (lots of treachery)—and all of it true, all precisely documented. Sarah Rose leaves you marveling at the sheer courage shown by these women of Churchill’s Special Operations Executive, who risked all to fight the Nazis and help prepare the way for D-Day.” —Erik Larson, author of The Devil in the White City and Dead Wake
“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
“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