This powerful novel about Virginia Hall is THE book Ericka Robuck was born to write. With gorgeous prose and amazing insight as well as remarkable research, Erika has managed to bring vividly to life one of the most courageous and tenacious women ever recorded.
Many of you will ask who Virginia Hall was. I know I did. Virginia Hall was not the type of young woman who sat around the house eating bon bons and dreaming of the next debutante ball. She was restless and even uncomfortable living a life of privilege in Baltimore, Maryland in the twenties. So off she goes to attend classes in Paris at École Libre des Sciences Politiques. Virginia is enamored with The City of Light and falls deeply in love with it. So much so that she decides to stay….. And then all Hell breaks lose.
The novel forwards to March, 1944 on the coast of Brittany, France. We find Virginia has become a totally different young woman. She’s already been through Hell. Now she’s bound and determined to return to the war to complete her mission. Her mission is? Saving Jews by working undercover as an allied spy. She’s already been on her first operation. She fled at a critical period and even though it really was the only way out at the time, it is a constant reminder of what she considers to be failure. Virginia lost more than just comrades, she has also lost a big portion of her lower leg. She now wears a prothetic leg where once a healthy one existed. This is not going to deter her. If anything, it is making her even more determined.
We follow Virginia through her second operation which is also in France. As she makes her way though the countryside and meets new contacts we begin to feel the fear oozing from her pores. Every time she enters a new area filled with enemies we feel her trepidation. We fall for these people she’s helping, and we soften for the children and their plight.
Sneaking into Nazi-infested France was a daunting thing to do; harrowing, actually. In fact, Virginia underwent extensive preparation in changing her identity. She went from being a lovely young woman to becoming an older almost hag-like creature that people would never suspect of spying. Even her American fillings were exchanged for gold, in the French way. She’s been warned by her superior Vera that her first mission was a tea party compared to this new one.
Off Virginia goes, equipped to take on the Nazis and find the Maquis groups she’s determined to help. She’s carrying a wireless in addition to a small suitcase of clothes. My heart was pounding like crazy for fear of her cover being blown.
Virginia’s been told she’s been given six weeks to live. That’s how dire her situation is. No one can imagine her coming out on the other side alive. She has much to accomplish.
The scenes of the French countryside are breathtaking. I found myself completely emerged in the time period and the compelling danger. Everywhere, danger.
When I finished reading THE INVISIBLE WOMAN I found myself deep in reflection; I wanted to know more about this amazing spy, Virginia Hall. Why hadn’t we heard more of her before? She was such a force. I believe this novel is so very important. It’s important because it tells a story that needs to be told. It’s important because we are ripe for more stories of courageous, strong women. And it’s important because this novel is perfect for book clubs. It’s also important because with knowledge we can go forward armed with the tools to live up to our true potentials.
In the Acknowledgments, Erika Robuck tells us that this book was the most difficult one she’s ever written. She writes about strong women in history. She has always done it well. However, with THE INVISIBLE WOMAN Erika Robuck now is on par with the best historical novelists. She’s outdone herself. All her hard work brings you one of the best historical novels you will ever read. Period.
I was forced to read THE INVISIBLE WOMAN digitally because there were no physical review copies because of the pandemic. It’s not my preferred way of reading as most of you already know. But it was worth it this time. Erika’s beautiful and powerful book will be published by Berkley Publishing Group on February 9, 2021. It is so worth the wait. It’s am amazing story and beautifully told.
Now for more exciting news! I’ll be conducting a zoom book club with Erika on Tuesday, March 2. You are not going to want to miss this. You can sign up for this event by purchasing a copy of THE INVISIBLE WOMAN through Copperfish Books. You can click on the title here to arrive at the page for purchase and sign up. The book will be available in our favorite format; trade paper and is reasonably priced. The book store will then send you a link to the event. I purposely scheduled this meeting almost a month from pub date on purpose. It gives everyone almost a month to read the book and prepare any questions you might have for Erika. We are so honored to have this beautiful and talented author in our book club.
I will be posting more about Erika in the coming weeks. Her accomplishments are many. And you’re going to want to read all her former books as well!