The full title of this biography is Christine – SOE Agent and Churchill’s Favourite Spy. The title pretty much tells you what’s in the bottle: a detailed biography that begins in a favoured Polish family – in a union between Polish landed gentry and Jewish wealth – and ends in violent and tragic death.
There is a link between this book and HHhH which I reviewed earlier this year: the latter has a more experimental approach to story telling – Christine is very traditional. It is well researched and tells of her exploits in Hungary, Poland the Middle East and France, as well as her childhood. I was interested in the aspects of WW2 history that I knew little of – and certainly in the events in eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Christine is not a hagiography – but verges on that in its elevation of its protagonist to heroic status. Her love of and influence over animals is mentioned several times: the moment when a German guard dog fails to warn its handler that she is near, and instead runs off with her for example. Christine is seen as mysterious and aloof ,and whilst attractive, not always able to maintain stable relationships. She is charming and intelligent, modest and trustworthy, but in the end not fitted for the mundanity of everyday life. Her own was tragically cut short.
In the end we are told that Christine met and had an affair with Ian Fleming, and that he based the character of Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale on her. Her qualities do have certain Bond like elements, including a disdain for some moral conventions that is typical of those films and books.
This biography lacks the strong narrative threads of the novels but for anyone interested in adventure and history it makes quite an interesting read.