Synopses & Reviews
The extraordinary story of the real life Charlotte Gray, the greatest female organizer of resistance fighters in France
On the night of September 22, 1943, Pearl Witherington, a 29-year-old British secretary and agent of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), parachuted into Occupied France. Like Sebastian Faulks' heroine, Charlotte Gray, Pearl had a dual mission: in her case, to fight for her beloved, broken France and to find her lost love—a Parisian parfumier turned soldier who had been taken prisoner and subsequently escaped from his German POW camp. Agent Pearl Witherington's wartime record is unique and heroic. The only woman agent in the history of SOEs in France to have run a network, she became a fearless and legendary guerrilla leader organizing, arming, and training 3,800 Resistance fighters. Called "Ma Mère" by her young troops, Pearl lit the fires of Resistance in Central France so that Churchill's famous order to "set Europe ablaze," which had brought SOE into being, finally came to pass. Pearl's story takes us from her harsh, impoverished Paris childhood, to the lonely forests and farmhouses of the Loir-et-Cher where she would become a true "warrior queen." Shortly before Pearl's death in 2008, the Queen presented her with a CBE in Paris. While male agents and Special Force Jedburghs received the DSO or Military Cross, an ungrateful country had forgotten Pearl. She had refused a civilian decoration in 1945, saying "There was nothing civil about what I did." Her story is told here by an author with exclusive access to new source material and to those who knew Pearl, including her only child.
"The long-awaited biography that Agent Pearl deserves." —Times
About the Author
Carole Seymour-Jones is the author of A Dangerous Liaison and Painted Shadow, which was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize.