Espionage novels gain even more thrilling and mystery aspects when they are based on real life stories. John le Carre, Graham Greene are all famous spy thriller writers who have defined the genre, but somehow they stayed away from stories of spy women. Add the two – real life spies and marginalized voices – and you have masterpieces of espionage literature. Here’s a list of 10 books based on real female spies – most fiction, a few non fiction and one memoir – but all equally exciting.
10 Books Based On Real Female Spies | Stories of Spy Women:
- The Spy by Paulo Coelho
- Queen of Spies by Paddy Hayes
- Spy Princess by Shrabani Basu
- American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson
- A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell
- The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
- Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon
- The Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck
- The Spy mistress by Jennifer Chiaverini
- A Most Clever Girl by Stephanie Marie Thornton
The Spy by Paulo Coelho
This book is a deviation from Coelho’s conventional philosophical style. It’s a fictionized version of Mata Hari’s story. Mata Hari was a bold dancer and courtesan who turned into a spy for Germany in France. This is a look at her inner life, and an exploration of her true self.
Queen of Spies by Paddy Hayes
This non fiction is an account of spy Daphne Park’s life and tryst with British Secret Intelligence Services during the Cold War. Meticulously and passionately written, this book exposes the bleakness of the Cold War while exalting one of the women who gave it their all.
Spy Princess by Shrabani Basu
Noor Inayat Khan, the protagonist of this prodigious novel, was an underground spy for thr British in France. Not only was she brave enough to position herself in the most dangerous resistance post but was also resilient enough not to betray even her own name when the Gestapo captured her.
American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson
This book follows the journey of a young Black woman, Marie torn between love and duty, as she ventures to take down Thomas Sankara. Thomas is the president of Burkina Faso, and a leading Communist. Beset with heartbreaking choices and unimaginable obstacles, this journey is a story of bravery and grit.
A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell
Virginia Hall was one of the most formidable Allied spies during the second world war. The Gestapo wildly feared her, and said that she was the most dangerous Allied spy, and should be found and captured immediately. This biography as an insight into the life of one of the bravest and most intelligent women of all time.
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
This historical fiction follows two stories of two women brough together in unlikely circumstances, but here we focus on Eve Gardiner. Eve Gardiner works at the Alice Network and is sent into the German occupied France to prove herself. The story that follows is a haunting drama of war, truth and love.
Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon
This follows an Australian expat living in France called Nancy. Soon after her marriage, Nancy assumes the identity of Lucienne, and begins smuggling people across the border. Her brilliant career leads to her becoming a powerful pioneer of the French resistance. Her story is one of ambition and grit, and Ariel tells it with honesty and beauty.
The Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck
This is another book on the remarkable woman, Virginia Hall. The story remains the same, but this time around, the perspective is different. Regardless, this story is pure thrill and worth exploring over and over again.
The Spy mistress by Jennifer Chiaverini
This book is the story of Elizabeth Van Lew, who helped massively in the creation of the Richmond Underground. She then helped prisoners escape from Libby Prison. Her escapades remain unknown to the world, and this book brings them to the forefront.
A Most Clever Girl by Stephanie Marie Thornton
This ambitious book is an attempt to recreate the life of Elizabeth Bentley, a double agent for America and Russia during the Cold War. This is a harrowing tale, especially considering it is based on real facts, but that is also what makes it a must read.
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