Code Name Pauline: Memoirs of a World War II Special Agent

( 2 )

Overview

Winner of:
2014 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
 
There was a full moon on the evening of September 22, 1943, when Pearl Witherington, age 29, parachuted into France to aid the French Resistance as a special agent for the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). Out of the 400 agents sent to France during the German occupation, 39 were women. Pearl, whom the SOE called “cool and ...

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Overview

Winner of:
2014 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
 
There was a full moon on the evening of September 22, 1943, when Pearl Witherington, age 29, parachuted into France to aid the French Resistance as a special agent for the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). Out of the 400 agents sent to France during the German occupation, 39 were women. Pearl, whom the SOE called “cool and resourceful and extremely determined” and “the best shot, male or female, we have yet had,” became one of the most celebrated female World War II resistance fighters.
In Code Name Pauline Pearl describes in a series of plainspoken reminiscences her difficult childhood and harrowing escape from France in 1940; her recruitment and training as a special agent; the logistics and dangers of posing as a cosmetics saleswoman to make her way around the country as an undercover courier; and both failed and successful attempts at sabotaging the Nazis. She tells how, when the leader of her network was caught by the Gestapo, she became “Pauline” and rose to command a 3,500-strong band of French Resistance fighters.
 
With an annotated list of key figures, an appendix of original unedited interview extracts—including Pearl’s husband Henri’s story—and never-before-published photographs from Pearl’s personal collection, Code Name Pauline will captivate World War II buffs of any age and, just as Pearl wished, inspire young people.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A gripping, true story of a courageous secret agent fighting behind enemy lines, as riveting as any work of historical fiction." —Kirkus Reviews

Code Name Pauline is the real deal—a treasure trove of primary source material.” —Margi Preus, author of the Newbery Honor–winning Heart of a Samurai and Shadow of the Mountain

“A must-read, not only for anyone fascinated by the underground war in France, but also for anyone who admires bravery and ingenuity in the face of evil.” —Brendan Foley, coauthor of Under the Wire

“Young adults and adults will be fascinated to read this memoir detailing a piece of neglected World War II history.” —Doreen Rappaport, author of the award-winning Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust

"This is an important first person account of the brave women who worked on the front lines to win the war. This narrative preserves the little-known story of the women who daily lived under the threat of capture and execution." —Library Media Connection

From the Publisher
“Told in ‘Pauline’s’ own no-nonsense words, this is an eye-opening look at what life was really like for a secret agent fighting in occupied France.” —Steve Sheinkin, award-winning author of Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon

“Pearl’s appealingly personal account is moving, thrilling and humbling all at once. . . . ‘Never lose hope, never give in,’ is her fierce message to young readers. Code Name Pauline is both a shining tribute to the real and ordinary people whose relentless determination brought about an end to Nazi oppression in Europe, and an inspiration for future generations.” —Elizabeth Wein, author of the award-winning Code Name Verity

Code Name Pauline is the real deal—a treasure trove of primary source material.” —Margi Preus, author of the Newbery Honor–winning Heart of a Samurai and Shadow of the Mountain

“A must-read, not only for anyone fascinated by the underground war in France, but also for anyone who admires bravery and ingenuity in the face of evil.” — Brendan Foley, coauthor of Under the Wire

“Young adults and adults will be fascinated to read this memoir detailing a piece of neglected World War II history.” —Doreen Rappaport, author of the award-winning Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust

“A wonderfully vivid and engaging account. [I] loved it.” —Alex Kershaw, author of The Longest Winter

“Pearl Witherington’s fascinating memoir provides a concise yet illuminating account of some of SOE’s audacious activities in occupied France during World War II. Ideal for younger readers, or those new to the subject.” —Roger Moorhouse, author of Berlin at War and Killing Hitler

"A gripping, true story of a courageous secret agent fighting behind enemy lines, as riveting as any work of historical fiction."—Kirkus Reviews

VOYA - Amanda Fensch
Pauline, or Pearl, Witherington, was a special ops agent for the British government during World War II. Her story tells of a poor childhood during World War I, leading up to her family's escape from German-occupied France in 1940. Pearl had already met and fallen in love with Herve Larroque, who was the older brother of a childhood friend. They intended to marry, but Larroque was recruited into the military, and during World War II, Pearl rarely saw him. Pearl started her military career as an assistant to the director of the Allied Air Forces but was soon recruited to help the French resistance. Her story spans countries and years, detailing the parachute drops and battles in which she was involved, all the while giving solid background about the events of the war and the inner workings of the French resistance. Code Name Pauline is composed of a series of interviews Pearl gave near the end of her life. Not wanting her story to be romanticized, she finally conceded to the interviews so that her life might inspire young people to act, rather than sit back and watch history unfold. Atwood's editing keeps Pearl's story from becoming the romantic tale she feared, but the story and the presentation are not for the casual reader. This book is heavy on minute details, making it difficult for even a determined reader to slog through all the backstory. This is, therefore, recommended only for libraries with a teen base whose interest lies in detailed war stories. Reviewer: Amanda Fensch
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Parachuted into France in 1943 to be a courier for a resistance group in Nazi-occupied France, 29-year-old Pearl Witherington ended up leading four Maquis groups-more than 3,500 French guerrilla warriors. They continued to harass and sabotage the enemy until late in 1944 when France was liberated. Agent Pauline then retreated to private life and married her French fiancé. Not wanting her own role dramatized or exaggerated, she refused even to give interviews. But late in life, French journalist Larroque convinced her that her life story could be a model for young people. He first published a transcript of his interviews with Pearl and her husband, Henri Cornioley, himself, in French, and arranged for an English translation. Atwood has reordered that material into a straight narrative, preserving the subject's "own choice of words and her own style of speaking," but adding chapter-by-chapter introductory material for necessary historical background. The memoir begins with chapters about Pearl's childhood in France and Henri's early courtship, her escape from occupied France to England (both parents were English), and her training with the French section of the Special Operations Executive. But the major focus is on her year as a special agent: the parachute drop, life as a courier, and organizing and working with the Maquis. Not surprisingly, her story is less compelling than that of the fictional heroines of Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity (Hyperion, 2012), but it is authentic. She did, Witherington says in an appendix of extra interview material, what "had to be done."—Kathleen Isaacs, Children's Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD
Kirkus Reviews
One of the most celebrated female World War II resistance fighters shares her remarkable, heroic story in this revealing chronicle of her experiences as a special agent for the British Special Operations Executive. French-born British citizen Cornioley tells her story through a series of reminiscences, including her difficult childhood spent in the shadow of World War I, her family's harrowing escape from Paris as the Germans approached in 1940, her recruitment and training as a special agent, and parachuting into a remote, rural area of occupied France. She assumed the identity of a cosmetics saleswoman to make her way around the country as an SOE courier. Cornioley vividly recounts acts of espionage, sabotage and several dramatic narrow escapes. She became "Pauline" when she was put in command of a 3,500-strong group of French Resistance fighters when the leader of her network was captured by the Gestapo. Each chapter opens with remarks providing context and background on the SOE and the French Resistance. Appendices include an annotated list of key figures and original, unedited interview extracts with Cornioley. A gripping, true story of a courageous secret agent fighting behind enemy lines, as riveting as any work of historical fiction. (photographs, source notes, bibliography) (Memoir. 12-18)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781613744871
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/1/2013
  • Series: Women of Action Series
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 361,478
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 950L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Pearl Witherington Cornioley joined the Special Operations Executive in 1943 and worked with the French Resistance as an undercover courier and later, under the code name “Pauline,” as a network leader of 3,500 men. She was instrumental in the carrying out of numerous acts of sabotage during World War II.
 
Kathryn J. Atwood is the author of Women Heroes of World War II. She has contributed to Midwest Book Review; BookPleasures.com; PopMatters.com; and War, Literature, and the Arts.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2013

    Growing up, Cecile Pearl Witherington didn't have an easy childh

    Growing up, Cecile Pearl Witherington didn't have an easy childhood. Her father was an alcoholic and her mother grew up in a well-to-do family and wasn't prepared for the struggles of being a "single parent." At a young age, Pearl took on a lot of responsibility that ultimately prepared her for her important role in World War II.Because of her British citizenship and her upbringing in Paris, Pearl spoke English and French. she became an SOE agent. When the Germans invaded France, Pearl and her family fled back to England.
    The SOE (Special Operations Executive) is one of those little-known yet fascinating events of World War II. It was so top-secret most had never heard of it until after the war. A British organization designed to help resistance movements in Nazi-occupied Europe, the SOE participated in sabotage, espionage, reconnaissance, and all types of guerrilla warfare. After grueling SOE training and three practice jumps, 29-year-old Pearl parachuted into Nazi-occupied France on a cold September night in 1943.
    Posing as a cosmetics saleswoman, Pearl began her resistance work by participating in little acts of defiance against the Nazis. Things take a turn for the worst when her boss Maurice Southgate was captured by the Gestapo (Nazi police) and taken to Buchenwald (a concentration camp) - leaving Pearl in charge of 3,500 resistance workers. For the rest of the war, she bravely led the 3,500 resistance workers under the name Pauline.
    After the war, Pearl settled down with her pre-war fiance, Henri Cornioley. She never spoke about her work in the resistance because she was afraid her story would be twisted with Hollywood-drama or exaggerations. Fifty years later, Pearl began to realize the impact her story could have on young people. She told a French journalist about their wartime experiences, and her story was published in France as Pauline. This book, Code Name Pauline, is the English translation, edited by Kathryn J. Atwood.
    This book, since it is aimed at a young adult audience, is pretty easy to follow along. The story is straightforward and told solely as it had happened - very little drama is present. Pearl gracefully took all of life's challenges. The beginning of each chapter fills us in with some historical background, which really helps the reader, especially if you've never heard of the SOE.
    I have always loved strong female protagonists, especially in true stories. I loved Kathryn Atwood's book Women Heroes of World War II and I was so excited to hear she was in the process of editing another book (this book). Our culture does not put enough emphasis on true heroes, like Henri and Pearl. We need to show young girls courageous females like Pearl and do exactly what she would have wanted - share her story to encourage young people facing trials in their life.
    Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my review.

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  • Posted August 1, 2013

    It is fact-filled, dry and unemotional. Something you tend to se

    It is fact-filled, dry and unemotional. Something you tend to see/read often in first hand accounts of wartime and/or combat situations.
    I don't think people really comprehend the level of fear, anxiety and trauma that soldiers and non-military went through and indeed still go through. The only thing that differs is the amount and level due to the type of conflict or country it is taking place in. So with that in mind I can understand how Pearl's account can appear devoid of emotion or a little dry.
    I know it was her own wish to not let the events be depicted in an overly dramatic way. Pearl makes her experiences seem completely normal and ordinary. They are far from that and how could a reader looking back at those events not think they were an extraordinary feat of bravery in such dire times.
    I think Pearl attempts to equal the playing field by making everyone and every event seem almost casual because she doesn't want to elevate her own role in those events. No person is more important than any other. I admire that in her but at the same time think she should and can own her bravery and courage.
    As most eyewitness accounts of wartime events this counts as part of history and although it may not be a work of literary prowess it is a work that should be read for posterity.
    I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley.

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