Hodder and Stoughton buys real-life Charlotte Gray

Hodder & Stoughton has acquired the account of the life of "real life Charlotte Gray". Pearl Witherington was the only female agent in the Special Operations Executive to run her own network in France during the second world war.

Hodder non-fiction publisher Hannah Black bought world rights excluding America and Canada through Elizabeth Sheinkman at Curtis Brown.

Witherington was parachuted into central France in September 1943, with a mission to "set Europe ablaze", according to Winston Churchill, and to find her French lover. She went on to take on the Waffen SS Panzers and contributed to the success of Operation Overlord, the codename for the invasion of Normandy.

The title will be written by Carole Seymour-Jones, author of a number of memoirs including A Dangerous Liaison (Arrow), an account of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre's relationship.

Black said: "Pearl is a romantic, courageous character, an old-fashioned heroine driven by her love for her man, and who managed to persuade 4,000 resistance fighters to take orders from a woman, and a British one at that. Carole is a wonderful writer and I know she will tell Pearl's story with compelling style and pace."

Seymour-Jones said: "Pearl's story is one of the most powerful narratives of SOE in France and she has rightly been called 'the bravest of the brave'."

The manuscript will be delivered in August 2012.