Virago has acquired A Woman of No Importance, the true story of an American Second World War spy Virginia Hall, by author, journalist and broadcaster Sonia Purnell.
Sarah Savitt, deputy publisher at Virago, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Gráinne Fox at Fletcher & Company. The book has also been optioned by Paramount Pictures, with Star Wars' actor Daisy Ridley attached to star and J J Abrams to produce.
In A Woman of No Importance, Purnell will explore the wartime adventures of Virginia Hall, a young American woman with a wooden leg who is credited as one of the most important allied spies during the Second World War. In spite of barriers against her gender and her physical disability, she became the lynchpin for two defining allied operations that saved countless lives. She also commanded, financed, trained, and armed elements of the French resistance, seeing her become one of the Gestapo’s "most wanted" allied agents.
After the war, Hall was one of the few women who helped to found the CIA, but she remained tight-lipped about her secret life until her death. Only now, through Purnell’s forensic research, will her full story finally come to light, Virago said.
Joy de Menil at Viking, Penguin Books will publish the title in the US and publication is planned for Spring 2019.
Purnell's first book, Just Boris: A Tale of Blond Ambition (Aurum Press), about Boris Johnson, was longlisted for the Orwell Prize and her second book, First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill (Aurum Press) was shortlisted for the Plutarch award for Best Biography. She said: "Virginia was perhaps an unlikely spy but her wartime role became her liberation after years of rejection and bitter disappointment. Her story is one of incredible courage, resilience and heroism and yet has never been fully told before. She is an inspiration whose selfless pursuit of truth and freedom resonates today as much as ever."
Savitt said: "Hall had to fight prejudice before she could even begin fighting for the Allies. What we know already of her life is gripping and inspiring, and I know Sonia Purnell will discover even more amazing stories in the course of her research. Sonia’s book will be an important, groundbreaking work of history – but also entertaining and vivid, sure to delight fans of Carrie Mathison in Homeland."