Carve Her Name with Pride written by R J Minney tells the story of Violette Szabo an agent of the SOE who on her second mission behind enemy lines was caught, interrogated and eventually executed by the Gestapo in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. This novel is the forerunner to the 1958 film that was based on the book and makes a compelling read especially for those interested in espionage.
Violette Bushell was the daughter of an English father and French mother who was born in France but moved to live in England when she was twelve years of age. At the age of nineteen in 1940 she met a French Officer Etienne Szabo, fell in love and married him within a matter of weeks.
Following their honeymoon Etienne resumed his station in the army and eventually became involved in the fighting at the Battle of El Alamein in North Africa where he was killed when leading his men in a charge from the front. Violette had only just given birth to their daughter when Etienne was killed therefore he never got to see his child.
Violette was devastated at his death and joined firstly the ATS then the SOE (Special Operations Executive) where she went through vigorous training to become an agent. Violette succeeded in her first mission in France and returned to England but it was her second mission that was to prove fateful. Violette was caught soon after D Day as she was trying to coordinate the French Resistance fighters near Limoges in France.
Violette was handed over to the Gestapo in Paris to be interrogated. Later she was transferred to Ravensbruck Concentration Camp where she was eventually shot in the head from behind along with two other female secret agents. Violette was a mere twenty three years of age when she was executed in 1945 and was posthumously awarded the George Cross and the Criox de Guerre for her bravery.
A Good Read
Carve Her Name with Pride is an accurate account of what happened to Violette Szabo during WWII mainly due to the fact that much of the research done by talking to friends, family and agents who knew her compiles a profile of the woman and her formidable character that is very real.
Violette comes to life on every page of this book and the reader gets a clear picture of what she was about, what drove her and what made her make the decision to risk her life by going behind enemy lines like she did.
We gather straight away how totally devastated Violette was at the death of her beloved Etienne. We can almost feel her pain and her wish to fight back at the monsters (the German enemy) that killed him. It was as though she had no thought for her own safety but wanted to do something tangible to avenge his death.
It takes a special kind of bravery to embark on such a mission and every page of this book portrays Violette's determination and bravery well. As far as the torture of Violette goes R J Minney only touches on it slightly preferring not to go into gory details of what she must surely have endured. We feel a little more information would have been good just so readers can grasp the horrors that befell those agents who were caught behind enemy lines.
Carve Her Name with Pride does however highlight the role that women played in World War II. We tend to associate spying and espionage with mainly men, while it is a fact that there were a number of female spies active in WWII that paid the ultimate price. Those wishing to learn about Violette Szabo must read Carve Her Name with Pride that is available from Amazon. The book is well written, accurate and very informative, while bringing the story of a true heroine to life.