It’s fine if you don’t know a whole lot about Christine Granville, aka Maria Krystyna Janina Skarbek, aka Bad Motherfucker — she was a super-secret spy, after all, and, in the wake of her brutal murder in 1952, her friends established the informal “Panel to Protect the Memory of Christine Granville,” conspiring to cover up some of the more lurid details of her espionage career and her many love affairs. However, a new and meticulously-researched Granville biography means that you have no more excuses for not learning all about one of the most daring British agents in World War II. You’d better be quick about getting acquainted with her, too — some whipsmart Hollywood producer is going to greenlight a Granville movie any day now and it’s going to make James Bond look like a handsome toaster salesman (Granville was the inspiration for Casino Royale’s Vesper Lynd, and was rumored to be the subject of a big-time production back in 2009).
The Daily Beast’s Emma Garman reviewed Claire Mulley’s biography of Granville, The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville, heaping paragraph after paragraph of praise on a story that, unfortunately, had to wait until now to be told in its entirety. Mulley’s book begins in 1908 with Granville’s charmed childhood as a tree-climbing, pony-riding Polish “noble,” the daughter of a “dissolute Polish aristocrat,” and “a beautiful Jewish banking heiress.” With all the makings of a superlative Judith Krantz novel, Mulley chronicles Skarbek’s transformation Granville, chronicling a series of love affairs, young adult adventures in bars and nightclubs, two marriages, and, finally, after the German invasion of Poland, Granville’s improvised espionage career with Britain’s Special Operations Executive.
If someone really does follow through on a major standalone Granville movie, the opening twenty minutes should almost definitely zoom through her first job with British Intelligence, a ski-trip into Nazi-occupied Poland:
Christine’s second husband, named Jerzy like her father, was a better match. A sometime diplomat and former cowboy and gold prospector, like her he combined gutsiness with a total disregard for convention. Still, when the couple was traveling in South Africa and heard the news that Germany had invaded Poland, Christine harbored not the tiniest qualm about leaving Jerzy in a rush to defend her beloved homeland. Presenting herself to British Intelligence in London—“a flaming Polish patriot…expert skier and great adventuress,” according to their records—Christine volunteered to ski into Nazi-occupied Poland armed with British propaganda. Her fervent aim, writes Mulley, was “to bolster the Polish spirit of resistance at a time when many Poles believed they had been abandoned to their fate.”
South Africa to London to Poland? Can’t you just visualize the map-hopping montage in all its cartographic glory?
World War Two’s Most Glamorous Spy: Christine Granville [Daily Beast]
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