Author: Pearl Witherington Cornioley, with Hervé Larroque

Editor: Atwood, Kathryn J.

Series: Women of Action

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

ISBN-13: 978-1-61374-487-1

The appeal of this gripping tale of the exploits of a leading member of the resistance movement in Occupied France during the World War II lies not only in the fast and fluent pace of the straightforward first-hand narrative itself, but in the valour and integrity of Pearl Witherington Cornioley, the memoirist, herself. At all times she is shown to have been a forthright and honest person, who was prepared to stick up for her principles, despite any opposition that she encountered.

In Code Name Pauline: Memoirs of a World War II Special Agent, Kathryn J. Atwood, the editor of this stirring memoir, has transformed the transcripts (published in French under the title Pauline) of numerous interviews that were conducted between the French journalist, Hervé Larroque, and Pearl, in the last decade of the 20th century, into a narrative account, by linking together common themes that emerged during the course of the interviews. The intention with the original Larroque manuscript was to inspire young people in difficult circumstances.

By keeping very much to the author’s own words and to her distinctive style of speaking, Atwood has succeeded in retaining the impetus of the original, while contextualising the whole, though providing valuable insights into where, and how, Pauline’s role in the war effort fitted into the overall picture of World War II, as it was waged on the European continent. This she has masterfully attained by starting each chapter with an explanation of the context within which the following action transpires. In this way, Atwood has helped to ensure that, even if a young reader has not previously been much aware of the resistance efforts that took place in Occupied France, they will definitely be able to follow the story with ease, making it all the easier for them to come to admire Pauline as an outstanding heroine of the last century.

Code Name Pauline: Memoirs of a World War II Special Agent includes both front and back matter that the reader is encouraged to see as an integral part of the text. The front matter consists of the “Editor’s Note” (in which Atwood explains both her own approach to the original source material, as well as Pauline’s somewhat reluctant approach to being interviewed) and a Preface by Hervé Larroque (who explains the importance of Pauline’s work, evincing great respect, not only for her personal courage and intelligence, but also for the longevity of her marriage to Henri Cornioley, which lasted over half a century). The back matter is of equal importance to the text as a whole, comprising, as it does, verbatim extracts from interviews with Henri (which reveal his humorous and compassionate character, and include valuable insights into Pearl’s own character), as well as several pages of notes on the text, a two-page bibliography, and a relatively detailed index.

The numerous black-and-white photographs of Pearl pre-, during and post-World War II (including an informal shot that was taken of her standing chatting with Queen Elizabeth II, on the former’s receipt of the Commander of the British Empire [CBE] in 2004), and the many clearly drawn maps of the areas in France where she was mainly active should also help to keep the reader’s unflagging attention.

Definitely recommended for all youngsters, no matter their gender, Code Name Pauline: Memoirs of a World War II Special Agent deserves a place in any school media resource center, and on the shelves of any young reader who loves a story of true-life adventure and heroism.

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