Cover image for A cool and lonely courage : the untold story of sister spies in Occupied France
A cool and lonely courage : the untold story of sister spies in Occupied France
Ottaway, Susan., author.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Sisters, secrets, and sacrifice
First United States edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2014.
Physical Description:
viii, 324 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Eileen Nearne and her sister Jacqueline were agents for the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War, working undercover in Nazi-occupied France to send crucial intelligence to the Allies. But the war dealt these sisters a cruel hand. While Jacqueline narrowly evaded capture, Eileen was arrested and tortured by the Gestapo before being incarcerated in Ravensbruck concentration camp. She was only 23. Now, for the first time, the truth about these fiercely patriotic women is told in full, their unwavering courage at great personal cost paid tribute to at last.
General Note:
"Originally published in Great Britain as Sisters, secrets, and sacrifice by HarperCollins Publishers, March 2013"--Title page verso.
Exile -- Secrets and lies -- A shaky start -- Escape -- Broken promises -- Betrayal -- Buckmaster passes the buck -- Coming home -- Monumental errors -- An uncomfortable journey -- Deadly discovery -- A bad decision -- A brilliant actress -- Torture -- Didi vanishes -- End of the line -- Lost opportunity -- Getaway -- A narrow escape -- Allies or enemies? -- Thoughtless demands -- Adventures, problems, and losses -- Ultimate secret agent.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
North Park Branch Library D810.S8 N43 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Kenmore Library D810.S8 N43 2014 Adult Non-Fiction New Materials

On Order



The incredible true story of British special agents Eileen and Jacqueline Nearne, sisters who risked everything to fight for freedom during the Second World War.

When elderly recluse Eileen Nearne died, few suspected that the quiet little old lady was a decorated WWII war hero. Volunteering to serve for British intelligence at age 21, Eileen was posted to Nazi-occupied France to send encoded messages of crucial importance for the Allies, until her capture by the Gestapo.

Eileen was not the only agent in her family---her sister Jacqueline was a courier for the French resistance. While Jacqueline narrowly avoided arrest, Eileen was tortured by the Nazis, then sent to the infamous Ravensbr_ck women's concentration camp. Astonishingly, this resourceful young woman eventually escaped her captors and found her way to the advancing American army.

In this amazing true story of triumph and tragedy, Susan Ottaway unveils the secret lives of two sisters who sacrificed themselves to defend their country.

Author Notes

Susan Ottaway is the author of several books, including Violette Szabo: The Life That I Have, a biography of SOE agent Violette Szabo for which she personally interviewed Eileen Nearne. She has appeared on BBC television to be interviewed about her work, and she took part in the four-part television series for the Discovery History Channel entitled George Cross Heroes.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Ottaway (Violette Szabo: The Life That I Have) relates the harrowing true story of Eileen Nearne and her sister, Jacqueline, both British agents with the Special Operations Executive (SOE) who worked with the French Resistance in WWII. The story opens when Eileen, known to her family as Didi and to neighbors only as a sprightly yet reclusive old lady, dies at age 89. Strange papers are found among her possessions, and her history is revealed when her only descendant, a niece, is found. Eileen, along with her sister, was able to pass as French; Didi worked as a wireless operator sending messages between the Resistance and the SOE while Jacqueline served as a messenger, traveling all over France with packages, helping with missions, and establishing new agents. Jacquelines workload and constant movement threatened her health, but Didis was ruined when she was captured by the Germans and sent to a series of work camps until finally escaping. Both sisters were decorated for their wartime service, and Ottaways riveting account details the risks they took, the friends and colleagues they lost, and their familys fate during the war. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Eileen Nearne (1921-2010) lived a remarkably private life in a seaside town in England. After she died, her neighbors realized there was much more to this withdrawn figure than met the eye. Ottaway (Violette Szabo) introduces readers to the Nearne family, specifically Eileen and her older sister Jacqueline. Born in London to a British father and a Spanish mother, the sisters spent their formative years in France, but with the emergence of World War II and the sudden German occupation of Paris, they made the decision to return to Britain to assist with the war effort. From there, the sisters' stories become sensational. Both began working as spies for Allied powers. Based in war-torn Paris, they knowingly entered a web of secrets, lies, and danger. Ottaway's narrative focuses mostly on Eileen, who faced imprisonment and torture at the hands of the Gestapo but never divulged her sources. VERDICT Readers who are interested in the history of World War II, espionage, and the actions of women during wartime will definitely enjoy this striking biography of two courageous heroines.-Rebecca Kluberdanz, GB65 Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prologuep. 3
1 Exilep. 9
2 Secrets and Liesp. 25
3 A Shaky Startp. 42
4 Escapep. 56
5 Broken Promisesp. 68
6 Betrayalp. 77
7 Buckmaster Passes the Buckp. 85
8 Coming Homep. 98
9 Monumental Errorsp. 105
10 An Uncomfortable Journeyp. 114
11 The Deadly Discoveryp. 121
12 A Bad Decisionp. 132
13 A Brilliant Actressp. 144
14 Torturep. 151
15 Didi Vanishesp. 162
16 The End of the Linep. 175
17 Lost Opportunityp. 188
18 The Getawayp. 201
19 A Narrow Escapep. 211
20 Allies or Enemies?p. 225
21 Thoughtless Demandsp. 236
22 Adventures, Problems and Lossesp. 252
23 The Ultimate Secret Agentp. 272
Epiloguep. 294
Acknowledgmentsp. 299
Notesp. 303
Bibliographyp. 313
Indexp. 315

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