The Woman Who Fought an Empire by Gregory J. Wallance (Review by Lara Ferguson)

Rating: 2.5/5*

When I read the title and synopsis of this book, I was immediately drawn to the story that it promised. How unusual, I thought, a book about a woman who played an important role during World War I in the Middle East, who made a difference in the world. I am sure that there were many women who made an impact upon the outcome of the war, but here was a book celebrating one of them.

The book starts slowly, laying the ground work so that the reader understands not only the family dynamics at play, but also the characters that are important in the telling of the story of Sarah Aaronsohn and the Nili Spy Ring. It is apparent that the author, Gregory J. Wallance, did a vast amount of research in writing this story, he shares many details that are clearly referenced in the notes. However, in spite of the details provided, I finished the book feeling like I really didn’t know as much as I wanted to about Sarah or the spy ring.

The book seemed to be mainly about the men that surrounded Sarah and their dealings with the British government more than her story or that of the other spies, and I found that disappointing. It seemed that the author got bogged down in the details and I never really understood what outcomes the spy ring enabled. They certainly risked their lives and those of their community, I think there is definitely an intriguing story to be told about this group, but I do not feel like this book does that.

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