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A Guest of the Reich

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"Thrilling! An intimate spy story, as though a dear friend is taking us along on her misadventure behind Nazi lines." --Bill Dedman, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Empty Mansions From the co-author of The Zhivago Affair, a finalist for the National Books Critics Circle Award, comes the dramatic story of a South Carolina heiress who joined the OSS and became the first American woman i/>Bill "Thrilling! An intimate spy story, as though a dear friend is taking us along on her misadventure behind Nazi lines." --Bill Dedman, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Empty Mansions From the co-author of The Zhivago Affair, a finalist for the National Books Critics Circle Award, comes the dramatic story of a South Carolina heiress who joined the OSS and became the first American woman in uniform taken prisoner on the Western front--until her escape from Nazi Germany. Gertrude "Gertie" Legendre was a big-game hunter and from a wealthy industrial family who lived a charmed life in Jazz Age America. Her adventurous spirit made her the inspiration for a Broadway play, Holiday, which became a film starring Katharine Hepburn. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Legendre, by then married and a mother of two, joined the OSS, the wartime spy organization that preceded the CIA. First in Washington and then in London, some of the most closely-held United States government secrets passed through her hands. In A Guest of the Reich, Peter Finn tells the gripping story of how in 1944, while on leave in liberated Paris, Legendre was captured by the Germans after accidentally crossing the front lines. Subjected to repeated interrogations, including by the Gestapo, Legendre entered a daring game of lies with her captors. The Nazis treated her as a "special prisoner" of the SS and moved her from city to city throughout Germany, where she witnessed the collapse of Hitler's Reich as no other American did. After six months in captivity, Legendre escaped into Switzerland. A Guest of the Reich is a propulsive account of a little-known chapter in the history of World War II, as well as a fascinating portrait of an extraordinary woman.


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"Thrilling! An intimate spy story, as though a dear friend is taking us along on her misadventure behind Nazi lines." --Bill Dedman, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Empty Mansions From the co-author of The Zhivago Affair, a finalist for the National Books Critics Circle Award, comes the dramatic story of a South Carolina heiress who joined the OSS and became the first American woman i/>Bill "Thrilling! An intimate spy story, as though a dear friend is taking us along on her misadventure behind Nazi lines." --Bill Dedman, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Empty Mansions From the co-author of The Zhivago Affair, a finalist for the National Books Critics Circle Award, comes the dramatic story of a South Carolina heiress who joined the OSS and became the first American woman in uniform taken prisoner on the Western front--until her escape from Nazi Germany. Gertrude "Gertie" Legendre was a big-game hunter and from a wealthy industrial family who lived a charmed life in Jazz Age America. Her adventurous spirit made her the inspiration for a Broadway play, Holiday, which became a film starring Katharine Hepburn. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Legendre, by then married and a mother of two, joined the OSS, the wartime spy organization that preceded the CIA. First in Washington and then in London, some of the most closely-held United States government secrets passed through her hands. In A Guest of the Reich, Peter Finn tells the gripping story of how in 1944, while on leave in liberated Paris, Legendre was captured by the Germans after accidentally crossing the front lines. Subjected to repeated interrogations, including by the Gestapo, Legendre entered a daring game of lies with her captors. The Nazis treated her as a "special prisoner" of the SS and moved her from city to city throughout Germany, where she witnessed the collapse of Hitler's Reich as no other American did. After six months in captivity, Legendre escaped into Switzerland. A Guest of the Reich is a propulsive account of a little-known chapter in the history of World War II, as well as a fascinating portrait of an extraordinary woman.

30 review for A Guest of the Reich

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elise Musicant

    This book was a very interesting depiction of the time Gertrude Legendre spend in captivity in Germany at the end of World War II. That being said, I felt the subtitle “The Story of American Heiress Gertrude Legendre’s Dramatic Captivity and Escape from Nazi Germany” was not accurate to the story I read. First of all, captivity is not very dramatic. It usually involves a prisoner staying in one place while all the negotiating happens out of their sight. While there were a few times Ge This book was a very interesting depiction of the time Gertrude Legendre spend in captivity in Germany at the end of World War II. That being said, I felt the subtitle “The Story of American Heiress Gertrude Legendre’s Dramatic Captivity and Escape from Nazi Germany” was not accurate to the story I read. First of all, captivity is not very dramatic. It usually involves a prisoner staying in one place while all the negotiating happens out of their sight. While there were a few times Gertie feared for her life, a lot of time was spent examining the characters of the people she was imprisoned with or contemplating the availability of food. Secondly, her escape was anticlimactic from what I expected, based on the subtitle. The escape took place four pages. It was spur-of-the-moment, with very little planning. I did find this book an excellent depiction of the World War II era. The book was well written and easy to read. A good book if you’re interested in that era of history.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Crowe

    Gertrude Legendre was a wealthy adventuress who loved spending time on hunting trips. She was an accomplished marksman and after she married both she and her husband, Sidney, traveled the world fulfilling their love of the adventurous life. The war changed everything and of course Gertie had to be involved. She was stationed in Europe while her husband was in the Navy in Hawaii. On a harebrained idea to see the front, she a some companions drove to Wallendorf which they assumed was under British Gertrude Legendre was a wealthy adventuress who loved spending time on hunting trips. She was an accomplished marksman and after she married both she and her husband, Sidney, traveled the world fulfilling their love of the adventurous life. The war changed everything and of course Gertie had to be involved. She was stationed in Europe while her husband was in the Navy in Hawaii. On a harebrained idea to see the front, she a some companions drove to Wallendorf which they assumed was under British control. It was not and she was captured and thus began her adventure as a German prisoner. This is a great story and I throughly enjoyed it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Felicity Selvoski

    Ugh. I thought this had the potential to be interesting, but she was a spoiled brat at the start of the book and nothing changed by the end. I was tempted to stop reading during the detailed accounts of her big game hunting expeditions (too much detail - there’s no need to glamorize the slaughter of innocent lions, elephants, etc), but kept going. I shouldn’t have. I finished the book today and am left with nothing but a bad taste in my mouth.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    My feelings about this book are complicated by the fact that I came to detest the subject.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

    Interesting read. While not what I was expecting (the capture and escape in the subtitle was anticlimactic), still a true story of a fascinating and at times foolish woman. A good read for those interested in WWII, but dragged a bit too much to hold my attention.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    A very bizarre storyline. Spoiled rich woman endangers the lives of 3 U.S. soldiers because she wants to see the war up close. Couldn't feel anything for her experience, and found myself just waiting for the end of the book. Luckily it was only 200 pages. Plus, there were several typos the editors and proof readers missed.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Steve Solnick

    Compelling and wonderfully written account of the life of Gertrude Legendre - heiress, hunter, wartime intelligence officer and first US woman in uniform taken as a prisoner of war. "Gertie" is a fascinating character - a charming companion of Fitzgerald and Hemingway and Patton with the explorer's soul of Teddy Roosevelt. She was a thrill-seeker, and yet her life exemplified the last hurrah of a certain cohort of Gilded Age dilettantes. Her wartime escapades end in tragedy for others, and ultim Compelling and wonderfully written account of the life of Gertrude Legendre - heiress, hunter, wartime intelligence officer and first US woman in uniform taken as a prisoner of war. "Gertie" is a fascinating character - a charming companion of Fitzgerald and Hemingway and Patton with the explorer's soul of Teddy Roosevelt. She was a thrill-seeker, and yet her life exemplified the last hurrah of a certain cohort of Gilded Age dilettantes. Her wartime escapades end in tragedy for others, and ultimately deposit her in a surreal menagerie of "special prisoners" of the Reich - dining lavishly and whiling the days away with games while the world around them collapsed into barbarism. Her final days in Germany - which I will not spoil here - are full of thrilling cloak and dagger intrigue and nail-biting suspense. I read the book in a day and was sorry when it was over. A great story, exceptionally well told.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Asha Hawkesworth

    This book describes the adventures of Gertrude "Gertie" Legendre, who was a wealthy heiress who ended up stupidly being captured by the Nazis during World War II. Unlike most Nazis prisoners, she was kept in hotels and nice houses as they moved her around the country. Some time is spent cataloging her hunting prowess (PETA would not approve) and her general carefree life and lack of conformity. She did marry, and she did have children, whom she allowed a nanny to raise. She worked for what would This book describes the adventures of Gertrude "Gertie" Legendre, who was a wealthy heiress who ended up stupidly being captured by the Nazis during World War II. Unlike most Nazis prisoners, she was kept in hotels and nice houses as they moved her around the country. Some time is spent cataloging her hunting prowess (PETA would not approve) and her general carefree life and lack of conformity. She did marry, and she did have children, whom she allowed a nanny to raise. She worked for what would become the CIA in later years, eventually being sent to London, and then eventually finding herself in France, where she concocted the hare-brained scheme to "see the front." Her silliness didn't get her killed, but it certainly sealed the fate of some of the soldiers who came along. This woman was apparently the inspiration for Katharine Hepburn's character in "Holiday," and it's clear that she was indeed both highly privileged and self-centered.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Paula Fahey

    This was hard to rate. I thought the quality of the writing was excellent. Unfortunately, I really didn’t like Gertie. This is a strong woman, I suppose, but so incredibly selfish that I think there must have been some kind of extreme personality disorder. I’ve never seen a person with so little interest in her own children, for example. I know she was very proud of living her life, fully, without regrets, but some self-reflection might have been a good idea.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jim Tracy

    If you're interested in going into Nazi Germany as it collapses under the weight of the allied advance, this book is for you. Well written, it started off slowly with a lot of exposition but picked up intensity as it went on. It's not a book for the masses. But if your interest is WWII, Germany, biography of a socialite, or just a decent historical nonfiction book, you should like this. Nowhere near great, but above average to good.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tory

    you know online when you see a shocking headline and click on the article...only to find the article not at all what you thought it was going to be? and voila, the writer got you to click! This is the same. #1 the protagonist drove to the front lines for no reason other than "seemed exciting and something to see" #2 she was forced, while imprisoned to be bored and play cards with other aristocrats and often had to demand her red cross allocation of cigarettes.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alan J Joaquin

    A fascinating read Exciting and well written, A Guest of the Reich introduces the reader to a remarkable women who lived life to the fullest and whose courage was frequently tested.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Peter Caron

    This is well written and properly researched. The story, such as it is, could have been condensed into a long-ish magazine article, I think. Nonetheless, it proves an interesting look into a particular wealthy class of people in the first half of the C20.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Doris Raines

    NICE BOOK.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Denice

    This is a good book. Clean language.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    A rather incredible life and story

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nissa

    What a magificent book! Kudos to the author. Extremely well-written. Absolutely loved it and would recomend it to all.

  18. 4 out of 5

    PWRL

    A

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dean

    What a life.......

  20. 4 out of 5

    Carol

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joseph D'Angelo

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tricia Rutledge

  23. 4 out of 5

    Linda Prihoda

  24. 5 out of 5

    Albert Strauss

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kristi Tallent

  26. 5 out of 5

    Annie Garvey

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kayoshel

  28. 4 out of 5

    Abdul Hamid

  29. 5 out of 5

    LER

  30. 4 out of 5

    Miguel Friggo

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