Is there a difference between fact and truth? I thought about that a lot as I read Clare Mulley's The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville. When one reads about spies I feel like fact and truth are moving targets.
It's a fact that Christine Granville was a British spy in WWII. But it's also not a truth as Christine Granville was a person made into existence. She wasn't born with that name. It was chosen after she became a spy.
I'm getting ahead of myself.
Christine Granville, born Maria Krystyna Janina Starbek, was a Polish patriot, a beauty queen, half-Jewish, a displaced person, a British spy, and a war hero. She was raised in wealth and expected to become a good society wife. She was never very good at doing what other people expect her to do.
She got married and then divorced. Then she got married again. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939 her (second) husband had a diplomatic posting in Ethiopia. Their government was gone. His job was gone. But they could not return home to Poland. Unable to sit idly, she offered her services to the British government. They accepted them… eventually. It took some time (and some good referrals from friends) before they put her to work. It wasn't the only time they'd hesitate about working with her.
During the course of the war she'd help smuggle people and documents out of Poland. She'd gather information for the British in Cairo. She saved lives in France. By the end of the war she'd be more decorated than many men.
Christine thrived on the adventure and the inherent risk of her missions. She did not do well when she had to be idle and she was not designed for office work. She was an unconventional woman and the world was not kind to unconventional women. Officials did not like working with her. They found her difficult.
She lived big and she loved to tell big stories. But how many of them were truth? Did Christine really kill someone with her favourite knife? There are no facts that support it… but it's possible. It's also possible she just enjoyed telling the story and have people think that she did. Same with her alleged affair with Ian Fleming.
She inspired great loyalty among her friends and lovers. (One lover even named one of his daughters Christine, and yes his wife knew of the affair.) Part of the reason it's so hard to sort the facts and truth from the myth is that her lovers (of which there were many) banded together to form a sort of approval board. Nothing about Christine would be published unless they gave their approval and it was many years after her death before they approved anything at all.
Christine Granville was many different people throughout out her life. I can't help but wonder who she was to herself. Was she the beauty queen? The spy? The lover? Where was her own line between truth and fact?