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We hear two Stories of British intelligence during World WWar II: Elisa Segrave talks about her memoir/history, The Girl from Station X: My Mother’s Unknown Life, and we replay our 2008 interview with Jennet Conant about The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington.
How much do children really know their parents? So often their understanding is clouded, especially when the relationship to the parent is a difficult one. Sometimes it’s mere chance that opens a door to a fuller comprehension of who the parent is — or was — as a separate human being.
That’s what happened to writer Elisa Segrave, who found the diaries her mother wrote as a young woman in pre-war and wartime Europe.
At the time, Segrave was caring for her elderly mother, who was stricken with Alzheimer’s after decades of depression and alcoholism. But the young woman she discovered in the diaries was vivacious, charismatic — and, had worked in the secret code-breaking section of the British intelligence service at Bletchley Park during WWII.
Segrave combines family memoir with extensive material about the code-breaking work at Bletchley Park in her book, The Girl from Station X: My Mother’s Unknown Life.
Elisa Segrave is the author of The Diary of a Breast, about her battle with cancer, and the novel Ten Men. She writes for newspapers and magazines, including the London Review of Books, the Guardian, and the Independent.
(Note: This interview first aired in 2008)
Roald Dahl is best known as a wildly successful writer of children’s books, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. But before he wrote books for kids, he was a British spy in Washington DC during the Second World War, something author Jennet Conant explores in depth in her 2008 book, The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington.
Dashing and handsome, Dahl used his charm to invade the upper reaches of the U.S. government and Georgetown society. There he won friends and influenced politicians to back the British war effort–and sabotaged those who were less enthusiastic about the war. And Dahl cut his budding literary teeth on writing colorful propaganda pieces– published in leading American popular magazines — that helped to gain public support for the war.
In addition to The Irregulars, Jennet Conant is the author of the 2002 New York Times bestseller Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and The Secret Palace of Science That Changed the Course of World War II.