Agent Josephine

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for Agent Josephine:

Celebrities can work for the greater good!

Quick synopsis:

The untold story of how entertainer Josephine Baker was also a French spy in World War II.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

A list of animals Josephine took with her nearly everywhere: a Great Dane, monkey, golden lion tamarin, marmoset, and two white mice.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

During the fall of Paris, the American ambassador actually named himself the city’s governor when everyone else fled.

My Take on Agent Josephine:

Agent Josephine is a tale of two books. One is uplifting and thrilling. The other is tangents which bogs down the narrative.

Author Damien Lewis centers his book on the life of Josephine Baker, an American entertainer transplanted to France who takes part in the resistance during World War II. When the book focuses on her, it is very entertaining and enlightening. Josephine was a dynamic and wonderfully stubborn woman who did much more than she is known for today. I did an informal poll of people I know and many of the Boomer generation remember her immediately. None of them knew she was active in spy activities. In that sense, the book is very much needed to rectify this. The parts of the book which are purely Josephine’s got me excited about learning about this amazing woman.

However, there are entirely too many tangents and too many characters. Jacque Abtey, for instance, was her partner in crime during these years and he often overshadows her significantly in the narrative. It seems ridiculous to say because Abtey was fascinating and a hero in his own right, but I was here for Josephine and she disappears too often and for too long. Other characters drop in and out who could have been eliminated entirely to focus the story.

For someone who wants as much detail about World War II as possible, this may not be a deal breaker. However, it personally kept me from enjoying this as much as I wanted.


If you don’t know much about World War II espionage, then there is a lot to like. Buy it here!

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Agent Josephine by Damien Lewis
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