Ariel Lawhon comes to the blog with a tale that is based on the life of Nancy Wake, an Australian woman who worked in the French Resistance and with the British OSE in
Code Name Hélène
Hélène, one of just four aliases used by Nancy Wake during the war – but the story encompasses some twelve years starting in 1936. Nancy was Australian by birth, bold by nature, with a prodigious memory, stunning looks, a great laugh and a penchant for “Victory Red” Lipstick – that she used as armor: to distract and build her own confidence. From journalist working under the Hearst Corporation banner as a non-bylined freelancer, to leading and directing Resistance fighters numbering in the thousands, scaling the Pyrenees to escape capture and managing to juggle aliases from Hélène through Mrs. Fiocca, Lucienne Carlier, The White Mouse, Hélène, and finally, Madame Andrè Each alias has a part of the story to tell, each with their own focus and worries – and all wholly descriptive, engaging and emotionally available.
We also have some perspective from Nancy’s husband, Henry Fiocca: the man who taught her to ride a bicycle, bought her a puppy, loved her like no other and ultimately was killed by (in the story) the Vichy-aligned chief of police. But it is the story of their coming together and separation, his inability to say ‘no’ to his wife, and his constant efforts to make her life better and easier with money, vehicles, prescient introductions to people and experiences as well as his teaching her to ‘swear’ like a man in French as well as hold her liquor. Not bashful or particularly willing to play games, her femininity was simply a tool, like a knife, that kept others on edge and often discounting the brave and very resourceful woman in front of them.
As a read – this was one that (and few do) after the first chapters where readers “meet” Nancy, the story takes hold of your mind and your imagination, and putting it down is NOT an option. I lost sleep over this book: the emotions, the scenery and terrors, admiration of Nancy’s bravery (or pure unadulterated luck) in many situations: her selfless willingness to step out first for dangerous and potentially deadly missions, and her determination to eliminate the first (and to her mind, the worst) of the Nazi scourge from the earth. With heart pounding tensions and action, and heart breaking losses, the woman who would not have a byline in any newspaper far surpassed that simple notoriety from her actions, her bravery and the personality that the author cleverly managed to insert and explain. This is a favorite read for many reasons: learning and being able to further investigate the life of Nancy Wake is a bonus and one I will undertake immediately. Don’t look her up before reading: take this story (and the author’s suggestions for more / other tales) and prepare yourself to meet a genuine heroic woman.
Title: Code Name Hélène
Author: Ariel Lawhon
Genre: Biographic / autobiographic, European History, France, Historic Elements, Historical Fiction, Humor elements, Political commentary, Romantic Elements, Setting: France, Thriller, World War II
Published by: Doubleday
Published on: 31 March, 2020
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 9 Hours
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ IndieBound ♦ Google ♦Audible ♦Direct from Publisher
BASED ON THE THRILLING REAL-LIFE STORY OF SOCIALITE SPY NANCY WAKE, comes the newest feat of historical fiction from the New York Times bestselling author of I Was Anastasia, featuring the astonishing woman who killed a Nazi with her bare hands and went on to become one of the most decorated women in WWII.
Told in interweaving timelines organized around the four code names Nancy used during the war, Code Name Hélène is a spellbinding and moving story of enduring love, remarkable sacrifice and unfaltering resolve that chronicles the true exploits of a woman who deserves to be a household name.
It is 1936 and Nancy Wake is an intrepid Australian expat living in Paris who has bluffed her way into a reporting job for Hearst newspaper. She is fighting to cover the disturbing reports of violence coming out of Vienna and Berlin when she meets the wealthy French industrialist Henri Fiocca. No sooner does Henri sweep Nancy off her feet and convince her to become Mrs. Fiocca than the Germans invade France and she takes yet another name: a code name.
As LUCIENNE CARLIER she smuggles people and documents across borders under the guise of an oblivious mistress. Soon enough the Gestapo hears of a female operative with a remarkable ability to evade capture, and Nancy earns a new nickname: THE WHITE MOUSE. But this one carries with it a five million franc bounty on her head. Forced to escape France and leave Henri behind for the safety of both of them, Nancy enters training with the Special Operations Executives, who transform her into Hélène. Finally, with mission in hand, Nancy is airdropped back into France as the deadly MADAM ANDRÉ. She soon becomes one of the most powerful leaders in the French Resistance, known for her ferocious wit, her signature red lipstick, and her ability to summon weapons straight from the Allied Forces. But no one can protect Nancy if the enemy finds out these four women are one and the same, and the closer to liberation France gets, the more exposed she--and the people she loves--will become.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.