Monday, April 13, 2020

Review: Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon

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 ******************* 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.
***spoiler removed by me ;)

Hardcover, 464 pages
Published March 31st 2020
 by Doubleday Books

Ariel Lawhon first drew my attention with I Was Anastasia, it was a unique story and I loved it!  She took real historical figures and wove a highly compelling story.  Hence why Code Name Helene was a pre-order for me.

There are so many things I loved about this book:

1. The length, including author notes was over 460 pages. The story wasn't rushed but with so much room for depth, not just characters but with a plot that was smooth even though it jumped back and forth in time as well as between characters.

2. Based on a woman from history that I was unfamiliar with. Oh I've read about women spies but haven't been treated to a story with so much historical fact woven in.  Since finishing this book I've googled and come to appreciate that so much of Nancy Wake's personality shined through here. The author has definitely shown her research and knowledge of the not just Nancy but those around her.  Most of the figures here are from the history books making this such an emotional read.

3. It wasn’t just a WW2 story. When I say a love story there is so much more. It’s about sacrifice, bravery, compassion and heartache. Written in such a way that it was a pleasure to read, I was sad to see it end as I just wanted to read more the next chapter in Nancy's life.

Released only a couple weeks ago I highly recommend this book to not just historical fiction lovers but everyone.

This book is part of my 2020 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.

 click on cover for my review

1 comment:

  1. Glad to see that this novel was a hit with you too! I loved it.