on March 31, 2020
Genres: Historical Fiction
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.
I knew I was going to like the heroine in Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon by the end of the first page.
By the end of the first chapter, I loved her!
Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon begins with Hélène about to jump out of a plane for the first time — hungover, no less!
But who is Hélène?
She’s a woman of many names! The novel opens with a list of her many aliases:
NANCY GRACE AUGUSTA WAKE
Also Known As
“The White Mouse“from Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon
Nancy/Hélène is a smart, daring, sassy, reckless, and sensible woman. She starts out as a reporter who can’t even publish under her own name because no one takes females seriously. She travels to Vienna after interviewing a Jew who has been tortured there and what she finds changes her, and those around her, forever.
Nancy just can’t go back home once she’s seen the atrocity in Vienna. She has to DO something. She has to take back something that will get the attention of the people who can set the world right again! And she can’t help thinking… if it’s this bad in Vienna, what’s it like in Berlin? So she sets off to Berlin to find out. That decision turns out to be the turning point that eventually sends her into Nazi-occupied France leading the militia there in an effort to destroy the German forces there.
This book was nearly impossible to put down. It goes between before, after, and the beginning of Nancy’s joining the resistance. As soon as your hooked in what’s happening at the current time, you’re thrust into the past or current timeline and reminded of what you were dying to know at the end of a previous chapter. It just kept sucking me in!
When I got to the end, I was gutted. The closest I’ve ever come to feeling this way at the after a story was Auschwitz Lullaby. Seriously, I can’t remember ever being so sad for a novel to end before and this story is going to stick with me for a very long time!
The story of Nancy Grace Augusta Wake is an incredible one. Like I already said, she was an amazing woman! But the cast of characters in this novel were no less incredible than Hélène herself!
From Frank, the cameraman who went with her from Vienna to Berlin and back to France, to Nancy’s eventual husband and all-around perfect guy, Henri. These characters were well-developed and incredibly real. It felt as if I got to know every single one of them.
But this is wartime. So getting to know people in this story is dangerous.
You will love them. You will lose some of them. You WILL cry.
And it will be completely worth it!
In case you haven’t already figured it out, I loved this book! I wish everyone would take the time to read it and that it finds a spot in the hearts of all of you just as it has found a spot in mine!
There are lots of Triggers in this book though so it may not be for everyone (war crimes, torture, rape, death, violence).
If you’ve read Code Name Hélène or plan on reading it in the future, leave me a comment below! I’d love to chat about it!!!!
Thank you to NetGalley and Doubleday Books for providing me with a review copy of this book. This in no way affected my opinions or this review!