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Madame Fourcade's Secret War - Lynne Olson

Madame Fourcade's Secret War

By Lynne Olson

  • Release Date: 2019-03-05
  • Genre: History
Score: 4.5
From 230 Ratings


NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The little-known true story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the woman who headed the largest spy network in occupied France during World War II, from the bestselling author of Citizens of London and Last Hope Island

“Brava to Lynne Olson for a biography that should challenge any outdated assumptions about who deserves to be called a hero.”—The Washington Post


In 1941 a thirty-one-year-old Frenchwoman, a young mother born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamour, became the leader of a vast intelligence organization—the only woman to serve as a chef de résistance during the war. Strong-willed, independent, and a lifelong rebel against her country’s conservative, patriarchal society, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was temperamentally made for the job. Her group’s name was Alliance, but the Gestapo dubbed it Noah’s Ark because its agents used the names of animals as their aliases. The name Marie-Madeleine chose for herself was Hedgehog: a tough little animal, unthreatening in appearance, that, as a colleague of hers put it, “even a lion would hesitate to bite.”

No other French spy network lasted as long or supplied as much crucial intelligence—including providing American and British military commanders with a 55-foot-long map of the beaches and roads on which the Allies would land on D-Day—as Alliance. The Gestapo pursued them relentlessly, capturing, torturing, and executing hundreds of its three thousand agents, including Fourcade’s own lover and many of her key spies. Although Fourcade, the mother of two young children, moved her headquarters every few weeks, constantly changing her hair color, clothing, and identity, she was captured twice by the Nazis. Both times she managed to escape—once by slipping naked through the bars of her jail cell—and continued to hold her network together even as it repeatedly threatened to crumble around her.

Now, in this dramatic account of the war that split France in two and forced its people to live side by side with their hated German occupiers, Lynne Olson tells the fascinating story of a woman who stood up for her nation, her fellow citizens, and herself.

“Fast-paced and impressively researched . . . Olson writes with verve and a historian’s authority. . . . With this gripping tale, Lynne Olson pays [Marie-Madeleine Fourcade] what history has so far denied her. France, slow to confront the stain of Vichy, would do well to finally honor a fighter most of us would want in our foxhole.”—The New York Times Book Review


  • Secret war, secret history

    By AMS-SD
    The story of Madame Fourcade is amazing, and the book is intriguing, thought provoking, important, and beautifully written. The book cover points out that Madame Fourcade was the head of a major resistance network in France during World War II. That network provided significant intelligence information to the Allies during the struggle against Nazi Germany, and many members of the network lost their lives doing so. Yet few people outside France have heard of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, and even in France she is not widely remembered. Why not? Madame Fourcade was a strong and intelligent woman. She had to be to run a spy network, especially at a time when her first task was to convince potential recruits to the network that a woman was capable of being in charge. Many were reluctant to believe that a woman could be the head of resistance network or to take orders from a woman, but they learned what she was capable of doing. Madame Fourcade should be a model for women who want to prove that they can do a “man’s job.” The story is complex and fascinating, and the book is thoroughly researched and well documented. Besides that, it is a well told, gripping story that captures both the facts and the emotions of the participants. This is not a dry presentation of history, it is an incredible story that happens to be true.
  • Madame Fourcade’s Secret War

    By Joanabake
    I live in France near the site of the DDay landings in 1944 and have developed an intense interest in the Second World War and especially the experiences of ordinary men and women who lived and often died here during those horror filled years. I thought I knew a great deal about the Resistance but after reading this amazing book, I realize my knowledge was very superficial. Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was one of the most extraordinary human beings I have ever met on the printed page, and her story as well as that of Alliance, the network of resistance she headed, is a testament to bravery seldom seen. I was blown away by her ability to persevere in the face of incredible odds, to survive not only the Nazis who held France prisoner but also the sexism of her time which held that womens’ place, even in wartime, was in the home.
  • Wow

    By eewc8f
    I learned so much about French history. Read like a Hollywood movie, couldn't put it down.