Madame Fourcade's Secret War Summary and Reviews

Madame Fourcade's Secret War

The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler

by Lynne Olson

Madame Fourcade's Secret War by Lynne Olson X
Madame Fourcade's Secret War by Lynne Olson
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  • Published Mar 2019
    464 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

The little-known true story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the woman who headed the largest spy network in occupied France during World War II.

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. A brilliant, cinematic biography of resistance leader Marie-Madeleine Fourcade ... Olson's weaving of Fourcade's diary artfully and liberally into her own writing and her heart-stopping descriptions of Paris, escapes, and internecine warring create a narrative that's as dramatic as a novel or a film. Olson honors Fourcade's fight for freedom and her 'refusal to be silenced' with a gripping narrative that will thrill WWII history buffs." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Incredibly absorbing and long-overdue ... This masterfully told true story reads like fiction and will appeal to readers who devour WWII thrillers." - Booklist

"Starred Review. As well researched and engrossing as her previous books, showcasing her adroit ability to weave personal narratives, political intrigue, and wartime developments to tell a riveting story, Olson's latest is highly recommended to readers interested in World War II, the history of espionage, women's history, and European history." - Library Journal

"An engaging, informative addition to World War II history." - Kirkus Reviews

"In Madame Fourcade's Secret War, Lynne Olson tells one of the great stories of the French Resistance, a story of one woman's courage amid great danger, a story of heroism, defiance, and, ultimately, victory." - Alan Furst, author of A Hero of France

"Much like Madame Fourcade herself, Olson goes to great lengths to unearth truth and preserve dignity for those who lived and died during Hitler's reign of terror—and for that, both the author and her daring subject deserve high praise." - Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright

"The story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade is staggering in its scope and detail, and utterly enthralling from scene to nail-biting scene. This is serious history told with all the verve of fiction, and a vital corrective to the largely male Resistance narrative...An absolute must-read not just for history buffs, but for anyone who cares about human courage." Beatriz Williams, New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Wives

"Lynne Olson is at the top of her game, giving us the renowned beauty and elite French socialite Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, who surprised everyone—including herself, perhaps—by becoming one of the most consequential players in the high-stakes spy game in Nazi-occupied France...A fascinating portrait of uncommon audacity." - Paula McLain, author of Love and Ruin and The Paris Wife

"If Lynne Olson had set out to write a novel, she could not have come up with a more fascinating character than Marie-Madeleine Fourcade. This is a case where fact is far more riveting than fiction. Olson chronicles Fourcade's extraordinary story with her customary eye for every revealing detail and every breathtakingly dangerous twist." - Andrew Nagorski, author of Hitlerland

This information about Madame Fourcade's Secret War was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Lynne Olson

Lynne Olson is the New York Times bestselling author of Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War; Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America's Fight Over World War II, 1939–1941; and Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour. Among her five other books is Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England. Lynne Olson lives with her husband in Washington, D.C.

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