Madame Fourcade's Secret War

By Lynne Olson,

Book cover of Madame Fourcade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler

Book description

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…

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Why read it?

6 authors picked Madame Fourcade's Secret War as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

On finishing my book, I wanted to write a companion novel, based this time in Paris. My inspiration for the lead character in that book was Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, an extraordinary woman who led the Alliance network in France, operating on behalf of SIS, as MI6 was then known. Her handler Sir Kenneth Cohen described her as the ‘textbook beautiful spy,’ but her intelligence and courage marked her out even more. Marie-Madeleine lived a life on the run, operating under the radar via a string of false identities, and even escaping imprisonment. Lynne Olsen’s riveting account tells the story of…

I can only read Lynne Olson’s work with an aspiration for research and excellence that I will never fulfill. In this case, the Hero of France is the nonfictional Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, who, like the fictional Mathieu, brought together the most ordinary people to do the most extraordinary work of espionage and resistance. It would not be enough to say that Olson has finally brought forth the largely unknown and remarkable story of a female spy against the Nazi occupation of her country. Much more than that, it is the story of the particular qualities of what it is to be…

With a talent for dramatic writing, Lynne Olson tells the story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, one of few women leaders in the French Resistance, keeping the focus on the tensions and risks agents ran in trying to subvert the occupying Nazi regime. Being a woman came in handy when the Gestapo knocked at her door looking for a “terrorist” leader – the little lady before them was not considered a threat. It was an advantage Fourcade would use time and again. Where Margaret Collins Weitz goes broad, Lynne Olson goes deep into the life of one remarkable woman.

From Ellen's list on or by women on women in WWII.

Fast-paced and well-researched, this riveting book tells one of the greatest, albeit little-known, true stories of the French Resistance. The only woman to lead a major Resistance network (the largest and most important) against Hitler, Fourcade blended patriotism, boldness, persistence, and bravery – including two escapes from Gestapo jails – into her personal life as a wife, mother, and lover.  When she died, Fourcade became the first female to be given a funeral at Les Invalides, the grand historic building complex dedicated to French military glory. 

45 years after the publication of Marie Madeleine Fourcade’s fabulous memoir, Noah’s Ark, Lynne Olson has filled in the gaps in the remarkable story of the female head of one of France’s most important clandestine war-time intelligence networks. Both books are well worth reading.

From Clare's list on female spies and special agents.

I love stories about little-known heroes, and this one about Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, a young mother who headed the largest spy network in Nazi-occupied France, and the only woman to serve as chief of Resistance, is that and more. The fearless Fourcade, well known for her beauty and glamour, shrewdly expected to be underestimated for being a woman. She escaped capture by the Nazis twice, once by slipping naked through the bars of her cell. The details about what Fourcade achieved and risked are alone worth the read. I enjoy photographs, and there are many spread throughout the book. I hope…

From Susan's list on women during WW2.

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