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

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The dramatic true story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade--codename Hedgehog--the woman who headed the largest spy network in occupied France during World War II, from the New York Times bestselling author of Citizens of London and Those Angry Days. In 1941, a thirty-one-year-old Frenchwoman born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamour became the leader of a vast Resist The dramatic true story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade--codename Hedgehog--the woman who headed the largest spy network in occupied France during World War II, from the New York Times bestselling author of Citizens of London and Those Angry Days. In 1941, a thirty-one-year-old Frenchwoman born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamour became the leader of a vast Resistance organization--the only woman to hold such a role. Brave, 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. Marie-Madeleine's codename was Hedgehog. No other French spy network lasted as long or supplied as much crucial intelligence as Alliance--and as a result, the Gestapo pursued them relentlessly, capturing, torturing, and executing hundreds of its three thousand agents, including her own lover and many of her key spies. Fourcade had to move her headquarters every week, constantly changing her hair color, clothing, and identity, yet was still imprisoned twice by the Nazis. Both times she managed to escape, once by stripping naked and forcing her thin body through the bars of her cell. The mother of two young children, Marie-Madeleine hardly saw them during the war, so entirely engaged was she in her spy network, preferring they live far from her and out of harm's way. In Madame Fourcade's Secret War, Lynne Olson tells the tense, fascinating story of Fourcade and Alliance against the background of the developing war that split France in two and forced its citizens to live side by side with their hated German occupiers.


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The dramatic true story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade--codename Hedgehog--the woman who headed the largest spy network in occupied France during World War II, from the New York Times bestselling author of Citizens of London and Those Angry Days. In 1941, a thirty-one-year-old Frenchwoman born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamour became the leader of a vast Resist The dramatic true story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade--codename Hedgehog--the woman who headed the largest spy network in occupied France during World War II, from the New York Times bestselling author of Citizens of London and Those Angry Days. In 1941, a thirty-one-year-old Frenchwoman born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamour became the leader of a vast Resistance organization--the only woman to hold such a role. Brave, 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. Marie-Madeleine's codename was Hedgehog. No other French spy network lasted as long or supplied as much crucial intelligence as Alliance--and as a result, the Gestapo pursued them relentlessly, capturing, torturing, and executing hundreds of its three thousand agents, including her own lover and many of her key spies. Fourcade had to move her headquarters every week, constantly changing her hair color, clothing, and identity, yet was still imprisoned twice by the Nazis. Both times she managed to escape, once by stripping naked and forcing her thin body through the bars of her cell. The mother of two young children, Marie-Madeleine hardly saw them during the war, so entirely engaged was she in her spy network, preferring they live far from her and out of harm's way. In Madame Fourcade's Secret War, Lynne Olson tells the tense, fascinating story of Fourcade and Alliance against the background of the developing war that split France in two and forced its citizens to live side by side with their hated German occupiers.

30 review for Madame Fourcade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler

  1. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    What a fascinating woman! In a time when women barely held jobs, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade ran the largest espionage ring in France during WWII. Olson does a fabulous job of giving you the background of the country that led to their poor showing when Germany invaded. I had no idea of the political turmoil France was dealing with. In fact, I learned more from this book about international politics leading up to the war than I ever knew before. Olson also provides the necessary background on the Vic What a fascinating woman! In a time when women barely held jobs, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade ran the largest espionage ring in France during WWII. Olson does a fabulous job of giving you the background of the country that led to their poor showing when Germany invaded. I had no idea of the political turmoil France was dealing with. In fact, I learned more from this book about international politics leading up to the war than I ever knew before. Olson also provides the necessary background on the Vichy government and the political warfare between generals de Gaulle and Giraud. She knows exactly how much information to provide without bogging the reading down. Olson keeps the book moving at a fast clip with short chapters. This nonfiction book read almost like a book of fiction. You get a true sense of the time and place. It’s a gripping book and some of the escapes would seem unbelievable if this were a book of fiction. This book was eye opening. I was astounded by the number of people who risked their lives, many of whom had no training and most of whom died. As Olson writes at the very end of the book “they served as an example ...of what ordinary people can do...when faced with existential threats to basic human rights.” I recommend this to anyone who enjoys history, even those who think they only enjoy historical fiction. My thanks to netgalley and Random House for an advance copy of this book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    https://www.goodreads.com/review/edit...# 5+ stars Marie Madeleine was a 31 year old mother of two when she led the largest French spy network during the Nazi occupation. Alliance, the name of the network, provided crucial intelligence to Britain's M16. Described by a colleague as "the pivot around which everything turns. She has the memory of an elephant, the cleverness of a fox, the guile of a serpent, the perseverance of a mole, and the fierceness of a panther." Although hundreds of Alliance ag https://www.goodreads.com/review/edit...# 5+ stars Marie Madeleine was a 31 year old mother of two when she led the largest French spy network during the Nazi occupation. Alliance, the name of the network, provided crucial intelligence to Britain's M16. Described by a colleague as "the pivot around which everything turns. She has the memory of an elephant, the cleverness of a fox, the guile of a serpent, the perseverance of a mole, and the fierceness of a panther." Although hundreds of Alliance agents were tortured and killed, Madame Fourcade's network saved thousands of Allied lives and shortened the hold of Hitler's grasp. I have never read a more riveting nonfiction book. The daring, courage and dedication to freedom shown by Marie Madeleine and her agents is mind-boggling. How she and those who survived could ever return to normalcy is beyond me. She eventually does return to a life in her beloved France, although she initially had months (maybe years) of adjustment. At first she had trouble remembering to use he real name or realizing the knock on the door wasn't the Gestapo. But do the nightmares and memories of those who died for the cause ever cease? The "normal" life she returned to might have been superficial. It was particularly meaningful to read about this woman during Women's History Month. In a patriarchal country when women didn't work outside the home, Madame Fourcade won the respect of all in the British and French intelligence agencies. Sadly, Olson tells us that following the war,"histories of the resistance largely ignored the contribution of women." Even today, Olson says, women who had significant roles in WW II intelligence are rarely highlighted. I cannot recommend this book enough. If this is typical of the research and excellence of Olson's books, I will be reading everything she has written or will write in the future. "Although they were from varied walks of life and political background, a moral common denominator overrode all their differences; a refusal to be silenced and an iron determination to fight against the destruction of freedom and human dignity. In doing so, they, along with other members of the resistance, saved the soul and honor of France... they served as an example from the past of what ordinary people can do in the present and future when faced with existential threats to basic human rights."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jypsy

    Madame Fourcarde's Secret War is the story of a brave woman. I've noticed a trend of the stories about amazing women doing dangerous activities during WWII finally being told. This Parisian woman ran an underground network to help the allied forces. She was incredible. Her story is well written and researched. It's a great read, especially if you love historical fiction. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Deborah J. Nobles

    I continue to be amazed at how much there is discover about the resilience and courage of ordinary people. Those who took an active part in gathering and sharing information about the Germans during World War II were so fearless and bold. They were not willing to stand by and let evil flourish. Madame Fourcade defied all stereotypes to lead an organization that was vital to the Allies in their campaigns to defeat the Third Reich. She was a true patriot in every sense of the word. This is a great I continue to be amazed at how much there is discover about the resilience and courage of ordinary people. Those who took an active part in gathering and sharing information about the Germans during World War II were so fearless and bold. They were not willing to stand by and let evil flourish. Madame Fourcade defied all stereotypes to lead an organization that was vital to the Allies in their campaigns to defeat the Third Reich. She was a true patriot in every sense of the word. This is a great story that needed to be told. The members of the Alliance network deserve to be honored and remembered for their deeds and sacrifices. Thanks to all of them, we can pursue our dreams for a better life.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Numidica

    This book is an important addition to the literature about the resistance in France in WW2, such as the books written by M.R.D. Foot, because it highlights a network and its leader who were largely written out of the history because a) the network was founded by a former Vichy official (Navarre), and b) because its primary leader after Navarre's capture was a woman, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade. This is not Lynne Olson's writing at it's best, but if you are interested in the subject of the clandesti This book is an important addition to the literature about the resistance in France in WW2, such as the books written by M.R.D. Foot, because it highlights a network and its leader who were largely written out of the history because a) the network was founded by a former Vichy official (Navarre), and b) because its primary leader after Navarre's capture was a woman, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade. This is not Lynne Olson's writing at it's best, but if you are interested in the subject of the clandestine resistance work in France in WW2, this is a highly interesting addition to that history. Ms. Olson's always stellar research is on display again in this book. She describes the infiltration of the U-Boat bases on the French Atlantic coast by members of Fourcade's Alliance network, and how the intelligence provided by her agents played a huge role in the destruction of the U-boat fleet. Another of her agents drew a highly detailed map of the German defenses on the Normandy coast, and Fourcade's people got the map delivered to the Allies a couple of months before D-Day, saving many lives by allowing the Allies to come ashore in the least defended areas. But the terrible cost in lives to Resistance members is made clear. The rate of death among resistants (more than 20% of all participants) was equivalent to the highest casualty rates among frontline infantry assault forces, if not higher. I enjoyed this book, and I appreciate Lynne Olson's dedication to giving Madame Fourcade's efforts the history she deserves.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Donna Davis

    “The memory of an elephant, the cleverness of a fox, the guile of a serpent, and the fierceness of a panther.” Marie-Madeleine Fourcaude ran the largest spy network in France during World War II. Charismatic, organized, intelligent and completely fearless, she was possessed of such obvious leadership skills that even very traditional Frenchmen (and a few Brits as well) came to recognize and respect her authority and ability. I had never heard of her before this galley became available; thanks to “The memory of an elephant, the cleverness of a fox, the guile of a serpent, and the fierceness of a panther.” Marie-Madeleine Fourcaude ran the largest spy network in France during World War II. Charismatic, organized, intelligent and completely fearless, she was possessed of such obvious leadership skills that even very traditional Frenchmen (and a few Brits as well) came to recognize and respect her authority and ability. I had never heard of her before this galley became available; thanks to go Net Galley and Random House. This book is for sale now. Fourcade was born into a wealthy family, and this fact almost kept me from reading this biography. Fortunately, others read it first and recommended it, and once I began reading I quickly caught onto the fact that no one without financial resources could have initiated and organized this network. At the outset, there was no government behind them and no funding other than what they could contribute themselves or scrounge up through the kinds of contacts that rich people have. There are a few fawning references to some of her associates—a princess here, a Duke there—that grate on my working class sensibilities, but they are fleeting. Fourcade’s organization ultimately would include men and women from all classes, from magnates and royals to small businessmen, train conductors, waitresses, postal clerks and so on. Some were couriers delivering information about Nazi troop placement and movement, U-boats and harbors and so forth, whereas others quietly eavesdropped as they went about their daily routines. Once they were able to network with the British, the organization became better supplied and funded, and it had an enormous impact on the fascist occupiers, which in turn drew more enemy attention to the Resistance itself; among the greatest heroes were those that piloted the Lysander planes that delivered supplies and rescued members that were about to be captured. But not everyone was rescued; a great many were tortured, then killed. Fourcade herself was arrested twice, and both times escaped. If you had tried to write this woman’s story as fiction, critics would have said it lacked credibility. In reading about Fourcade, I learned a great deal more about the Resistance than I had previously known; in other nonfiction reading this aspect of the Allied effort was always on the edges and in the shadows, not unlike the spies themselves. In addition, I also came to understand that France was barely, barely even a member of the Alliance. The British bombed a ship to prevent fascists from seizing it, but they didn’t evacuate it first, and an entire ship full of French sailors were killed, leading a large segment of the French population to hate the British more than the Germans. Then too, there was a sizable chunk of the French government that welcomed the fascists. Revisionist histories will have us believe that the Nazis were opposed but that France was powerless to stop them, and for some that was true; yet the ugly truth is that it was the French themselves that incorporated anti-Semitism into their governmental structure before the Germans demanded it. Vichy cops had to take an oath “against Gaullist insurrection and Jewish leprosy.” When planning D-Day, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt didn’t want to include the French in the planning or even inform them that the Allies were invading. Let them find out the same way that the Germans would, he suggested to Churchill. But the British insisted on bringing in friendly French within the orbit of De Gaulle, not to mention those around a pompous, difficult general named Gouroud, a hero from World War I who had to be more or less tricked into meeting with the Allies at the Rock of Gibraltar. The guy was a real piece of work, and some of the humorous passages that are included to lighten up an otherwise intense story focus on him. I have never read Olson’s work before, but the author’s note says that she writes about “unsung heroes—individuals of courage and conscience who helped change their country and the world but who, for various reasons, have slipped into the shadows of history.” Now that I’ve read her work once, I will look for it in the future. Highly recommended to historians, feminists, and those that love a good spy story, too.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mal Warwick

    She led the largest French Resistance network against the Nazis for nearly five years. Three thousand agents answered to her, and they delivered intelligence to the British that helped the Allies win the war. Yet she has been virtually forgotten for decades, her courage and resourcefulness ignored by Charles De Gaulle and the French Communist Party, the dominant political forces in France for decades. Because she wasn’t politically allied with either. And because she was a woman. Now a new biogr She led the largest French Resistance network against the Nazis for nearly five years. Three thousand agents answered to her, and they delivered intelligence to the British that helped the Allies win the war. Yet she has been virtually forgotten for decades, her courage and resourcefulness ignored by Charles De Gaulle and the French Communist Party, the dominant political forces in France for decades. Because she wasn’t politically allied with either. And because she was a woman. Now a new biography belatedly restores her to the spotlight, and it reads like a thriller. Her network helped the Allies win the war Her name was Marie-Madeleine Fourcade. She began working in espionage in 1936 following Hitler’s march into the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland in violation of the Versailles Treaty. She was 26 years old. In 1941, following her boss’s capture by the Nazis, she became chef de resistance of Alliance, a network created to funnel intelligence to MI6. And, in the course of the next five years, Fourcade’s agents achieved three critical intelligence breakthroughs: ** A young woman named Jeannie Rousseau delivered detailed information about Hitler’s terrifying V-2 program that allowed Allied bombers to destroy its base at Peenemünde and set back the program for many months. She saved many thousands of lives in the process. ** An extensive network of Alliance spies working on France’s northern and western coasts played two equally important roles. First, they delivered detailed information about Germany’s U-Boat comings and goings that eventually helped the British prevent them from sinking more vital Allied shipping. ** And they supplied extremely detailed information about the fortifications and Nazi troop deployments in Normandy that helped the Allies successfully gain a foothold there in June 1944.The myth of the French Resistance Most of what we’ve read about the French Resistance dwells on the maquis, saboteurs and guerrilla fighters who bedeviled the Nazis in the closing years of the war. They make good copy, and cameras love the action. And from the fictional accounts, which dominate our understanding of the era, we get the impression that both the maquis and lesser-known Resistance groups involved in intelligence-gathering were associated with one of three forces: ** Charles De Gaulle‘s Free French; ** the French Communist Party; or ** Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE). The myth also holds that everyone involved in France’s Vichy government actively supported the Nazis. This falsehood, too, was promoted by De Gaulle and the Communists, who were eager to take full credit for the Resistance. The reality is different. The truth about the French Resistance 1. The maquis accomplished little First, latter-day scholarship has established that sabotage and guerrilla operations had little if any effect on the outcome of the war. The maquis provided fodder for breathless press accounts and later books, films, and television shows. But they accomplished little other than to boost French morale. And Churchill’s SOE disbanded following the Allied victory. 2. DeGaulle and the Communists did not run the Resistance Second, the Resistance was anything but united under De Gaulle and the Communists until the closing days of the war. Until then, hundreds of groups were scattered about the country, some working for De Gaulle or the Communists, others for De Gaulle’s rival, General Henri Giraud, still others completely on their own. In fact, these groups frequently fought one another, occasionally even with guns. And the biggest and most effective Resistance network of all was Alliance, commanded by Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, working directly with Britain’s MI6. 3. There were many anti-Nazi French in the Vichy Government Third, a substantial number of the military, police, and officials working for Vichy were, in fact, anti-Nazi. “Vichy was far from being a monolithic regime. It was made up of competing factions, drawn from a wide range of backgrounds and with different objectives.” A number of the key operatives in Alliance emerged from Vichy. And when Fourcade was captured by French police in the “free” zone governed by Vichy, the officers helped her escape under the noses of the Gestapo. One extraordinary young woman In Madame Fourcade’s Secret War, Lynne Olson writes of the Resistance commander’s “decisiveness, single-mindedness, and legendary organizational skills.” And she quotes “Navarre,” the founder of Alliance, saying that Fourcade had “the memory of an elephant, the cleverness of a fox, the guile of a serpent, the perseverance or a mole, and the fierceness of a panther.” Clearly, Fourcade was all that. But she was also young, a woman, a mother of two young children, well-to-do, stylish as only the French can be, and by all accounts beautiful. Again and again throughout the war, she was forced to prove herself in an environment in which extremely few women held leadership positions. Olson’s book abounds with examples of the sexism Fourcade repeatedly encountered. Yet every one of the men who were recruited to Alliance and fancied themselves leading the network quickly yielded to her lead. She was, in a word, extraordinary. For months on end, she successfully coordinated Alliance while on the run from the Gestapo and the French police. One in five of her agents was captured by the Germans There is no disputing the danger Fourcade encountered on a daily basis for nearly five years. “Of Fourcade’s three thousand agents, about six hundred had been imprisoned by the Germans during the war. So far [late in 1944], she knew of only about 150 who had survived that ghastly experience. Of the remaining 450, dozens were already known to be dead, among them some of her top lieutenants and agents.” And later evidence came to light that most of those 450 had, indeed, been executed by the Nazis or died of starvation or overwork in forced-labor camps.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Pam Walter

    Alliance, the largest and most effective French underground resistance network of WWII was headed and effectively run by a woman, a practice absolutely unheard of in 1940. That woman was Marie-Madelain Fourcade. Her code name was Hedgehog: a tough little animal, unthreatening in appearance, that, as a colleague of hers put it, “even a lion would hesitate to bite.” Marie-Madelain set up a spiderweb of an alliance network recruiting agents, who then recruited agents. Alliance soon covered France, g Alliance, the largest and most effective French underground resistance network of WWII was headed and effectively run by a woman, a practice absolutely unheard of in 1940. That woman was Marie-Madelain Fourcade. Her code name was Hedgehog: a tough little animal, unthreatening in appearance, that, as a colleague of hers put it, “even a lion would hesitate to bite.” Marie-Madelain set up a spiderweb of an alliance network recruiting agents, who then recruited agents. Alliance soon covered France, gathering information and photographic evidence and forwarding it to MI6 in London. She recruited associates who were most trustworthy and a few (as it turned out) not so much. Alliance was betrayed on several occasions resulting in the capture of many and the ultimate execution of many. She herself was captured once which resulted in an absolutely harrowing escape. Alliance, as most of France, had difficulty knowing with absolute certainty who to follow politically, Charles De Gaulle, or Henri Giraud. That being the case, they simply continue to work with the thought in mind of ultimately saving their beloved country, forwarding confidential information and maps to London. The book was eye opening and I was shocked at the number of people who risked their lives and the number who ultimately lost their lives out of sheer love and loyalty to their country and for the cause of freedom. Lynne Olson's books are loaded with information gleaned through stellar research. They read like historical fiction. Absolutely engrossing and easy to get lost in.

  9. 4 out of 5

    The Just-About-Cocky Ms M

    For all those idiotic scribblers who actually think they can write about WWII with faux heroines who parachute in and join the Resistance... Read this and weep for your literary sins.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Wilson

    This is such an important story — that of average people who reach the limits of what they find to be acceptable and undertake extraordinary tasks to put a stop to it. I am fascinated by the boundary-crossing that causes civilians to say, "I will likely be tortured or killed for what I'm about to do, but I believe in my cause so strongly that it's a risk I'm willing to take." The French Resistance was microscopic compared to the partisan guerrilla groups in many countries occupied by the Nazis, This is such an important story — that of average people who reach the limits of what they find to be acceptable and undertake extraordinary tasks to put a stop to it. I am fascinated by the boundary-crossing that causes civilians to say, "I will likely be tortured or killed for what I'm about to do, but I believe in my cause so strongly that it's a risk I'm willing to take." The French Resistance was microscopic compared to the partisan guerrilla groups in many countries occupied by the Nazis, but somehow they get an outsized share of the coverage. This book recounts the Alliance network, which provided excellent information to MI6 (for example, the V2 rocket program), and was led by Marie-Madeleine Fourcade for most of its existence. I read Olson's Citizens of London a few years ago, and I absolutely loved it, so I was really looking forward to this one! Unfortunately, this book seems as if it were both written and edited in a real hurry. The prose is at times embarrassingly purple and cliche; for example, women are often referred to along the lines of "pert blondes" or "stylish brunettes." (My own hair color is one of my all-time least important traits, and I struggle to imagine these ladies who casually carried around cyanide pills thinking to themselves, "Yep, I'm 23 years old, I'm willing to die for my country...and also I have blonde hair.") Many exciting, thrilling, and tragic things happen in this book, but for such a gripping subject, the pacing felt clumsy. Lengthy phrases are often repeated, or nearly so, just a few sentences later. I know from experience that Olson can do better than this, which makes me think this was written under a too-aggressive deadline and that editors didn't have enough time with it. I am pretty disappointed, but I also don't regret spending a couple of weeks with a person as courageous and fascinating as Marie-Madeleine Fourcade.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Fredrick Danysh

    The few works that explore the Resistance Movement in France during World War II tend to ignore the intelligence gathering movements and women. Madame Fourcade was the leader of the largest anti-German intelligence gathering organization in France. The author does an excellent job of telling her story. A good read for those wanting a better picture of World War II against the Germans. This was a free review copy through goodreads.com.

  12. 5 out of 5

    eyes.2c

    An astounding story! All I can say is Shame! Shame! Shame! Why has there been no over-the-top acknowledgment of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade? This woman masterminded the biggest spy ring across the length and breadth of occupied France during World War II. She controlled thousands of agents. Yet shockingly, no bright light has shone on her stupendous achievements and sacrifice for her country. Hopefully Olson's novel will begin to rectify that. Olson's research is outstanding. Her adherence to comple An astounding story! All I can say is Shame! Shame! Shame! Why has there been no over-the-top acknowledgment of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade? This woman masterminded the biggest spy ring across the length and breadth of occupied France during World War II. She controlled thousands of agents. Yet shockingly, no bright light has shone on her stupendous achievements and sacrifice for her country. Hopefully Olson's novel will begin to rectify that. Olson's research is outstanding. Her adherence to complexity and detail and the Bibliography gives weight to this. But back to my opening question. Olson's 'Author's Notes' do give some guidance as to why there was a lack of recognition to the actions of women in these times. Amongst the reasons are the complexity of French politics after the war and post war ideas on the role of women. Further to that, "For several decades following the war, histories of the French resistance, which were written almost exclusively by men, largely ignored the contributions of women." Hopefully a new era is opening up for these unsung women heroes. Whilst the narrative could have been tighter the story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade is amazing. My heart was frequently in my mouth at some of the situations Fourcade found herself in. In addition I loved the cover. It's brilliant! Those darkened rough stoned buildings looming behind the woman as she walks down a narrow lane, vividly portrays an aura of brooding and hovering menace. In shaded grayish overtones it subtly elicits atmospheric references to the dangerous maze of deception and counter deception Fourcade and her precious Alliance members negotiated a path through. This is well worth the read! For any World War II aficionados, a must read!! A Random House ARC via NetGalley

  13. 5 out of 5

    Katelyn

    Wow! I was riveted by the true story of this woman and the spy network she created in occupied France.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    An interesting as well as a great read about Marie-Madeline Fourcade, who was the only woman who headed the largest spy network in Nazi occupied France during World War II. She passed along crucial intelligence including providing American and British military commanders maps of the beaches and roads on which the Allied landings took place on D-Day. Hundreds of its three thousand agents were captured, tortured, and executed by the Gestapo, including Fourcade's lover and many of her top spies. Sh An interesting as well as a great read about Marie-Madeline Fourcade, who was the only woman who headed the largest spy network in Nazi occupied France during World War II. She passed along crucial intelligence including providing American and British military commanders maps of the beaches and roads on which the Allied landings took place on D-Day. Hundreds of its three thousand agents were captured, tortured, and executed by the Gestapo, including Fourcade's lover and many of her top spies. She was captured twice by the Nazis, but both times she escaped. A story of great courage that reads like a great spy thriller.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Katz

    A very solid 4.5. I have read and immensely enjoyed many of Ms Olson’s books — some are among my favorite works of popular history — but this one takes the reader in a very different direction. In sharing the experiences of Mme Fourcade and the resistance group she led in World War Two, Olson has written a book that comes as close to being a thriller as a history book can come. She captures the personalities of the major figures, the terrible risks that faced them everyday, the hair’s breadth es A very solid 4.5. I have read and immensely enjoyed many of Ms Olson’s books — some are among my favorite works of popular history — but this one takes the reader in a very different direction. In sharing the experiences of Mme Fourcade and the resistance group she led in World War Two, Olson has written a book that comes as close to being a thriller as a history book can come. She captures the personalities of the major figures, the terrible risks that faced them everyday, the hair’s breadth escapes from the Gestapo and the escape attempts that failed, the incredible courage of these ordinary (and extraordinary) men and women, the sacrifices they made, the betrayals... I knew nothing of Mme Fourcade going into this book. After reading it I am in awe of a remarkable woman who was the unheralded leader of one of the most important and successful resistance groups in wartime France. Their heroism lay not in acts of violence and sabotage but in the collection of information that was critical to the Allied victory. I can’t imagine how they accomplished so much under such awful and dangerous conditions. I’m pretty confident that movie rights will be sold, as they deserve to be, but I hope people will read the book. Not only will they find a remarkable, tension-filled story, they’ll also be introduced to a writer they really should know.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I cannot adequately express the feelings of elation, fear, pain, suspense, and incredulity that ran through me as I read this riveting, true-life account of the brave women and men that risked their lives spying in occupied France during World War II. Thank you, Lynne Olson, for introducing so many of us to Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the woman who headed this largest of spy networks. I couldn't help wondering, had I been in their shoes, would I have had the courage to put my life at risk not know I cannot adequately express the feelings of elation, fear, pain, suspense, and incredulity that ran through me as I read this riveting, true-life account of the brave women and men that risked their lives spying in occupied France during World War II. Thank you, Lynne Olson, for introducing so many of us to Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the woman who headed this largest of spy networks. I couldn't help wondering, had I been in their shoes, would I have had the courage to put my life at risk not knowing what the outcome would be? This should be required reading for everybody. If a television miniseries isn't in the works based on this book, I will be quite surprised.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Aimee Dars

    During World War II, Alliance, one of the largest and most important spy networks in France, provided critical intelligence to the Allies through MI6. Conceived by Major Georges Loustaunau-Lacau (a.k.a. Navarre), Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was second in command. When Navarre went to Africa in 1941 to help (unsuccessfully) foment a mutiny against Vichy France, he put Fourcade in charge, and she was the leader through the end of the war. Not only was she the only female leader of a major spy network During World War II, Alliance, one of the largest and most important spy networks in France, provided critical intelligence to the Allies through MI6. Conceived by Major Georges Loustaunau-Lacau (a.k.a. Navarre), Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was second in command. When Navarre went to Africa in 1941 to help (unsuccessfully) foment a mutiny against Vichy France, he put Fourcade in charge, and she was the leader through the end of the war. Not only was she the only female leader of a major spy network, most helmsman were captured and/or killed within six months. Olsen describes her as having “a strong will and a taste for risk and rebellion—traits not often seen in young Frenchwomen from well-to-do families like hers.” Fourcade also utilized a number of women in the network, never overlooking their possible contributions. Because of Alliance’s importance to the Allies, MI6 provided them equipment, funds, and logistical support. In exchange, they received pivotal intelligence. One operative, Jeannie Rousseau, who befriended German soldiers in Paris and was invited to their parties, was able to learn about the V-1 and V-2 rockets including information about the research facilities. Her information led to a bombing strike that significantly stalled German’s missile program. Flamboyant artist Robert Douin walked and cycled across the Normandy coast preparing a detailed map of German installments that was invaluable during the D-Day invasion. Their success made them a prime target for the Nazis who were angry at Alliance’s role in their setbacks and defeats. Fourcade, who was pregnant by her second-in-command, Léon Faye, and likely hid it from her associates, stayed on the run for safety and narrowly escaped capture several times. Three thousand agents worked for Alliance, and as the network grew, security risks proliferated. After the war, Fourcade didn’t relinquish her leadership; along with Ferdinand Rodriguez, a former Nazi prisoner, she traveled to Western France and Eastern Germany to investigate the fates of 450 Alliance agents unaccounted for. Immediately after the war, she advocated for her agents, but for the most part, disappeared into history. Such a position is untenable for a women who made such a contribution, according to Lynne Olsen. Olsen argues that Fourcade’s omission in the history books can be attributed to the fact that she was a woman leader in a deeply patriarchal culture. Additionally, Alliance provided their information to MI6 for the Allies, not to de Gaulle’s Free France which put them afoul of the hero. Those who weren’t allied with de Gaulle did not receive the same favorable treatment as his confederates. Additionally, Navarre had ties to Pétain, the Vichy France leader, anathema in the post-war climate. Madame Fourcade’s Secret War restores Fourcade to her rightful place in history along with the courageous agents of Alliance. The book shows how dedicated and strong ordinary people can be--since most Alliance agents were untrained volunteers--in the face of injustice. At the same time, it tracks the steep losses of Alliance under Nazi persecution. The book provided rich biographical details of Madeleine-Marie, from her childhood in Shanghai, and of key agents and MI6 personnel. Madame Fourcade’s Secret War depicts the anxiety of being on the move to avoid Nazis, the brief moments of camaraderie, the politics of dealing with MI6, and even the experience of agents in Nazi camps. It’s meticulously researched and comprehensive. If anything, I wish there had been a bit more tradecraft and a bit less detail on movements through France. Madame Fourcade’s Secret War will appeal to many readers: history buffs, particularly of World War II history or women’s history; readers interested in feminism and women’s contributions to history; or anyone who likes a compelling and unbelievable story of ordinary individuals fighting injustice. Thank you to Goodreads! I won a copy of this book in a giveaway, but was under no obligation to review it. ...aka darzy... | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

  18. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    This book offers a great history level about French resistance during WW II. There are many works of historical fiction about this work that are popular right now, but this offers the true story. As I worked through this text, I confronted the great atrocities of the Germans during WW II. Also I was reminded of the politics within Vichy France and the rivalry between de Gaulle and Giraud. I'd compare Olson's work to that of Erik Larson as she cleverly weaves together the stories of the Alliance This book offers a great history level about French resistance during WW II. There are many works of historical fiction about this work that are popular right now, but this offers the true story. As I worked through this text, I confronted the great atrocities of the Germans during WW II. Also I was reminded of the politics within Vichy France and the rivalry between de Gaulle and Giraud. I'd compare Olson's work to that of Erik Larson as she cleverly weaves together the stories of the Alliance resistance movement led by Fourcade.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rhea Abramson

    10+ stars.....ripped thru this 400 page masterpiece in 5 days. Such a testament to resistance, patriotism and feminism. It reads like a thriller....I could not put it down.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I'm continuously in awe when I read accounts of ordinary men and women doing these extraordinary, courageous acts despite the dangers facing them. This book provides an in-depth look at one of the most successful underground French intelligence networks during WWII, Alliance. Even cooler is that it was run by a woman - Marie-Madeleine Fourcade. Truly incredible to hear about the work of the Alliance members, as well as the numerous citizens who put their lives on the line too to help them. There I'm continuously in awe when I read accounts of ordinary men and women doing these extraordinary, courageous acts despite the dangers facing them. This book provides an in-depth look at one of the most successful underground French intelligence networks during WWII, Alliance. Even cooler is that it was run by a woman - Marie-Madeleine Fourcade. Truly incredible to hear about the work of the Alliance members, as well as the numerous citizens who put their lives on the line too to help them. There are several historical fiction books that deal with resistance/spy networks during this time period, but they typically skim over the full historical background and context. This book provided that missing element which I loved. It is a work of nonfiction, however it reads like a novel. I think it would be a great read for history fans and historical fiction fans alike. Thank you to Random House Publishing Group and Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Horton

    What an inspiring, beautifully written story—and a refreshing break from all the WW1 and WW2 fiction on the market today. Highly recommended.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mary Hunter

    Very dense read but fantastic. I learned quite a bit of history and gained insights into the struggles that were endured during the horror of WWII

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Grant

    A very well written book. However, most likely due to my timing, was just too much of a fact-to-fact within a sentence-to-sentence movement through events. In my opinion the book read like a time-line with explanations. I will have to admit that I am also currently reading Eric Larson's "In the Garden of Beasts" and I just completed Lilac Girls both of which have similar topics and I am very much enjoying. So, my timing may have been off with this one. Consensus would lean towards this being an e A very well written book. However, most likely due to my timing, was just too much of a fact-to-fact within a sentence-to-sentence movement through events. In my opinion the book read like a time-line with explanations. I will have to admit that I am also currently reading Eric Larson's "In the Garden of Beasts" and I just completed Lilac Girls both of which have similar topics and I am very much enjoying. So, my timing may have been off with this one. Consensus would lean towards this being an excellent book and I am not disagreeing.

  24. 5 out of 5

    CoffeeBreakBooks

    Chalk up another outstanding WWII book for Lynne Olson! Overall, Madame Fourcade's Secret War is an educational, powerful, and intense read covering the Nazi takeover of France and the emergence of the French Resistance and underground Communist movement. The story is gripping, with tension and danger throughout. It is one of those books that is somewhat difficult to talk about without revealing plot elements. The book draws on interviews with the Alliance survivors and their families, plus vario Chalk up another outstanding WWII book for Lynne Olson! Overall, Madame Fourcade's Secret War is an educational, powerful, and intense read covering the Nazi takeover of France and the emergence of the French Resistance and underground Communist movement. The story is gripping, with tension and danger throughout. It is one of those books that is somewhat difficult to talk about without revealing plot elements. The book draws on interviews with the Alliance survivors and their families, plus various archives, to uncover a dark chapter of history that offers an inspiring portrait of ordinary people, of bravery and survival, and of the remarkable, enduring power of the human spirit. Such a large part of WWII history is revealed in heart-stopping and brutal detail. The Resistance fighters held various and often conflicting political views but were all committed to the overthrow of the Nazi occupation by whatever means possible. Fourcade's Alliance group was focused on gathering and disseminating intelligence, primarily to MI6. As one who appreciates history and genealogy and who had family members serving during WWII, I have found Lynne Olson's books to be among the best I have read regarding the war. Very readable, and almost impossible to put down. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Missy

    Thoroughly researched, yet personal, Madame Fourcade's Secret War is suspensfully paced and interesting to the end. I highly recommend it to all World War II enthusiasts. I was provided and advance copy through #NetGalley

  26. 4 out of 5

    Loring Wirbel

    Lynne Olson writes tightly-focused books, usually with a WWII background, addressing the bravery of common people often neglected by history. Her works should not be seen as sweeping historical analyses, but as character studies. There is hardly a better character undeservedly neglected, at least in the U.S., than Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, who headed up the Alliance spy network in Vichy and Occupied France from 1940 to the end of the European war. There are no great descriptions of battles or po Lynne Olson writes tightly-focused books, usually with a WWII background, addressing the bravery of common people often neglected by history. Her works should not be seen as sweeping historical analyses, but as character studies. There is hardly a better character undeservedly neglected, at least in the U.S., than Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, who headed up the Alliance spy network in Vichy and Occupied France from 1940 to the end of the European war. There are no great descriptions of battles or political leaders here - we see events like D-Day, the Allied invasion of North Africa, and the German development of the V-1 and V-2, through the lens of common people on the ground in small towns throughout France, reporting the movement of German Navy U-boats and Gestapo direction-finding trucks in the hope that MI6 and other intelligence agencies might find such nuggets useful. While Olson doesn't put undue emphasis on the sexism of French society, it is clear from the opening chapters that Fourcade had to fight each day to gain relevance in the eyes of Alliance field agents. She reinforces the perception of unfairness of those remembering WWII at the very end of the book, when she describes how Fourcade and a key agent, Jeannie Rousseau, were denied membership in the male-dominated Compagnons de la Liberation. But Olson points out something else about French society as well - it was and is as authoritarian and beholden to populist bullies as it is sexist. The agents that chose to work with Fourcade were brave beyond measure, but they were vastly outnumbered by those French citizens who choose to work with the invading Nazis, often with fervor. In many portions of the book, I could hear the echoes of U.S. senators in 2003 yelling "Surrender monkeys!," because too many French citizens have a lot to gain by being sexist, racist, and deferential to dictators. You can see this today not only in the continued threats of Marie Le Pen to gain legitimacy, but in the neo-fascism side of the yellow-vest movement, and in the fact that even mainstream politicians like Dominique de Villepin express admiration for Napoleon. (Of course, these days, you can't say U.S. citizens, or human beings in general, are much better.) An aspect of this book that makes for tough reading is the constant busting and reconstitution of the Alliance network as aggressive actions by the Vichy police and later the Gestapo send agent after agent into prison camps. Olson tries hard to talk about the invaluable intelligence on U-boats and V-2 rockets provided by the Alliance network, but Fourcade had to face a litany of failure on almost a daily basis, in a life spent on the run. On the other hand, it seems nothing short of amazing in the 21st century that the RAF could fly small planes into occupied territory, not merely for parachute drops, but to pick up and drop off agents on uncharted airfields. Radar chains existed in WWII, to be sure, but there was not the constant surveillance of every square inch of the Earth's surface that we take for granted these days, and MI6 and the RAF could get away with a lot of actions directly within the Nazi empire. The brief and tragic final section of this book describes how key agents who had been captured by the Nazis were moved from prison camp to prison camp in the final months of the war, and we see indirectly through mass firing-squad executions the kinds of indescribable horrors visited upon the Jews. This points to a primary crime of both Germans in uniform and German civilians in those final months of the war: When it is obvious you are going to lose, you wave a white flag and learn to act in a craven fashion. If you double down and execute more of your enemy and threaten a scorched-earth strategy, you multiply your own war crimes exponentially. In that final race to Berlin, many Germans hoped that Patton could get out of his redoubt and make better progress heading east, because they hated to think of what could happen to them if the Red Army got there first. Let's be honest - by early 1945, German soldiers and German citizens deserved everything the Red Army could dish out. Olson closes her book by hinting that Alliance is often neglected because its members were seen as conservative, or at least not the kind of "good radicals" involved in networks like Rote Kapelle. It is true that the Alliance leadership was filled with conservatives and aristocrats like Leon Faye, Georges Loustaunau-Lacau, and Fourcade herself, but the foot soldiers often were radical maquis from small villages. Alliance only was snubbed in postwar years because the French Communists considered anyone who was not a member of the Communist Party to be a rightist. Thankfully, Olson's fascinating book does a lot to correct the record.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    When you think of the French Resistance movement in World War II, images of spies, individuals blowing up bridges, and committing other subversive acts to help defeat Nazi Germany come to mind. The woman who was the head of the Alliance, the most famous French resistance organization, probably does not come to mind. Madame Fourcade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler will definitely change that! This marvelous book chronicles Madame Fourcade's When you think of the French Resistance movement in World War II, images of spies, individuals blowing up bridges, and committing other subversive acts to help defeat Nazi Germany come to mind. The woman who was the head of the Alliance, the most famous French resistance organization, probably does not come to mind. Madame Fourcade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler will definitely change that! This marvelous book chronicles Madame Fourcade's involvement in the Alliance from the beginning of the war until its end and beyond. Author Lynne Olson does provide some background information at the beginning of the book which helps to answer the important questions of why and how Madame Fourcade, also know as Marie-Madeleine, was asked to take on this important role. Throughout the pages, the reader is introduced to many individuals with whom Marie Madeleine interacted with during the course of the war. The large number of individuals mentioned throughout the book demonstrate the vastness of the Alliance and how involved the French citizens were in the war. While reading of the numerous spies, readers will rejoice at their victories and weep for those who were caught. While reading I had to frequently remind myself that the events portrayed were true and not fiction. Marie-Madeleine's life, and those of the other spies you meet in these pages, is a wonderful reminder that people are much stronger than we think and will rise to the challenge set before them. Madame Fourcade's Secret War is recommended for a variety of readers. Anyone who enjoys reading and studying World War II will want to add to their shelf. Anyone who enjoy spy stories will want to read this as well. If you are seeking the story of a remarkable but little know woman, Madame Fourcade's Secret War fits the description. I had not encountered author Lynne Olson's works previously but will be seeking out her other works which primarily focus on World War II. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the book Madame Fourcade's Secret War via NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    This may be the best non-fiction book I have read. Madame Fourcade became the leader of the largest resistance movement in France (World War II) as a women in early 30s, estranged husband and three kids. She made it her mission to provide M16 with quality intelligence and protect her agents as much as she could. I am amazed at the sheer number of 'ordinary' people who risked everything to defy the Nazis. From the artist who biked along the coast with his son to provide the map used for D-Day, Mo This may be the best non-fiction book I have read. Madame Fourcade became the leader of the largest resistance movement in France (World War II) as a women in early 30s, estranged husband and three kids. She made it her mission to provide M16 with quality intelligence and protect her agents as much as she could. I am amazed at the sheer number of 'ordinary' people who risked everything to defy the Nazis. From the artist who biked along the coast with his son to provide the map used for D-Day, Morris Code to land and take off planes in under 10 minutes etc..The traitors along the way would never deter them from what was their victory. Fourcade was denied any recognition (because she wouldn't pick a side politically--De Gualle is vengeful), but she lived the rest of her life remembering the agents lost to the cause.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Gorham

    This book was disappointing. All of the blogs I read advertised it as historical fiction. Being unfamiliar with Lynne Olson's prior works, I didn't know that characterization was inaccurate. This is most definitely nonfiction. While the subject of the book has a captivating story and an interesting life, it wasn't really what I was looking to read at the moment. For a work of nonfiction, kudos to the author for making it is more like a story that a dry recounting of the facts. I received a copy This book was disappointing. All of the blogs I read advertised it as historical fiction. Being unfamiliar with Lynne Olson's prior works, I didn't know that characterization was inaccurate. This is most definitely nonfiction. While the subject of the book has a captivating story and an interesting life, it wasn't really what I was looking to read at the moment. For a work of nonfiction, kudos to the author for making it is more like a story that a dry recounting of the facts. I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in return for an honest review.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I loved this book and couldn’t put it down! Great writing, captivating story, and a compelling heroine. Wonderful piece of non fiction!

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