Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon, a novel about real-life WWII heroine Nancy Wake

Lawhon’s magnificent fourth novel dramatizes the valor of a gutsy, real-life woman molded by war, sacrifice, and love.

In February 1944, sporting her trademark red lipstick, Nancy Wake parachutes into the French countryside on a Special Operations Executive mission to organize, fund, arm, and train the Maquis, bands of local resistance fighters, in preparation for D-Day. Back in 1936, with increasing dangers posed by Hitler, Nancy is a determined Australian expat journalist embarking on a tantalizing romance with handsome industrialist Henri Fiocca.

As these separate time lines move forward, they play off one another masterfully, pivoting at just the right moment to augment tension. Lawhon carries us into the heart of the French resistance, with the beautiful Auvergne region covertly transformed into a gritty battleground, and into the mind of a badass heroine with uncanny instincts who takes on the Nazis and men’s arrogant sexism with uncommon bravado.

With her infectious laugh and occasionally profane dialogue, Nancy’s fighting spirit shines through her propulsive narrative, and her comrades-in-arms are well-rendered secondary characters. Her journey to becoming a fierce, powerful leader is as emotionally stirring as her growing bond with Henri. Even long after the last page is turned, this astonishing story of Wake’s accomplishments will hold readers in its grip.

Code Name Hélène will be published next Tuesday by Doubleday in the US. I wrote this starred review for Booklist's 3/15 issue, and it was their review of the day today.

Interested in reading it for yourself?  I have a new, unread ARC I'd be happy to send to another reader (US only).  Please enter via the form below for a chance to win the copy. If you prefer an ebook, I'll gift it to you via Amazon.  Deadline Tuesday March 31.

Update: The giveaway period has ended. Congrats to Tammy S!  Hope you'll enjoy the book, and thanks to everyone who entered.

6 comments:

  1. Nancy Wake is an Australian legend. I definitely need to read this one I think!

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    1. She isn't well known at all in the US. Maybe this novel will help change that.

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  2. This sounds exciting! Our book group just finished up "The Soldier's Wife" by Margaret Leroy - very readable, but it seemed kind of cookie cutter, just more of the same I guess. Reminiscent of the Potato Peel book.

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    1. I haven't read that one - it sounds OK, but fortunately there's a lot to choose from in WWII fiction. I did like the Potato Peel book a lot.

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  3. This sounds like a perfect book for me. I just added it to my Goodreads' Want to Read list.

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