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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. 5 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. 5 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

    Moonkiszt

    Madame Fourcade’s Secret War Incredible. I am stunned, and staring still. . . .all of the unnamed, undiscussed, unwritten, unknown victims, bullies, heroes in that war. There are no words. Halfway through I wanted to stop thinking about it. To honor all, I continued. I hope we were all worth it. I’m glad for the chance to read, to know of this great effort. A victory that must have felt an awful lot like a failure some days. If you haven’t read this, and you are at all inclined, you should. 5 stars. Madame Fourcade’s Secret War Incredible. I am stunned, and staring still. . . .all of the unnamed, undiscussed, unwritten, unknown victims, bullies, heroes in that war. There are no words. Halfway through I wanted to stop thinking about it. To honor all, I continued. I hope we were all worth it. I’m glad for the chance to read, to know of this great effort. A victory that must have felt an awful lot like a failure some days. If you haven’t read this, and you are at all inclined, you should. 5 stars. Re-readable. Important history. People have died for my opportunity to read, to choose what to read and to choose not to read. Kudos to the authors who tell the tales so we can know what price has been paid for our freedoms.

  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. 5 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 5 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.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Skye

    Enjoyed the heavily researched and greatly detailed story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the leader of the vast French Resistance organization, Alliance from 1941 until the end of the war. Her recruitment and implementation of wartime espionage was largely forgotten or dismissed while men received accolades for their heroism. The stories of how the individual members fared is both astonishing and heartbreaking. Won this book on a goodreads giveaway so thank you to Random House for the book in excha Enjoyed the heavily researched and greatly detailed story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the leader of the vast French Resistance organization, Alliance from 1941 until the end of the war. Her recruitment and implementation of wartime espionage was largely forgotten or dismissed while men received accolades for their heroism. The stories of how the individual members fared is both astonishing and heartbreaking. Won this book on a goodreads giveaway so thank you to Random House for the book in exchange for a fair review.

  9. 5 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Alex Givant

    Fascinating story about brave men and women from French resistance.

  12. 4 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.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Astounding! Full of twists and turns that I didn’t expect, and even more incredible that they were all true events. Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was a force to be reckoned with, and I found myself smiling over the fact no one suspected her to be leading a vast spy network simply because she was a woman. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s written like a spy novel and will have you flipping through pages wondering who is going to make it out alive. Will Fourcade survive 9 hours stuffed int Astounding! Full of twists and turns that I didn’t expect, and even more incredible that they were all true events. Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was a force to be reckoned with, and I found myself smiling over the fact no one suspected her to be leading a vast spy network simply because she was a woman. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s written like a spy novel and will have you flipping through pages wondering who is going to make it out alive. Will Fourcade survive 9 hours stuffed into a mail bag while being smuggled into Spain? Will the Germans discover who she really is? How is she going to break out of prison? But it’s not all about Fourcade, either. Olson details the lives and sacrifices of many other spies within Alliance, and some of them bravely give their lives to ensure the Allies’ success. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to live during this time, and to work under such pressure knowing that the stakes couldn’t be any higher. There are many incredible stories in here, and I’m grateful that Olson has brought these men and women to life once more. See more of my reviews: Blog // Instagram

  14. 5 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.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Otis Chandler

    Fascinating book about the French resistance and WWII and how hard they struggled, constantly getting caught and then rebooting the network. Marie-Madeleine was an impressive woman - the number of times she had to show grit to keep the network alive when it seemed dead, not seeing her kids much at all for 4 years, losing her lover to the gestapo. Sounded hard for the Germans to control a country where almost everyone is willing to be a spy. I got a real sense for the "two Frances" - the Vichy/Pet Fascinating book about the French resistance and WWII and how hard they struggled, constantly getting caught and then rebooting the network. Marie-Madeleine was an impressive woman - the number of times she had to show grit to keep the network alive when it seemed dead, not seeing her kids much at all for 4 years, losing her lover to the gestapo. Sounded hard for the Germans to control a country where almost everyone is willing to be a spy. I got a real sense for the "two Frances" - the Vichy/Petain one, and the DeGaulle/resistance one. I liked this quote: "France must undergo a complete transformation of its society, adhering to the conservative spirit of his government’s new motto—Travail, famille, patrie—rather than to France’s national motto since the French Revolution—Liberté, égalité, fraternité. Obedience to authority and devotion to work, he made clear, must replace the idea of freedom and equality. There must be a return to tradition, to working the land, and to so-called family values, which in his and Vichy’s eyes meant accepting men as the unquestioned authority figures of the family and viewing women solely through the prism of motherhood and caregiving."

  16. 5 out of 5

    Siria

    This is the biography of a fascinating woman, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, who under the code name Hérisson (Hedgehog) ran Alliance, the largest and most successful intelligence gathering network in France during the Second World War. Not only was she the only female spy-master in Europe between 1941 and 1945, she managed to escape the Gestapo, smuggle herself across the French-Spanish border in a mailbag, help secure information vital to the D-Day landings—and did all this while managing the pain This is the biography of a fascinating woman, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, who under the code name Hérisson (Hedgehog) ran Alliance, the largest and most successful intelligence gathering network in France during the Second World War. Not only was she the only female spy-master in Europe between 1941 and 1945, she managed to escape the Gestapo, smuggle herself across the French-Spanish border in a mailbag, help secure information vital to the D-Day landings—and did all this while managing the pain from a disability, falling in love, and giving birth to a child in 1943. There are times when I wished for a little more insight into Fourcade, and some of the digressions into the experiences of other members of her Resistance cell could have been trimmed down a little. Still, Lynn Olson weaves a gripping yarn here, and one which absolutely deserves to be the basis of a mini-series or movie.

  17. 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.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kerry

    Well-researched and well-told, this is a fascinating story about a woman doing the seemingly impossible in a world that refused to take her seriously because of her sex. I could have done without the continual references to Foucade's beauty--let's just leave the value judgments about women's looks behind, yes? Or at least let's leave it in the realm of subjectivity. No matter how she looked, it isn't surprising that a bunch of hotheaded men would find her attractive (while simultaneously wearing Well-researched and well-told, this is a fascinating story about a woman doing the seemingly impossible in a world that refused to take her seriously because of her sex. I could have done without the continual references to Foucade's beauty--let's just leave the value judgments about women's looks behind, yes? Or at least let's leave it in the realm of subjectivity. No matter how she looked, it isn't surprising that a bunch of hotheaded men would find her attractive (while simultaneously wearing their misogyny with pride). Mention of her looks doesn't add to the story at all and is totally irrelevant.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Imagine running the largest spy organization in Vichy France - setting up safe houses and networks, negotiating the tensions between de Gaulle's Free French and the anti-Gaullist General Giraud, helping to spirit spies and messengers from France to England in the dead of night on dangerous Lysander plane trips. Never staying in one "safe" location for too long; never knowing who has your back and who might stab you in the back. Now, imagine doing all of that as a woman, a mother of two young chil Imagine running the largest spy organization in Vichy France - setting up safe houses and networks, negotiating the tensions between de Gaulle's Free French and the anti-Gaullist General Giraud, helping to spirit spies and messengers from France to England in the dead of night on dangerous Lysander plane trips. Never staying in one "safe" location for too long; never knowing who has your back and who might stab you in the back. Now, imagine doing all of that as a woman, a mother of two young children and an infant, in a society where, as author Lynne Olson describes it, "men fought, and women stayed home" (525). Marie-Madeleine Fourcade resisted both the German occupation and the gendered expectations of a military and espionage apparatus designed for and perpetuated by men. That she did so successfully, in a time when the life of a spy in occupied France was reputed to be six months at the most, is a credit to her resourcefulness, daring, and people skills. Even some of her supporters in MI6, while recognizing her talents and success, did so reluctantly. Still, the colleagues she trusted and led knew her worth. In the words of Léon Faye, her dependable lieutenant and the father of her youngest child: "A woman...But not just any woman! She's an indisputable and undisputed leader. Even the English have accepted her" (201). Readers who enjoy espionage fiction and nonfiction alike will be amazed that Marie-Madeleine's story is real, and that she is not more widely known. The scenes depicting her captures and escapes, and those of her Resistance colleagues, are riveting - sometimes by simply talking her way out of the hands of the Gestapo, or waiting until their backs were turned to climb out of a window and make a run for it. Not all went according to plan; she did lose friends and companions, and their stories, and her anxiety for their safety and grief over their losses, are powerfully depicted. Her devotion to a cause greater than herself and her family is heroic - even after the war, when she advocated for remembrance ceremonies, official honors, government pensions, and medical care for Alliance agents, as well as benefits for the families of those who were executed in German hands. As she put it herself in her memoirs, "The connection formed by a threat to one's country is the strongest connection of all. People adopt one another, march together. Only capture or death can tear them apart" (511). Read this fascinating account of her dedication and defiance of societal norms, and be riveted by her exploits and those of her spy network.

  20. 4 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.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Farrah

    I feel bad leaving a negative review of a book about a female resistance fighter but WOW, this was drier than a triscuit. I really almost couldn’t believe how slow and boring it was considering the subject matter. I kept thinking about what exactly was wrong - the biggest offending factor - and I think it’s that the book totally misses tying any of this resistance work into the larger context of the war and shares literally zero outcomes of any of their / Madame Foucade’s resistance efforts. So I feel bad leaving a negative review of a book about a female resistance fighter but WOW, this was drier than a triscuit. I really almost couldn’t believe how slow and boring it was considering the subject matter. I kept thinking about what exactly was wrong - the biggest offending factor - and I think it’s that the book totally misses tying any of this resistance work into the larger context of the war and shares literally zero outcomes of any of their / Madame Foucade’s resistance efforts. So you’re just listening to a list of codes sent and spy plane trips with zero context, in a vacuum. As such, none of it means anything or has any stakes - for the reader. It was very boring and I should have just given up because it’s not short either.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alisa

    An amazing and remarkable story expertly written. Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was the only woman to lead a large and complex French resistance network during WWII from 1941 through 1945 and the liberation of France. A young mother living a life of privilege in high society Paris, she ran in social circles with the well-connected with whom she would discuss the issues of the day which at that time of course included the threat of Nazi Germany's aggression in Europe. Madame Fourcade was in many ways An amazing and remarkable story expertly written. Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was the only woman to lead a large and complex French resistance network during WWII from 1941 through 1945 and the liberation of France. A young mother living a life of privilege in high society Paris, she ran in social circles with the well-connected with whom she would discuss the issues of the day which at that time of course included the threat of Nazi Germany's aggression in Europe. Madame Fourcade was in many ways perfectly suited for the most unlikely path she would eventually take. She was smart, attentive, a detailed thinker, and had a certain disarming beauty and presence. And she was restless, with a burning desire to do what she could to protect France and the French people. Many made the mistake of underestimating her, including some of those in the Alliance network, yet she was able to overcome their skepticism and earn their trust and respect which was essential to running an underground spy network. This book is the detailed story of how Madame Fourcade came to lead a sophisticated resistance network, how she built the network from scratch, rebuilt it in times of loss, and directed a multitude of intelligence gathering activities and information transmission network that put this crucial info in the hands of the Allies. That she did this all without any formal training in intelligence operations was even more remarkable. She relied on logic and instincts, and of course the ability of men and women all over France who were willing contributors. The story is fascinating, complete with fast-paced action, hot pursuits, busted down doors, jail breaks, disguise, and ingenuity. There are heroes, traitors, shrewd operatives, ruthless antagonists, political infighting, and world freedoms at stake. Some of the intelligence supplied by Alliance turned out to be pivotal to insuring success of the Allied forces, including D-Day, and securing the liberation of France. Wow. Madame Fourcade would eventually be recognized many years after the end of WWII. This book brings this incredible story to the forefront. The maps, photos, and selected cast of characters description in the book made for easy reference when things got hard to follow. Very helpful. Everything about this book is five star. Highly recommend. Thanks to Random House for offering up this book through Goodreads giveaway. I offer in return my honest review. Thank you.

  23. 4 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

  24. 4 out of 5

    Katelyn

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

  25. 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.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    Extraordinaire...in all senses.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    “Before it could be joined, resistance had to be invented.” This is the amazing story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the leader of the French resistance network known as the Alliance during World War II. She is an unsung hero, whose story of courage, determination, and duty should have been plastered all over our history books. Instead she and her network of over 1000 spies have been largely forgotten....until now. Fourcade was a force to be reckoned with. Even before the war she was a doer. She kn “Before it could be joined, resistance had to be invented.” This is the amazing story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the leader of the French resistance network known as the Alliance during World War II. She is an unsung hero, whose story of courage, determination, and duty should have been plastered all over our history books. Instead she and her network of over 1000 spies have been largely forgotten....until now. Fourcade was a force to be reckoned with. Even before the war she was a doer. She knew tons of languages, acquired her pilot’s license, ingrained herself in her husbands work with Arab tribes in Morocco, and had a job at the radio station. She was appalled by complacency. I don’t want to spoil all of the Alliance’s contributions but none of it could have happened without Fourcade. Most significant to me was the intelligence she gathered that informed d-day strategy and the intelligence on the v2 rocket. She was a master organizer with incredible instincts. She earned the respect of all those who worked for her and loved her country. She did this all at the time when it was laughable for a man to work for a woman. People often underestimated her but she used this to her advantage. She was smart and tenacious, and would never give up on her people. Patrick and I went on our honeymoon in France and I remember researching to see if there was a tour in Paris that would tell us more about the resistance efforts during WW2. I couldn’t find anything. In hindsight it shouldn’t have surprised me, but at the time it did. France certainly has a lot to be ashamed of, but there is also a lot to be proud of. We should remember both. Ending with a note from the author, “I also wrote it to shine a spotlight on the thousands of agents she led—ordinary men and women who refused to accept the destruction of human values and the dishonor and degradation of their country.”

  28. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    This was super fascinating! I had a little trouble getting into it at the beginning and while I liked having the pronunciation aid of the audiobook (for all the French and German names/places), I think I would've been better off reading this in print, as I had a difficult time keeping track of the many people. But once I got oriented and the introductory portions were over, I found myself riveted. I love the plethora of work coming out now about women's contributions in WWII and other eras of hi This was super fascinating! I had a little trouble getting into it at the beginning and while I liked having the pronunciation aid of the audiobook (for all the French and German names/places), I think I would've been better off reading this in print, as I had a difficult time keeping track of the many people. But once I got oriented and the introductory portions were over, I found myself riveted. I love the plethora of work coming out now about women's contributions in WWII and other eras of history and this is well-written non-fiction (and I loved recognizing certain elements that I'd read about in one of my fave WWII fiction works: Code Name Verity).

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hal

    Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was an amazing individual. A progressive woman who was not willing to sit back and take a submissive role in life. Smart, brave and determined to keep working to free France from the Nazis no matter what the cost to herself. Philippe Pétain was a a different sort of individual, and reminds me of our current President. Petain and his Vinchy government were not looking out for the French people but instead for his own self interests. From the Smithsonian Magazine “Pétain w Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was an amazing individual. A progressive woman who was not willing to sit back and take a submissive role in life. Smart, brave and determined to keep working to free France from the Nazis no matter what the cost to herself. Philippe Pétain was a a different sort of individual, and reminds me of our current President. Petain and his Vinchy government were not looking out for the French people but instead for his own self interests. From the Smithsonian Magazine “Pétain wanted to return to a more conservative mode of life, and to that end there were strong prohibitions against divorce, abortion was made a capital offense, the press was censored, phone calls were monitored and critics of the government were imprisoned.” https://www.smithsonianmag.com/histor...

  30. 4 out of 5

    Penny

    Loved this book. The story of the woman who led an underground network in WWII France is a real page-turner. Her exploits are amazing--and her accomplishments were critical to the outcome of the war. It is fascinating. I recommended to a several friends--some were not as into it as I, but if you like history, and especially want to read about brave women who put their lives on the line for what they believe, this may be a book you will love as much as I did. Because of her politics (opposing DeGa Loved this book. The story of the woman who led an underground network in WWII France is a real page-turner. Her exploits are amazing--and her accomplishments were critical to the outcome of the war. It is fascinating. I recommended to a several friends--some were not as into it as I, but if you like history, and especially want to read about brave women who put their lives on the line for what they believe, this may be a book you will love as much as I did. Because of her politics (opposing DeGaulle in the war), she was never recognized appropriately for her work, but this book chronicles her heroism and the drama of her life.

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