Madame Fourcade's Secret War

Madame Fourcade's Secret War

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

Book - 2019 | First edition.
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * The little-known true story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the woman who headed the largest spy network in occupied France during World War II, from the bestselling author of Citizens of London and Last Hope Island

"Brava to Lynne Olson for a biography that should challenge any outdated assumptions about who deserves to be called a hero."-- The Washington Post (One of the Best Books of the Year)


In 1941 a thirty-one-year-old Frenchwoman, a young mother born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamour, became the leader of a vast intelligence organization--the only woman to serve as a chef de résistance during the war. Strong-willed, independent, and a lifelong rebel against her country's conservative, patriarchal society, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was temperamentally made for the job. Her group's name was Alliance, but the Gestapo dubbed it Noah's Ark because its agents used the names of animals as their aliases. The name Marie-Madeleine chose for herself was Hedgehog: a tough little animal, unthreatening in appearance, that, as a colleague of hers put it, "even a lion would hesitate to bite."

No other French spy network lasted as long or supplied as much crucial intelligence--including providing American and British military commanders with a 55-foot-long map of the beaches and roads on which the Allies would land on D-Day--as Alliance. The Gestapo pursued them relentlessly, capturing, torturing, and executing hundreds of its three thousand agents, including Fourcade's own lover and many of her key spies. Although Fourcade, the mother of two young children, moved her headquarters every few weeks, constantly changing her hair color, clothing, and identity, she was captured twice by the Nazis. Both times she managed to escape--once by slipping naked through the bars of her jail cell--and continued to hold her network together even as it repeatedly threatened to crumble around her.

Now, in this dramatic account of the war that split France in two and forced its people to live side by side with their hated German occupiers, Lynne Olson tells the fascinating story of a woman who stood up for her nation, her fellow citizens, and herself.

"Fast-paced and impressively researched . . . Olson writes with verve and a historian's authority. . . . With this gripping tale, Lynne Olson pays [Marie-Madeleine Fourcade] what history has so far denied her. France, slow to confront the stain of Vichy, would do well to finally honor a fighter most of us would want in our foxhole."-- The New York Times Book Review
Publisher: New York : Random House, [2019]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2019
ISBN: 9780812994766
Branch Call Number: 940.548644 FOURC -O
Characteristics: xxiv, 428 pages : illustrations, map ; 25 cm


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JCLBetM Oct 03, 2019

I'm so glad I read this--I was shocked, awed, inspired, and brought to tears--but wanted to like the writing more. The information was fascinating and the writing fine but Fourcade and her agents did so much it's a somewhat overwhelming barrage of details and escapades. This would make an excellent Ken Burns documentary.

Jul 29, 2019

After reading this account of the Alliance spy network in France I have revised my opinion of De Gaulle and his part in history. What a fraud! Well documented and written I highly recommend as a needed addition to all the history books about the Second World War. This fills in a lot of gaps in French history during that time.

mazinwhistler Apr 29, 2019

This is a must read for anyone who is interested in WW2 history, particularly anything to do with women and resistance networks during this period. After reading a few fictional books about WW2 resistance networks (The Alice Network and The Nightingale - both also excellent reads!) I came across this non-fiction title about probably the most effective resistance network during the war. Officially known as 'Alliance' but dubbed 'Noah's Ark' by the Germans as the code names for agents were animals. this group was led by Marie-Madeline Fourcade. What a fascinating woman, who in an era where women were expected to do not much more than be lady, marry and produce children, Madame Fourcade and her Alliance network played a fundamental role during the war. A fabulous read - Olson is great writer which makes this a hard book on to put down!

Mar 25, 2019

This book falls under the category of "Can't put it down" A very enlightening look at one of the Resistance networks in WWII France.

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