The little-known true story of the woman who headed the largest spy network in Vichy France during World War II.
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 Alliance, a vast Resistance organisation — 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.
No other French spy network lasted as long or supplied as much crucial intelligence as Alliance — and as a result, the Gestapo pursued its members relentlessly, capturing, torturing, and executing hundreds of its three thousand agents, including Fourcade’s own lover and many of her key spies. Fourcade herself lived on the run and was captured twice by the Nazis. Both times she managed to escape.
Though so many of her agents died defending their country, Fourcade survived the occupation to become active in post-war French politics. Now, in a 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.
Historian and journalist Olson (Last Hope Island) vivifies the history of the French Resistance during WWII with a brilliant, cinematic biography of resistance leader Marie-Madeleine Fourcade. As Olson recounts, Fourcade was 31 in 1941, a mother of two by her long-estranged husband, wealthy, beautiful, and temperamentally born to lead. She was recruited to the Resistance by Georges Loustaunau-Lacau, who founded the Alliance intelligence network in 1940 and passed leadership to Fourcade in 1941. She organized, recruited, trained, raised funds (principally from England's MI6), hid, changed identities as often as she dyed her hair, and suffered arrest and torture by Nazis. She loved fellow agent L on Faye and bore his son in the middle of WWII, and recorded her experiences, including bonds with fellow spies, in her diary: "The connection formed by a threat to one's country is the strongest connection of all." Olson's weaving of Fourcade's diary artfully and liberally into her own writing and her heart-stopping descriptions of Paris, escapes, and internecine warring create a narrative that's as dramatic as a novel or a film. Olson honors Fourcade's fight for freedom and her "refusal to be silenced" with a gripping narrative that will thrill WWII history buffs. Illus.