Review: CODE NAME HÉLÈNE by Ariel Lawhon
Also by this author: I Was Anastasia
Published by Doubleday Books on March 31, 2020
Genres: Historical Fiction
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
One of the things I love about reading historical fiction is that I often learn of important historical figures that were previously unknown to me. Such is the case with Ariel Lawhon’s latest novel Code Name Hélène. Set in Europe during World War II, Code Name Hélène follows the adventures of Nancy Wake, an Australian-born socialite who is living in Paris when World War II breaks out. When we first meet Nancy, she is working hard, trying to be taken seriously as a journalist in a man’s world. When the war breaks out, however, Nancy finds her true calling as a spy and ultimately becomes one of the leaders of the French Resistance.
I had never heard of Nancy Wake and was fascinated to learn what a huge part she played during the war. I was also a big fan of the way the author delivers Nancy’s story to us, using several interweaving timelines, one for each of the code names Nancy acquired through her work for the Resistance. We get to see Nancy in action as an oblivious mistress, Lucienne Carlier, as she smuggles documents and people across borders to safety. When the Nazis learn of Nancy and quickly become frustrated by her uncanny ability to evade capture, they nickname her ‘The White Mouse” and put a steep price on her head. Knowing she is in imminent danger, Nancy flees France and begins training with the Special Operations Executive where she earns a new code name, Hélène, and is air dropped back into France with a new mission. As Madam Andre, this final mission is to do whatever it takes to arm the French Resistance and drive the Germans out of France.
I was completely riveted by Nancy’s journey from start to finish. It is fraught with danger and suspense at every turn, and I just found myself more and more inspired by Nancy’s formidable presence and spirit. She’s fearless, brash, resourceful, and has a take-no-prisoners attitude. Working in what could only be described as a man’s world and wearing her signature Chanel red lipstick, Nancy ultimately commands respect from all of those around her, even those who initially refuse to accept the authority of a woman in a war zone. Heck, at one point, she even kills a Nazi with her bare hands!
As awe-inspiring as her career in espionage was, I also loved that the author chose to include a glimpse into Nancy’s personal life as well, most especially her relationship with Henri Fiocca, the love of her life. Watching how the war impacted their relationship was almost as gripping as watching Nancy order men around as a Resistance fighter.
Code Name Hélène is an inspiring story of bravery, resilience, love, and sacrifice. If historical fiction and strong women are your thing, this is a book you want to check out.
I just finished this and loved it!
Wasn’t it amazing? Such an inspiring woman.
I love when historical fiction is based on a real life character. I always find myself Googling more about the person to get more facts. more information. I’ve never head of Nancy Wake but her story (even the fictionalized version) sounds fascinating!
Tanya @ Girl Plus Books recently posted…The Sunday Post #201
She was an amazing woman. I’d love to learn even more about her.
This sounds fascinating! And even more so because it’s based on a real historical person. Awesome review😁
Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy recently posted…TITAN’S DAY by Dan Stout – Review
Thank you. 🙂
You had me at learning about important historical figures that were previously unknown to us! Great review!!
Ali @ Our Book Boyfriends recently posted…#IMWAYR ~ 3/23/20
Thank you! 🙂
Nancy sounds like an incredible person! I’m glad this story introduces us to her.
Me too. It makes me wonder how many more incredible women were out there front and center in the resistance movement that we’ve still not learned about.
I think this sounds like a wonderful read and Nancy sounds amazing and intriguing! Great review.
Jenea’s Book Obsession recently posted…Review for The New Husband by D.J. Palmer
Hist fic and strong women are definitely my favorites and I just love this author’s books! Wonderful review, Suzanne. I need to make sure I read this one.
I love her books too. The one about Anastasia and her family was so good.
I always reading historical fiction just for that reason. There’s so much of history to learn and so many historical figures worth reading and discovering about too. An Australian-born living in Paris at the time? I would be so curious about that! And it sounds like Nancy goes through so much. Thanks for introducing this one to me!
Olivia Roach recently posted…Monstress Volumes 1-3 [Mini Reviews]
Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that she was real — but she absolutely was and every review of this book make me appreciate a new part of her. Wonderful review, Suzanne!
verushka recently posted…#5Books: Book recs and Quantum Leap
She really was such an amazing woman!