Code Name Helene is the latest historical novel from Ariel Lawhon, the New York Times bestselling author of I Was Anastasia. Based on the thrilling real-life story of socialite spy Nancy Wake, the astonishing woman who killed a Nazi with her bare hands and went on to become one of the most decorated women in WWII, this brilliant page-turner will keep you up well after lights out.
February 29, 1944: I am about to jump out of an aeroplane for the first time … I don’t care that every man is looking at me as though I don’t belong. Besides, I’m hungover. And I think I might throw up …
In 1936 intrepid young Australian journalist Nancy Wake is living in Paris after witnessing firsthand the terror of Hitler’s rise in Europe, firing her resolve to fight against the Nazis. She has bluffed her way into a reporting job for Hearst newspaper and is fighting to cover the disturbing reports of violence coming out of Vienna and Berlin. When Nancy falls in love with handsome French industrialist Henri Fiocca, no sooner has she become Mrs Fiocca than the Germans invade France and Nancy takes yet another name, a codename – the first of many.
As the elusive Lucienne Carlier she smuggles people across borders and earns a new name ‘The White Mouse’ along with a five million franc bounty on her head, courtesy of the Gestapo. Forced to flee France, Nancy is trained by an elite espionage group under the codename Hélène. Finally, with mission in hand, she is airdropped back into France as the deadly Madame Andrée. But the closer to liberation France gets, the more exposed Nancy – and the people she loves – will become.
If I could write a grand historical novel, this would be it. This is an exceptional historical, rising to the top of a genre filled with great reads.
Told in interweaving timelines organized around the four code names Nancy used during the war, Code Name Hélène is a spellbinding and moving story of enduring love, remarkable sacrifice and unfaltering resolve that chronicles the true exploits of a woman who deserves to be a household name. It is a thrilling tale of danger, intrigue, unfaltering courage, remarkable sacrifice – and love. Polished prose, complex and compelling characters, and a love story that will sweep you away.
Code Name Helene is a marvellous read. I was fascinated by Nancy Wake’s story and utterly enthralled by Lawhon’s excellent retelling of it.