The Daring Young Woman Who Led the Largest French Spy Network Against Hitler
A New York Times Bestseller
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From the New York Times bestselling author of Citizens of London and Last Hope Island comes the dramatic, little-known story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamor, who headed the largest and most influential spy network in occupied France during World War II.
In 1941, a thirty-one-year-old Frenchwoman and mother of two became leader of a vast Resistance intelligence organization – the only woman to emerge 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: unthreatening in appearance, yet a tough little animal that, as a friend 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, showing every German gun emplacement, fortification, and beach obstacle along the Normandy coast. The Gestapo pursued Fourcade and Alliance relentlessly, capturing, torturing, and executing hundreds of her three thousand agents. Although Fourcade moved her headquarters every few weeks, constantly changing her hair color, clothing, and identity, she was captured twice by the Nazis. Both times she escaped, 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.
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 riveting story of a woman who stood up for her nation, her fellow citizens, and herself.
Reviews for Madame Fourcade’s Secret War
“At the end of World War II, the triumphant Gen. Charles de Gaulle designated 1,038 people as resistance heroes. Only six of those heroes were women, and Fourcade, who ran the longest-running spy network, was not among them. In “Madame Fourcade’s Secret War,” her fast-paced and impressively researched account, Lynne Olson corrects that historical injustice. Marie-Madeleine Fourcade emerges as a vivid and pivotal player in the French Resistance.”
—The New York Times Book Review | Read full review
“Olson honors Fourcade’s fight for freedom and her ‘refusal to be silenced’ with a gripping narrative that will thrill WWII history buffs.”
—Publishers Weekly | Read full review
“An engaging, informative addition to World War II history.”
—Kirkus Review | Read full review
Advance praise for Madame Fourcade’s Secret War
“One of the great stories of the French Resistance…of one woman’s courage amid great danger, of heroism, defiance, and, ultimately, victory.”
—Alan Furst, author of A Hero of France
“A heroine who seems to come tailor-made for the movie screen— beautiful, rich, effortlessly elegant, and an absolutely indomitable spy for the ages.”
—Elizabeth Letts, New York Times bestselling author of The Perfect Horse
Published by Random House
hardcover / 464 pages