Code Name Hélène

A Novel

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Pub Date 31 Mar 2020 | Archive Date Not set

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"This fully animated portrait of Nancy Wake . . . will fascinate readers of World War II history and thrill fans of fierce, brash, independent women, alike."
--LISA WINGATE, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours

BASED ON THE THRILLING REAL-LIFE STORY OF SOCIALITE SPY NANCY WAKE, comes the newest feat of historical fiction from the New York Times bestselling author of I Was Anastasia, featuring the astonishing woman who killed a Nazi with her bare hands and went on to become one of the most decorated women in WWII.

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 1936 and Nancy Wake is an intrepid Australian expat living in Paris who has bluffed her way into a reporting job for Hearst newspaper when she meets the wealthy French industrialist Henri Fiocca. No sooner does Henri sweep Nancy off her feet and convince her to become Mrs. Fiocca than the Germans invade France and she takes yet another name: a code name.
As LUCIENNE CARLIER Nancy smuggles people and documents across the border. Her success and her remarkable ability to evade capture  earns her the nickname THE WHITE MOUSE from the Gestapo. With a five million franc bounty on her head, Nancy is forced to escape France and leave Henri behind. When she enters training with the Special Operations Executives in Britain, her new comrades are instructed to call her HÉLÈNE. And finally, with mission in hand, Nancy is airdropped back into France as the deadly MADAM ANDRÉE, where she claims her place as one of the most powerful leaders in the French Resistance, armed with a ferocious wit, her signature red lipstick, and the ability to summon weapons straight from the Allied Forces.
But no one can protect Nancy if the enemy finds out these four women are one and the same, and the closer to liberation France gets, the more exposed she--and the people she loves--become.
"This fully animated portrait of Nancy Wake . . . will fascinate readers of World War II history and thrill fans of fierce, brash, independent women, alike."
--LISA WINGATE, #1 New York Times ...

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ISBN 9780385544689
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Featured Reviews

A profoundly affecting work of historical fiction based on a real-life WWII heroine. The amazing story of Nancy Wake was new to me, and I can't believe it hasn't been given the Hollywood treatment yet. I was astonished to learn that Wake lived to the age of 98, passing away in 2011.

The novel begins with New Zealand-born, Australian-raised Wake learning Parisienne ways in 1936, and follows her until the end of the war. Her bold style (there are a lot of references to her red lipstick!) and irrepressible personality soon catch the eye of Henri Fiocca, who becomes her devoted husband. She goes off to war and he holds down the home front, but they are both in constant danger. The book follows the four personas she held during the war: Lucienne Carlier, The White Mouse, Hélène, and Madame Andrée.

The author had to pare down what she included in the story, which she explains in a historical note at the end. I look forward to finding a copy of Wake's autobiography, which is now out of print.

Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for a digital ARC for the purpose of an unbiased review.

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There is no shortage of writing around World War II, it makes a rich backdrop. But, sadly there are no truly happy endings in war, so I had taken a long break from this genre -- until Code Name Helene.

The book is based on a true story about Nancy Wake, an Australian expat who worked as a reporter for Hearst in Paris just before WWII and later as a spy for the British. She was alternately known as The White Mouse/Madame Andree, and Helene.

This is the story of the part she played in helping the French Resistance fight the Nazis and meeting the love of her life.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this novel is the alternating timelines. In one timeline, Nancy is beginning her journalism career and building a life in Paris.

In another timeline she is in the thick of the resistance, living with the atrocities of war. Because the plot goes back and forth, just when you are steeped in the horrors the White Mouse is enduring, we slip back into pre-war times for a break. But because we all know how this story comes out the timelines meet when German troops occupy France.

Well written, well researched, well-paced. 5 Stars

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Wow. Just wow. This is my first book by Ariel Lawhon and I was blown away at her gift for bringing history to life. I often tend to read biographies first about people in history simply because I want the facts and their own words and sometimes historical fiction can veer off too heavily into romance - sometimes with characters that never existed in real life which can exasperate me. However Code Name Helene centers on Helene herself and while her marriage is a strong part of it, it enhances rather than detracts from her story and, based on the extremely helpful discussion of what was true and which characters existed in the back, is based in fact.

Covering the work of Nancy Wake, aka Helene in arming and leading the Resistance fighters in France during WWII, Code Name Helene is impossible to put down from the very beginning for its pacing, wonderful character depictions and adventure. Wake lived as a real life spy and heroine and accomplished some superhuman feats in her leadership. She also had an incredibly strong marriage and I love the back and forth in time that plays out in the story, allowing us to see her marriage before she took off and the acceptance of her husband of who she was and what she needed to do.

The depth of character development of Wake done by Lawhon is sheer magic. Helene leaps off the page as a living breathing person that the reader instantly bonds with and feels invested in leading to incredible suspense in all of her story and nail biting encounters. It is just that good. It is hard to get into more of the story without spoilers so I will leave it at that, but if you pick up one book this year - let this be it.

My thanks to Doubleday books from whom I received an ARC of this book on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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I loved Ariel Lawhon last book, so I was really excited to read this one and it did not disappoint!

Code Name Helene is based on the true story of Nancy Wake, a socialite spy in France against the Germans in WW II. This woman was a tough, lipstick wearing, holds no punches, fearless woman that went by many names, but was known as The White Mouse. I love the structure of the book. It starts with Nancy jumping out of an airplane and then you go back to the beginning of her story while the other timeline keeps going.

There was a lot of action in the book, but I also loved that we got to know who Nancy was before she became this kick ass spy. The love story within this book was also very good and it broke my heart. I was not expecting this book to be the best of what makes historical fiction so good, which is that you get so attached to some of the characters in the book and you don't want the story to end. It also made me want to learn more about Nancy Wake and what happened to her after the war.

I can’t recommend this book enough! Loved it!!!!

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Historical fiction that reads like a thriller with romance and a strong female lead? Uh hi yes. Sign me up.
I'll start out by saying that I had no idea Nancy Wake was a real person until about 3/4 through the book and I was mind. blown. I'm disappointed that we don't hear more about Nancy, but I loved learning her story and I am now utterly fascinated by her.

The book is a bit longer than my usual picks, and it's incredibly detailed. While this made it a slower read at times, I think if any amount of detail was omitted, the story wouldn't have quite the same impact. I really felt like I was living this story alongside Nancy throughout the entirety of the book.

I loved the storytelling with dual timelines of pre-mission and post-mission. I generally prefer books that are told from multiple perspectives, and having a dual perspective from Nancy was a fresh take on this. I also really enjoyed reading from Henri's perspective -- this really gave a solid picture of their love, which really is the focal point of the story.

Overall, Code Name Hélène is among my top reads so far for 2020.

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Nancy uses many names and disguises in her work as a spy for the British during WWII. She was born in Australia but spent many prewar years living in Paris. There she met the love of her life. When the war broke out, Nancy ended up undercover as Helene, a young woman who took on the role of commander for part of the French underground. She refused to back down, to let others tell her what to do, to be cowed by the danger from the Germans and also the Frenchmen who posed a threat. This may sound like pure fiction but it is the real story of Nancy Wake, the woman who did lead a faction of the French Resistance. Lawhon has taken the true story of Nancy and created a fictional portrayal of her life.

Not only does Helene (Nancy’s alternate persona), who’s a foreigner, manage to take over control of the French men who were fighting for their own country’s survival, but she outwits their own leaders and the German invaders. Her cunning is striking and stands out as much as the red lipstick she was so fond of wearing. It’s hard to believe that male fighters would listen to a woman, especially one who has just parachuted down from a British plane. One cannot help but be awed by her daring, her tactical instincts, her ability to stand up to threats.

Surrounding Nancy/Helene, are a wonderful cast of male accomplices who show respect for her and follow her orders. Though there are some who dislike her and want to do her harm, the British men she worked with directly, and especially the man she fell in love with, are also remarkable characters. Lovers of historical fiction will be delighted and those who like their female characters, strong and capable, will not be disappointed. Add this to your “must read” list.

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Code Name Helene is the story of Australian expat Nancy Wake who works as a journalist and then a spy for the resistance during WWII.

I’ve been delighted that there recently have been an abundance of books delving into the lives of previously unsung heroic women. Lawton seamlessly weaves together multiple time frames, depicting Wake’s relationship with her husband Henri and her time working against the Nazis. I realize that this is a work of fiction rather than a biography. Nonetheless, Wake’s actions are based on much research and her story is one that was screaming to be told. So much credit is given to the male heroes of WWII but rarely are the women celebrated as much. This heartfelt story successfully accomplishes this with intrigue and poignancy. I applaud Lawton for bringing Nancy Wake to life for readers.

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Through research and Nancy Wake's own biography, Ariel Lawhon has told the adventurous life of the “White Mouse”, as she was named by the Gestapo. As an Aussie expat Nancy living 1930's Paris, Nancy works as a Hearst journalist, albeit without without a byline. During her assignments into Vienna and Berlin, she is stunned by ease with which the Nazi's exert brutality and violence on ordinary people. In 1936 Nancy and Henri Flocca fall in love and marry, only to have Henri mobilized into the French Army. Nancy soon finds herself working for the the Resistance, which leads to her escape from France and to her association with the British SOE. Adventure driven plot (and life) takes the reader from Paris to Marseille to London, and back to the plateaus and forests and of France. The love, passion, and violence every one of the 460 pages either has you loving passionately, or fighting for your life. Like the author's I am Anastacia, plot bounces back and forth in time, between the 1930s and the 1940s, which makes for interesting plotting, one that will keep you on your toes. Have already recommended to others, they loved it.

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Ariel Lawhon has become one of my favorite historical fiction authors, and I think Code Name Helene is her best book yet. Nancy Grace Augustus Wake is fascinating and complicated and fierce; despite the difficult setting of this book (and sad ending!), Nancy was so fun to follow (and I adore Picon). Now that I've finished reading, I feel I have no choice but to buy some red lipstick!

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Nancy Wake went from being a Kiwi journalist in Paris writing mostly for American papers to one of of the most decorated woman in WWII and most wanted by the Gestapo. After witnessing first hand the brutality of the Nazi Party in Vienna in 1936 Nancy decides she will do whatever she can to fight against the evil she has seen. After France falls to Germany she decides to join the British SOE and work with the French Resistance against the Germans. Code Name Helene is a fascinating piece of historical fiction about an amazing woman. The timeline switches between the years before the war and during, with the earlier timeline leading up to, and eventually catching the later time period. This leads to a beautiful blending of the two parts of the story and tells the story of how Nancy came to be who she was. Readers of WWII historical fiction will love Code Name Helene. It explores the life of a truly remarkable woman and a lesser known aspect of the war.

Thank you to Doubleday Books.

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Historical fiction based up on the life of Nancy Ware leans a view of what difference one person came make in the world. Nancy assumes various aliases as she helps French troupes. Her armor is red lipstick which she claims distracts any man and bends them to her will.

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Code Name Helene

By Ariel Lawhon

Suppose you’re young, unattached, and relaxing in Paris with a friend when an attractive member of the opposite sex continues to give you the eye—nothing weird here, just undisguised attraction. Interested?
Add in the time period—1936-1945. Toss in a consuming desire to help the Allied cause prevail and free the nation of France from Nazi domination. Sprinkle with espionage and sabotage in the bocage. I mean, what’s not to like when you’ve got a spy thriller wrapped in a love story, all in the middle of the greatest war the world has ever seen? Code Name Helene is cut from the same mold as The Key to Rebecca, the story that first prompted me to love World War II thrillers.
Helene is just one of the pseudonyms of heroine Nancy Wake, a vivacious young Australian journalist investigating the pre-war enigma of the Third Reich and its underestimated and misunderstood Fuehrer. Under what initially appears as a hard façade, Nancy actually has a softer, more sympathetic side, one with just as many relatable fears and hopes as any human being. Still, however, she can do what has to be done in the kill-or-be-killed world behind German lines
Through shifting time periods, author Ariel Lawhon presents the pre-war Nancy, the wartime Nancy, and other characters who figure large in the story. Occasionally, an anachronistic term crops up, such as worldview or sensory overload, but they are few enough not to be jarring. Also, German Brownshirts have a part even during the last year of the war, although historically they were mostly out of the picture after the late 1930s; however, the real Nancy Wake may have referred to them by that term.
Yes, Nancy was a real person, and her life was just as exciting as in the novel.
I think you’ll enjoy Code Name Helene.

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Code Name Helene is a historical fiction account of a fierce woman who is a leader in the resistance during WWII. This is a well researched story and an intense read. It moved back and forth between the past and the present and it was very engaging.

I highly recommend this book. Thank you for the chance to read this ARC.

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