Hello and welcome to the second Someone Picks My Books within the past week! If you are are new to the blog, this is a series where I have other book lovers pick a book for me to read and I give it a try! I love it because I always end up reading books I might not have read otherwise. This month Whitney, who you can find on both twitter as @whitreadslit and over on her blog, whitreadslit.com picked a book for me to read. As someone who loves historical fiction, I was thrilled with her choice!
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 ANDRÉ, 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. –goodreads
What I Liked
This historical fiction novel is both a story of a really awesome woman, but also a love story of sorts as well. I really like this balance that is was not one or the other, but we got two stories working side by side. I would have to say that throughout this book there were times that were lulling a bit, where other times there was so much tension I had to actually get my muscles to relax. This was an interesting thing to be because when I read a book it is usually one or the other. It really shows how this book is almost two stories in one.
I thought the author did a great job when it came to really sharing the characters with the reader. I felt that I really knew their motivations and why they did things. I was really connected to them and was emotionally invested because they were written in such a way that made them feel real. This is especially apparent when exploring Nancy and her husbands relationship, but really apparent throughout. Can I just say here and now that Nancy was just a total badass? Because I can’t think of another word to describe her. She was/is a badass.
What I Didn’t Like
While I really loved exploring the role of Nancy in her relationship as well as her role as being a spy, at times I felt like it was in the way. It was not that I didn’t enjoy these aspects, but I found myself wanting to get through them because I wanted to read more about this very strong female protagonist in the context of her espionage.
Overall, this was a really engaging read. I read it quite quickly because I was sucked into the story when I did pick it up. This surprised be because it is not on the short side with almost 500 pages. Sometimes historical fiction can be long winded and at times I did feel this, it was not a constant in my experience. I felt like this was a very well done historical fiction set against the backdrop of WWII. Not only did it highlight that atrocities, it also showed the story of female spies that helped get many to safety and the dangerous choice that some made to put their own lives at risk to safe the lives of others. With this there is discussion of violence and other dark themes, here is a full list of trigger warnings compiled by Book Trigger Warnings.
The next round of Someone Picks My Books is actually picked by a family member who doesn’t have a blog or anything, but we often talk about books so I thought it would be fun to read a book picked by my cousin! I am really excited about her picked because I have read a book by this author in the past and really enjoyed their style.
Have you read this book before or is it on your TBR?