In illuminating and compelling narrative histories including the acclaimed Last Hope Island, Those Angry Days, and Citizens of London, Lynne Olson has deftly explored the multi-faceted political history of the World War II-era. Her new book, Madame Fourcade’s Secret War (Random House, $30), tells the story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade (1909-1989), who in 1941 became the only woman to lead a French Resistance organization. In charge of the Alliance, a vast network of some three thousand spies and secret radio operators, Fourcade was instrumental in procuring some of the war’s most valuable intelligence. The Alliance’s effectiveness drove the Nazis to hunt down its agents relentlessly, and they killed hundreds of members. They captured Fourcade twice—she escaped both times, and survived the war and occupation to become active in French politics. Olson’s dramatic account, which includes a history of the role of the Vichy government, details on just how MI6 used the intelligence the Alliance gathered, and extended the stories of Fourcade’s associates, introduces a brave and unconventional woman who deserves to be better known.
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