Courage, love and sacrifice: Nancy Wake in fact and fiction

"Nancy Wake was a truly remarkable individual whose selfless valour and tenacity will never be forgotten."

Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard

If you are familiar with World War II history, you must know of Nancy Wake, a New Zealand-born and Australia-raised heroine who helped with the French Resistance. You will also find Julia Gillard’s remark makes sense. Not only did Nancy’s courage and strengths contribute to the military force, but also inspired literatury works that bring the legendary figure to life.

Ariel Lawhon's, opens a new window recently-published book entitled Code Name Hélène, opens a new window is such a work, reminding us of Nancy Wake and her contributions. This book is structured with alternating narratives under four names Wake used during World War II. It tells about her pre-war life including the romantic story between her and her husband Henri Fiocca and her leadership in, and contribution to, the French Resistance. This page-turning book incorporates wonderful details with fantastic dialogues that bring characters to life and allow readers to be fully immersed in the historical period. From the first page, I was attracted by the exceptional main character who has multi-faceted qualities of self-assertiveness, wit, charm, independence, and bravery. The dual storylines beautifully weave together the thrilling spy life, the enduring love, the charismatic leadership, and the emotionally-stirring sacrifice. This novel is a must-read for fans of historical and romance fiction.

The author’s note at the end of the book is also interesting to read. Lawhon’s explanation of how she became to know of Nancy Wake and decided to write about her is engaging. Her note on what is real and what is fictitious in this novel readily attracts readers to more books and resources related to Nancy Wake and others alike.

Liberation, opens a new window written by Imogen Robertson under the pseudonym Imogen Kealy is another recently-published novel based on the true story of Nancy Wake. Peter FitzSimons, opens a new window' biography entitled Nancy Wake: A biography of our greatest ward heroine, opens a new window, Russell Braddon's, opens a new window Nancy Wake: SOE's greatest heroine, opens a new window, and Nancy Wake's autobiography The White Mouse, opens a new window are a good combination of titles to learn more about the heroine as a historical figue. FitzSimons' work is a typical biography presenting facts and describing Nancy Wake's whole life from birth to death. Braddon's work focuses on Wake's involvement in the French Resistance and includes more dialogue and plots. Readers will enjoy Wake's autobiography as the first person narratives tell what Wake thinks and why she takes an action in a certain circumstance. If you are a movie lover, you will enjoy Nancy Wake: Gestapos Most Wanted, opens a new window and Nancy Wake, opens a new window

If you want to read more, Charlotte Gray, opens a new window by Sebastian Faulks is a novel inspired by the story of Nancy Wake although I find that the main character of this novel has a very different personality from Nancy Wake. You may also be captured by the following works on war heroines like Nancy Wake which have been published in the past few years.

Where to find similar literature? Works under the subject heading of women spies, opens a new window are your choices if you have become a fan of such types of novels and biographies. As Ariel says in the author's note of Code Name Hélène, opens a new window, “if you choose to keep reading … don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

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