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Madame Fourcade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  4,214 ratings  ·  679 reviews
The dramatic true story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade--codename Hedgehog--the woman who headed the largest spy network in occupied France during World War II, from the New York Times bestselling author of Citizens of London and Those Angry Days.

In 1941, a thirty-one-year-old Frenchwoman born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamour became the leader of a vast Resist
Kindle Edition, 464 pages
Published March 5th 2019 by Random House
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Susan K. Hawkins Possibly it will be made into a movie, but this book only came out in March, 2019, so it's a bit soon to say. The Alliance network being led by a woma…morePossibly it will be made into a movie, but this book only came out in March, 2019, so it's a bit soon to say. The Alliance network being led by a woman wasn't widely publicized in France at the time, nor were their massive and result-changing intelligence accomplishments because of political divisions and misogyny. (less)
Joanne According to Amazon not yet. Hardcover, kindle and audio.

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Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a fascinating woman! In a time when women barely held jobs, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade ran the largest espionage ring in France during WWII.

Olson does a fabulous job of giving you the background of the country that led to their poor showing when Germany invaded. I had no idea of the political turmoil France was dealing with. In fact, I learned more from this book about international politics leading up to the war than I ever knew before. Olson also provides the necessary background on the Vic
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
5+ stars
Marie Madeleine was a 31 year old mother of two when she led the largest French spy network during the Nazi occupation. Alliance, the name of the network, provided crucial intelligence to Britain's M16. Described by a colleague as "the pivot around which everything turns. She has the memory of an elephant, the cleverness of a fox, the guile of a serpent, the perseverance of a mole, and the fierceness of a panther." Although hundreds of Alliance ag
Madame Fourcade’s Secret War

Incredible. I am stunned, and staring still. . . .all of the unnamed, undiscussed, unwritten, unknown victims, bullies, heroes in that war. There are no words.

Halfway through I wanted to stop thinking about it. To honor all, I continued.

I hope we were all worth it. I’m glad for the chance to read, to know of this great effort. A victory that must have felt an awful lot like a failure some days.

If you haven’t read this, and you are at all inclined, you should.

5 stars.
Deborah J. Nobles
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I continue to be amazed at how much there is discover about the resilience and courage of ordinary people. Those who took an active part in gathering and sharing information about the Germans during World War II were so fearless and bold. They were not willing to stand by and let evil flourish. Madame Fourcade defied all stereotypes to lead an organization that was vital to the Allies in their campaigns to defeat the Third Reich. She was a true patriot in every sense of the word. This is a great ...more
Mal Warwick
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
She led the largest French Resistance network against the Nazis for nearly five years. Three thousand agents answered to her, and they delivered intelligence to the British that helped the Allies win the war. Yet she has been virtually forgotten for decades, her courage and resourcefulness ignored by Charles De Gaulle and the French Communist Party, the dominant political forces in France for decades. Because she wasn’t politically allied with either. And because she was a woman. Now a new biogr ...more
Rebecca Wilson
Mar 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: histories, american, war, spy
This is such an important story — that of average people who reach the limits of what they find to be acceptable and undertake extraordinary tasks to put a stop to it. I am fascinated by the boundary-crossing that causes civilians to say, "I will likely be tortured or killed for what I'm about to do, but I believe in my cause so strongly that it's a risk I'm willing to take."

The French Resistance was microscopic compared to the partisan guerrilla groups in many countries occupied by the Nazis,
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Madame Fourcarde's Secret War is the story of a brave woman. I've noticed a trend of the stories about amazing women doing dangerous activities during WWII finally being told. This Parisian woman ran an underground network to help the allied forces. She was incredible. Her story is well written and researched. It's a great read, especially if you love historical fiction. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed the heavily researched and greatly detailed story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the leader of the vast French Resistance organization, Alliance from 1941 until the end of the war. Her recruitment and implementation of wartime espionage was largely forgotten or dismissed while men received accolades for their heroism. The stories of how the individual members fared is both astonishing and heartbreaking.
Won this book on a goodreads giveaway so thank you to Random House for the book in excha
Donna Davis
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: history buffs and feminists.
“The memory of an elephant, the cleverness of a fox, the guile of a serpent, and the fierceness of a panther.”

Marie-Madeleine Fourcaude ran the largest spy network in France during World War II. Charismatic, organized, intelligent and completely fearless, she was possessed of such obvious leadership skills that even very traditional Frenchmen (and a few Brits as well) came to recognize and respect her authority and ability. I had never heard of her before this galley became available; thanks to
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is an important addition to the literature about the resistance in France in WW2, such as the books written by M.R.D. Foot, because it highlights a network and its leader who were largely written out of the history because a) the network was founded by a former Vichy official (Navarre), and b) because its primary leader after Navarre's capture was a woman, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade. This is not Lynne Olson's writing at it's best, but if you are interested in the subject of the clandesti ...more
Alex Givant
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs, audio
Fascinating story about brave men and women from French resistance.
Pam Walter
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wwii, history-france
Alliance, the largest and most effective French underground resistance network of WWII was headed and effectively run by a woman, a practice absolutely unheard of in 1940. That woman was Marie-Madelain Fourcade. Her code name was Hedgehog: a tough little animal, unthreatening in appearance, that, as a colleague of hers put it, “even a lion would hesitate to bite.”

Marie-Madelain set up a spiderweb of an alliance network recruiting agents, who then recruited agents. Alliance soon covered France, g
May 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Astounding! Full of twists and turns that I didn’t expect, and even more incredible that they were all true events. Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was a force to be reckoned with, and I found myself smiling over the fact no one suspected her to be leading a vast spy network simply because she was a woman.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s written like a spy novel and will have you flipping through pages wondering who is going to make it out alive. Will Fourcade survive 9 hours stuffed int
Michelle Grant
Mar 14, 2019 rated it liked it
A very well written book. However, most likely due to my timing, was just too much of a fact-to-fact within a sentence-to-sentence movement through events. In my opinion the book read like a time-line with explanations.
I will have to admit that I am also currently reading Eric Larson's "In the Garden of Beasts" and I just completed Lilac Girls both of which have similar topics and I am very much enjoying. So, my timing may have been off with this one. Consensus would lean towards this being an e
Otis Chandler
Jul 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fascinating book about the French resistance and WWII and how hard they struggled, constantly getting caught and then rebooting the network. Marie-Madeleine was an impressive woman - the number of times she had to show grit to keep the network alive when it seemed dead, not seeing her kids much at all for 4 years, losing her lover to the gestapo. Sounded hard for the Germans to control a country where almost everyone is willing to be a spy.

I got a real sense for the "two Frances" - the Vichy/Pet
This is the biography of a fascinating woman, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, who under the code name Hérisson (Hedgehog) ran Alliance, the largest and most successful intelligence gathering network in France during the Second World War. Not only was she the only female spy-master in Europe between 1941 and 1945, she managed to escape the Gestapo, smuggle herself across the French-Spanish border in a mailbag, help secure information vital to the D-Day landings—and did all this while managing the pain ...more
Fredrick Danysh
The few works that explore the Resistance Movement in France during World War II tend to ignore the intelligence gathering movements and women. Madame Fourcade was the leader of the largest anti-German intelligence gathering organization in France. The author does an excellent job of telling her story. A good read for those wanting a better picture of World War II against the Germans. This was a free review copy through
Jan 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: incredible-women
Well-researched and well-told, this is a fascinating story about a woman doing the seemingly impossible in a world that refused to take her seriously because of her sex.

I could have done without the continual references to Foucade's beauty--let's just leave the value judgments about women's looks behind, yes? Or at least let's leave it in the realm of subjectivity. No matter how she looked, it isn't surprising that a bunch of hotheaded men would find her attractive (while simultaneously wearing
Imagine running the largest spy organization in Vichy France - setting up safe houses and networks, negotiating the tensions between de Gaulle's Free French and the anti-Gaullist General Giraud, helping to spirit spies and messengers from France to England in the dead of night on dangerous Lysander plane trips. Never staying in one "safe" location for too long; never knowing who has your back and who might stab you in the back.

Now, imagine doing all of that as a woman, a mother of two young chil
Bruce Katz
Feb 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A very solid 4.5. I have read and immensely enjoyed many of Ms Olson’s books — some are among my favorite works of popular history — but this one takes the reader in a very different direction. In sharing the experiences of Mme Fourcade and the resistance group she led in World War Two, Olson has written a book that comes as close to being a thriller as a history book can come. She captures the personalities of the major figures, the terrible risks that faced them everyday, the hair’s breadth es ...more
Sep 30, 2019 rated it did not like it
I feel bad leaving a negative review of a book about a female resistance fighter but WOW, this was drier than a triscuit. I really almost couldn’t believe how slow and boring it was considering the subject matter. I kept thinking about what exactly was wrong - the biggest offending factor - and I think it’s that the book totally misses tying any of this resistance work into the larger context of the war and shares literally zero outcomes of any of their / Madame Foucade’s resistance efforts. So ...more
An amazing and remarkable story expertly written. Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was the only woman to lead a large and complex French resistance network during WWII from 1941 through 1945 and the liberation of France. A young mother living a life of privilege in high society Paris, she ran in social circles with the well-connected with whom she would discuss the issues of the day which at that time of course included the threat of Nazi Germany's aggression in Europe. Madame Fourcade was in many ways ...more
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An astounding story!

All I can say is Shame! Shame! Shame! Why has there been no over-the-top acknowledgment of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade? This woman masterminded the biggest spy ring across the length and breadth of occupied France during World War II. She controlled thousands of agents. Yet shockingly, no bright light has shone on her stupendous achievements and sacrifice for her country.
Hopefully Olson's novel will begin to rectify that.
Olson's research is outstanding. Her adherence to comple
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recommend, history
Wow! I was riveted by the true story of this woman and the spy network she created in occupied France.
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I cannot adequately express the feelings of elation, fear, pain, suspense, and incredulity that ran through me as I read this riveting, true-life account of the brave women and men that risked their lives spying in occupied France during World War II. Thank you, Lynne Olson, for introducing so many of us to Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the woman who headed this largest of spy networks.
I couldn't help wondering, had I been in their shoes, would I have had the courage to put my life at risk not know
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing all senses.
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Before it could be joined, resistance had to be invented.”

This is the amazing story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the leader of the French resistance network known as the Alliance during World War II. She is an unsung hero, whose story of courage, determination, and duty should have been plastered all over our history books. Instead she and her network of over 1000 spies have been largely forgotten....until now.

Fourcade was a force to be reckoned with. Even before the war she was a doer. She kn
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
This was super fascinating! I had a little trouble getting into it at the beginning and while I liked having the pronunciation aid of the audiobook (for all the French and German names/places), I think I would've been better off reading this in print, as I had a difficult time keeping track of the many people. But once I got oriented and the introductory portions were over, I found myself riveted. I love the plethora of work coming out now about women's contributions in WWII and other eras of hi ...more
Feb 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Loved this book. The story of the woman who led an underground network in WWII France is a real page-turner. Her exploits are amazing--and her accomplishments were critical to the outcome of the war. It is fascinating. I recommended to a several friends--some were not as into it as I, but if you like history, and especially want to read about brave women who put their lives on the line for what they believe, this may be a book you will love as much as I did.

Because of her politics (opposing DeGa
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book offers a great history level about French resistance during WW II. There are many works of historical fiction about this work that are popular right now, but this offers the true story. As I worked through this text, I confronted the great atrocities of the Germans during WW II. Also I was reminded of the politics within Vichy France and the rivalry between de Gaulle and Giraud. I'd compare Olson's work to that of Erik Larson as she cleverly weaves together the stories of the Alliance ...more
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Lynne Olson is a New York Times bestselling author of eight books of history, most of which deal in some way with World War II and Britain's crucial role in that conflict. Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has called her "our era's foremost chronicler of World War II politics and diplomacy."
Lynne's latest book, Madame Fourcade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's

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“When Pétain had announced the armistice terms to the French people, he told them that a “new spirit of sacrifice” was needed. In order to recover from the anguish of defeat, he declared, France must undergo a complete transformation of its society, adhering to the conservative spirit of his government’s new motto—Travail, famille, patrie—rather than to France’s national motto since the French Revolution—Liberté, égalité, fraternité. Obedience to authority and devotion to work, he made clear, must replace the idea of freedom and equality. There must be a return to tradition, to working the land, and to so-called family values, which in his and Vichy’s eyes meant accepting men as the unquestioned authority figures of the family and viewing women solely through the prism of motherhood and caregiving.” 1 likes
“Many years after the war, an American journalist asked Jeannie Rousseau, one of Marie-Madeleine’s operatives, why she had risked her life to join Alliance. “I don’t understand the question,” replied Rousseau, who was responsible for one of the greatest Allied intelligence coups of the war. “It was a moral obligation to do what you are capable of doing. It was a must. How could you not do it?” 1 likes
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