Book Review

Book Review: Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: Historical Fiction
Length: 464 pages
Author: Ariel Lawhon
Publisher: Doubleday Books
Release Date: March 31st. 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

This book is based on the life of 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. Lawhon throws readers into the middle of the action, as Nancy, under the alias Hélène, prepares to parachute from an RAF plane into France to help the Resistance in 1944, carrying in her head memorized lists of vital data, including bridges targeted for destruction and safe house addresses. After she lands, the story flashes back eight years, as Nancy struggles for respect and recognition as a journalist; despite her firsthand observations of Nazi brutality in 1930s Vienna, her editor is reluctant to publish a story about what she’s seen. Frequent jumps in time draw out the arc of Wake’s remarkable life; despite her statement early on that women’s weapons of warfare were limited to “silk stockings and red lipstick,” by the end she’s proven herself skillful at physical combat as well.

I’M CRYING.

Oh, I have found another book to make me cry and hug it to my chest upon closing. I loved this one that much.

Nancy Wake is a flippin’ bada**. I loved the way she was portrayed in this historical fiction version of her life. It was magnificent. Her ability to stay brave and courageous in the face of such horrid evil.

I love the converging timelines and how this kept me on my toes. It’s some tiny word/big page writing, and yet I never felt like it dragged. Ever. The absolutely beautiful writing combined Nancy’s story with dialogue and descriptions of the French countryside. It was truly a new tale for historical fiction in the World War 2 sub-genre. I know it’s often said that there are too many WW2 books, but this one proved that all wrong.

Nancy’s romance with Henri was, EVERYTHING. Oh my goodness I love him so much. I was smitten with his love and devotion to Nancy (and hers with him). I love a beautiful portrayal of marriage. They never gave up on each other and I couldn’t help but cry at the ending of the war.

This is without a doubt one of my new favorites in historical fiction. I loved getting to read the author’s note at the ending about the real Nancy Wake and I want to learn more about her and her missions. What a powerful woman.

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical Fiction [WW2]
  • Language: some strong throughout (often in French)
  • Romance: kisses; one fade out closed door scene
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: this is a book about war; a lot of violence and murder; mentions of rape, horrendous war crimes (descriptive and intense)

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