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Madame Fourcade's Secret War

The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler
Narrated by: Kimberly Farr
Length: 16 hrs and 9 mins
5 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

New York Times best seller

The little-known true story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the woman who headed the largest spy network in occupied France during World War II, from the best-selling author of Citizens of London and Last Hope Island

"Brava to Lynne Olson for a biography that should challenge any outdated assumptions about who deserves to be called a hero." (The Washington Post)

Named one of the Best Books of the Year by NPR and The Washington Post

In 1941 a 31-year-old Frenchwoman, a young mother born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamour, became the leader of a vast intelligence organization - the only woman to serve as a chef de résistance during the war. Strong-willed, independent, and a lifelong rebel against her country’s conservative, patriarchal society, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was temperamentally made for the job. Her group’s name was Alliance, but the Gestapo dubbed it Noah’s Ark because its agents used the names of animals as their aliases. The name Marie-Madeleine chose for herself was Hedgehog: a tough little animal, unthreatening in appearance, that, as a colleague of hers put it, "even a lion would hesitate to bite."

No other French spy network lasted as long or supplied as much crucial intelligence - including providing American and British military commanders with a 55-foot-long map of the beaches and roads on which the Allies would land on D-Day - as Alliance. The Gestapo pursued them relentlessly, capturing, torturing, and executing hundreds of its 3,000 agents, including Fourcade’s own lover and many of her key spies. Although Fourcade, the mother of two young children, moved her headquarters every few weeks, constantly changing her hair color, clothing, and identity, she was captured twice by the Nazis. Both times she managed to escape - once by slipping naked through the bars of her jail cell - and continued to hold her network together even as it repeatedly threatened to crumble around her. 

Now, in this dramatic account of the war that split France in two and forced its people to live side by side with their hated German occupiers, Lynne Olson tells the fascinating story of a woman who stood up for her nation, her fellow citizens, and herself.

"Fast-paced and impressively researched.... Olson writes with verve and a historian’s authority.... With this gripping tale, Lynne Olson pays [Marie-Madeleine Fourcade] what history has so far denied her. France, slow to confront the stain of Vichy, would do well to finally honor a fighter most of us would want in our foxhole." (The New York Times Book Review)

©2019 Lynne Olson (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"In Madame Fourcade’s Secret War, Lynne Olson tells one of the great stories of the French Resistance, a story of one woman’s courage amid great danger, a story of heroism, defiance, and, ultimately, victory." (Alan Furst, author of A Hero of France)

 

"Lynne Olson has added yet another brilliant chapter to her vital historical project: documenting the extraordinary efforts of individuals, such as spymaster Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, who helped liberate twentieth-century Europe from Nazi occupation. Much like Madame Fourcade herself, Olson goes to great lengths to unearth truth and preserve dignity for those who lived and died during Hitler’s reign of terror - and for that, both the author and her daring subject deserve high praise." (Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright)

"The organizational genius of Fourcade shines through tales of her cat-and-mouse game with the Gestapo, including multiple daring escapes from Nazi captivity. As well researched and engrossing as her previous books, showcasing her adroit ability to weave personal narratives, political intrigue, and wartime developments to tell a riveting story, Olson's latest is highly recommended to readers interested in World War II, the history of espionage, women's history, and European history." (Library Journal starred review)

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What listeners say about Madame Fourcade's Secret War

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  • LJH
  • 07-03-2019

Marvelous book, inappropriate narrator

I am a great fan of Lynne Olson's "Citizens of London" and "Last Hope Island". Therefore, I pre-ordered the Audible version of "Mme Fourcade's Secret War" and couldn't wait to be expertly transported back to WWII France. Tragically, Kimberly Farr massacres every word of French and German, be it someone's name or the name of a place. Her American accent is harsh and each time she pronounces a word in French or German it is seriously cringeworthy. I can't imagine why Lynne Olsen and Audible permitted such damage to a wonderfully researched, beautifully written and important book. I sincerely hope that this message can be passed on and perhaps prevent similar travesties to excellent works of history and literature.

59 people found this helpful

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  • Nancy E. Smith
  • 05-04-2019

Excellent story

Poor pronunciation of French names and places detracted from an otherwise excellent performance by Ms Farr.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Margaret
  • 17-03-2019

Interesting story ruined by narrator

When narrating a story in English it is very distracting to use such a heavy French pronunciation of the names and locations. I found it so distracting and difficult to follow that I had to rewind and relisten to chapters several times to figure out what the heck was going on where and with whom. I am tempted to buy the paperback at Costco and return the audiobook because the story of this woman and her group needs to be known.

32 people found this helpful

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  • Mary A.
  • 26-04-2019

Always listen to the offered sample before buying

As a teacher, it goes against my grain to be harshly critical of anyone making an honest effort to succeed.
But, if I am to give an honest review of this audiobook, I must.
An excellent reader may make a book more interesting than it really is, but I doubt it. A poor reader can ruin any book.
Some readers don’t read the book, they act it. This is the unfortunate case here. I think, with a good reader, this book would have been a success.
As it was, I tried three times to listen to it , but simply could not take more than about 30 minutes total, listened to at intervals, hoping each time that I had been wrong.
So, my conclusion is that for a successful audiobook, the book and the reader are equally responsible for its success.
This is the first audiobook in my library that I have not given rave reviews, and I have listened to at least 30.

17 people found this helpful

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  • P. D.
  • 25-05-2019

Interesting history spoiled by poor narration

This is a descriptive history of one unit of the French resistance during WWII. I found the material interesting, though perhaps oversimplified, but had to give up on the audio because of the wretched, excessively slow narration. The reader tries to give dramatic intensity to the narrative even when none is called for. Her French accent, erratically applied, is somewhere between a gargle and a snarl. But I liked the book enough to put a hold on it at my library so I can finish it.

6 people found this helpful

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  • david hart
  • 12-04-2019

What a story!

I'm mainly writing to disagree with the reviewer who dissed the French pronunciation of the narrator. In my view (hearing) the narrator does a fine job with the French words and names. I am a life-long speaker of French and traveler to France and find Farr's pronunciation fine. It is not native, but it's perfectly good. Viva la France!

4 people found this helpful

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  • David
  • 02-04-2019

Great story

This is an unusually interesting story of people, places and events, pleasantly enhanced with French dressing. There are times when the narrator emphasizes certain words for dramatic effect that takes me away from the story to criticizing her performance for sounding like reading, rather than like storytelling.

3 people found this helpful

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  • R.S.
  • 17-03-2019

Homage to a Heroine

Madame Fourcade’s Secret War is a compelling story of the heroism of the many members and leaders of the Alliance, an intelligence network which acted with MI6 in its arduous resistance to the Nazi Occupation of France. The honoring of women such as Madame Fourcade and Jeannie Rouseau whose contribution to victory was enormous is an objective of the book which is convincingly achieved. I couldn’t stop listening. It is no Hollywood tale, as it profiles the lives of many heroic agents who suffered needlessly tragic fates after capture. I haven’t listened to other books read by Kimberly Farr, but in my opinion the reading was excellent.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Scott
  • 06-01-2020

A story worth knowing

I’m so happy that I didn’t believe all the negative reviews about the reader performance - this is an enjoyable listen. Since I’m not familiar with the French language, I was not bothered at all by the reading or pronunciations. Instead, the performance sounded appropriate to me and gave the writing the right amount of emotion. Listen to the sample and decide for yourself.
The story is well presented and covers a lot of characters, geography, and information in a compelling narrative. Definitely recommended.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Formerly Fast
  • 05-04-2019

How to cheapen a great historical event and story

How do you make the heroic French resistance movement of WWII dull and boring? Well, this book manages to do that. Sophomoric prose made worse by ham-handed, amateurish narration. This regrettable book turns an important history into melodrama. To be avoided.

5 people found this helpful

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  • james stewart orr
  • 26-03-2019

Gripping

Even if you think you know it all about WW2, this book makes you realise how much these people sacrificed and the fear they lived with as well as how brave they all were. They end of the book is particularly poignant.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 25-03-2020

heroism beyond doubt

WW2 heroism and bravery. Totally dedicated to her and her fellow agent's cause. fantastic reading of a story rarely told.