I am an avid eclectic reader.
This is a true story of Alexander Dumas's father, a General in the French Army during the French Revolution. General Alex Dumas was born in Saint Dominique (Haiti) of a black slave woman and a white French Marquis. The book does discuss some of the history of Haiti. I recently read a book "Island Beneath The Sea" by Isabel Allende that covers the history of the island. If this story of Dumas interest you at all the Allende book will also be informative. I found the information about equality during the revolution interesting, the blacks found freedom in France while the U.S. and England still were slave traders. Dumas goes from commanding 53,000 men to secure the Alps for France to Egypt to being imprisoned in Naples. His story is the bases of all the stories written by his son. I was fascinated by tales of his imprisonment and the medical treatment he received. If you are interested in history you also will find this a must read book. Tome Reiss did a great job documenting the story and Paul Michael did a good job narrating the book.
“Nancy Wake: A Biography of our Greatest War Heroine” by Peter FitzSimons was published in 2010. FitzSimons is an Australian journalist. Nancy Wake was the most decorated women from World War II. FitzSimons’ well-paced and compelling biography is well-documented. FitzSimons drew his research from earlier biographies such as Russell Braddon’s “Nancy Wake: the Story of a Very Brave Woman” published in 1956 and Wake’s autobiography “The White Mouse” published in 1985. FitzSimons also had many interviews with Nancy Wake as well as fellow agents, resistance fighters and Colonel Buckmaster. Buckmaster was head of the British Special operations (BSO).
Wake was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1912. The book covers her early childhood in New Zealand and Australia. After she finished school she moved to England where she learned to be a journalist. She obtained a job as a European correspondent for the Hearst Newspaper and was stationed in Paris. In the 1930’s she witnessed the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi movement. She reports seeing roving Nazi gangs beat Jewish men and women in the streets of Vienna.
In 1937 Wake married wealthy French industrialist Henri Edmond Fiocca (1898-1943). They were living in Marseille, France when Germany invaded. Nancy became a courier for the French Resistance, then help set up the escape network to help escaping allied soldiers and Jews. The Gestapo called her “The White Mouse”. She became the most wanted person by the Gestapo with a reward for her capture. She had to escape to Britain herself where she was recruited by Colonel Buckmaster. She was trained by the British Special Operations and parachuted into Auvergne, France in 1944. She led over 7000 Maquis, equipping them with the latest arms from England, training them and leading them on assigned (BSO) attacks against the Germans. At the end of the war Wake learned her husband was tortured and killed by the Gestapo because he would not reveal her whereabouts.
FitzSimons’ narrative authentically captures the tone and atmosphere of Wake’s hazardous life. He breathtakingly describes her escapades against the Germans. Wake died in a Veterans home in England on 7 August 2011. For those of you who read German, I understand German author Michael Jurgs wrote a biography of Wake called “Nancy Wake and her fight against the Gestapo in France”. It was published October 2012. Stephanie Daniels did a good job narrating the book and pronouncing all the French names. If you are interested in history and women in war you will enjoy this book.
I was fascinated how Albright weaved the story of her family into telling the history of Czechoslovakia from 1918 to the 1950's. As a child of a Czech diplomat she could watch history unfold around her and see and talk to the people involved. The book tells of her family(Jewish) who died in the prison camp of Terezin. With this background I bet Albright is a great teacher. You can feel her sense of obligation to the people who lived and died from 1937 to 1948 in her story and her drive to prevent this from happening again. I understand her drive to prevent the ethnic cleansing in the form Yugoslavia while she was Secretary of State. This is a must read book for anyone wanting to understand the values of their great grandparents and their grandparents. We should never forget the two wars (WW1 & WW2) that the world fought to bring us to what we have today.
I had never heard of Nancy Wake prior to listening to this book. She is a true hero. This book is well written and almost perfectly read. I found it very difficult to stop. If this book had been a novel, you might have said "right, who makes this stuff up?" I loved the whole story, from Nancy's time in America and England to her carefree life in Paris. The writing gave the real feel of the Paris streets, the parties and Nancy's step by step change from free spirited wife to resistance fighter. I find it very interesting to read about ordinary people who find themselves in circumstances that bring out extraordinary responses. To see a young woman (not that different from me) who becomes a leader of the French Maquis (thousands of them in fact), and is recognized as having such a great impact on their success is amazing. WWII is full of stories of those who rose to the occasion and did the right thing. What happened after the war was sad in it's anticlimactic return to "normal" life.
Not great literature, but an inspiring read.