This was a great story, full of adventure, drama, intrigue. The main character, Nancy Wake, had a larger-than-life experience. She lived through a period where there were clear delineations of good and evil and she fought for the right because it was the right thing to do and it had to be done.
Such an amazing woman for her time. Her sheer bravery and spirit of mateship and battling for the underdog is so typical of many of Australia's great characters but what made this all the more remarkable is that she was a young, energetic woman who made a stand and fought for what she believed in at huge personal cost. That her story is so largely unknown to mainstream Australia is a shame and deserves to be told. The author wrote with such feminine insight that it was a joy to listen to and he really captured the essence of the gutsy woman that was Nancy Wake. Her end in London was so sad with little recognition from Australia for her truly remarkable war contributions. I hope her recent death reinvigorates interest in her story. She is a national treasure that we should have great pride in.
Mystery reader (especially series) and Austen lover
Peter FitzSimons tells the life story of an extraordinary Australian heroine in Nancy Wake. Nancy Wake grew up poor in Australia after her father abandoned the family about 1915 when Nancy was 2 or 3. At 16 she ran away from the city to the outback and worked as a nurse.
At 18, she inherited a small sum from an aunt and went by ship to New York, where she learned to party, and then on to London, where she became a journalist and continued the party life. While on assignment in Vienna during the 30's, Nancy watched Nazi gangs beating Jews at random in the streets and vowed she would do anything she could to defeat Hitler. In 1939, she married a wealthy Frenchman and lived in Marseilles, living the high life of drinking and parties.
After the fall of France in 1940, Nancy acted as a courier for the Resistance, and also became part of an escape network which helped thousand of Allied troops escape to England. Despite the danger, she continued the work after Marseilles was occupied and became the Gestapo's most wanted person, with a reward of 5 million francs offered. After being arrested and rescued, she escaped to Spain by crossing the Pyrenees mountains on foot.
Back in England Nancy trained with Special Operations and parachuted back into the Auvergne region of France to liaise with the local maquis group. She gained acceptance and respect from the fighting men by drinking them all under the table and then by being braver than all of them. By the end of the war, her maquis group had grown to 7,000 plus, and had a remarkable fighting record.
How can you not like a woman who, while dangling from a tree by her parachute, replies to a Frenchman's remark about the beautiful fruit of the tree, "Don't give me that French s---!"
FitzSimons tells Nancy's story in a somewhat journalistic style. Nancy lived to be 98 and died in 2011, so he had the opportunity to talk with her many times and make it a more personal story than a straight biography. She was a very colorful, down to earth person, and her personal recollections add to the enjoyment of the narrative. Stephanie Daniel does an excellent job of narration.
Fascinating and entertaining.
I'm a country potter, gardener, flute player and tin tinker living with my husband, an electrical engineer & cabinet maker.
I'd never heard of Nancy Wake so all of this was new to me. She did everything she could to fight against the Nazis. Actually, to fight for humanity and against cruelty. It's amazing to think what suffering some people have endured and here we are in America willing to sell freedom for something as ordinary as cash.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
“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.
The amazing Nancy Wake lived life LARGE. But unlike a tale of simple heroics, Peter Fitzsimmons doesn't shy away from the trouble she had reintegrating into a world not at war, how she never felt at home in Australia, her financial worries, her failure at politics and her tumultuous relationship with her mother, amongst other things that made her seem terribly human. I admired her bravery and her cleverness, but I felt for her because of her faults. But she had the last laugh! Well played, Nancy. Recommend.
I have always had a big interest in WWII, but happened to read about Nancy Wake while browsing for history books. What? Who? Huh? This incredible Australian's life reads like fiction, but it's absolutely true. Why did I not learn about her in school?
Nancy may have been able to get down and dirty with the best of them, but what really makes this story unbelievable is that she was a beautiful woman who could play any part necessary to get what she wanted. And what she wanted was justice for the jews and the WWII Allies. Incredible. The author does a great job of telling Nancy's story, including her formative childhood years - always a rebel. The Australian accent sounds spot on to my American ears, but you may want to take that with a grain of salt.
As they said about Margaret Thatcher, she was many times the only man in the room. For why I did not learn about her in school 40 years ago, that's still a mystery, but her story needs to be told. Highly recommended.
Nancy Wake's story is astounding. If this were a fiction book, I might say the character was over the top, but plenty of witnesses have contributed to the claims of this book. Granted, war stories can be exaggerated, but this one rings (mostly) true. Perhaps the most unbelievable point in the story for me was Nancy's transition from an amateur courier to a professional resistance soldier. It seems to happen so easily for her. Don't listen to the appendices unless you want to be let down. Like all of us, Nancy is only human and has her faults. Kudos to the author, however, for not sugar-coating her character.
The flippancy of the writing, and reading, of the book matched the tone very well, overall.
I love books!
I had never heard of Nancy Wake before coming across this story. What an amazing life, though, most of us won't ever come close to it. This wasn't like a thriller that you couldn't put down but it was an enjoyable listen that I blew right through.
Nancy Wake was a woman of extraordinary heroism, and this is a story of a truly fascinating life - at least up to the end of WW2. Her bravery and sheer determination are inspiring. It is interesting and quite sad, however, that the rest of her life seems such an anticlimax after her experiences in the war - reminds me of the David Hare play, "Plenty".
However, this book is like a hagiography - obviously the author loves his subject, but somehow the portrayal of her lacks depth and feels airbrushed. The narrator also lets the overall impact down with a rather stilted delivery, but I think she is doing the best she can with material that is sometimes fairly clunky.