Author: Imogen Kealey
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Sphere/Hachette Australia
Published: 31st March 2020
Synopsis: The must-read thriller inspired by the true story of Nancy Wake, the most decorated servicewoman of the Second World War, soon to be a major blockbuster film.
To the Allies she was a fearless freedom fighter, special operations super spy, a woman ahead of her time. To the Gestapo she was a ghost, a shadow, the most wanted person in the world with a five-million Franc bounty on her head.
Her name was Nancy Wake.
Now, for the first time, the roots of her legend are told in a thriller about one woman’s incredible quest to save the man she loves, turn the tide of the war, and take brutal revenge on those who have wronged her.
Nancy Wake is one of the most well-known women of the Second World War. This novel covers her time spent in France and England during the final years of World War Two but touches on her life before. The author notes that they had moved a few events around for narrative purposes – which in some ways make sense, as movies based on true stories have done that before so they can work within production and storytelling constraints presented to them.
Nancy was born in New Zealand, but spent much of her life in Australia, leaving home at sixteen. She married Frenchman Henri Fiocca and acted as a spy with the Allies known as The White Mouse by the Germans.
In this novel she is working for the SOE – the Special Operations Executive – as she did in real life, doing what she can to change the course of the war, and stop the Germans marching across Europe and spreading Nazism. Her actions will eventually help bring an end to the war, but at great human cost.
This novel, whilst set during history and using historical figures, is definitely more fictional – as one expects with historical novels. However, when using real people, the proper research should be done, as I think it was here, and care must be taken, lest people who knew them find something contentious. So I’ll be reviewing this in a storytelling light.
First, it did have the basic facts right, and that’s crucial in this sort of story because it grounds the narrative and characters for the reader. Secondly, the tension is so well done, it felt like I was there at times, fighting alongside Nancy. Her character as it is presented here will be interesting to compare to her autobiography, and other sources about her. I haven’t come across many other sources – and will be reading her autobiography at some point, but with the lack of resources, or at least sources that only have certain information, it is easy to understand why some things were made up. It ensured that the narrative flowed and that any facts were carefully worked in, so that information could be delivered alongside the storyline in a way that allowed both to flow evenly.
The author lists the sources consulted at the end of the book – mainly Nancy’s book, and some books on the SOE. These would give insight into how the authors melded fact and fiction together to create this book, and story. It is a very intriguing story – and what attracted me to it was that it was about Nancy Wake – an Australian. I’d like to see an Australian author tackle this story – it would bring something unique to it, and Australians writing Australian stories is always a good thing for our history and our arts industry, so that as Australians we can support our creators and share in an identity that is unique in many ways.
Overall, it is an interesting story, with an even more interesting historical background that I want to delve into further, and is a good introduction to Nancy Wake, a figure that should be taught a lot more in schools alongside the male heroes of the wars, as she played a significant role in the war, and in history. She is someone that we should all know.