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Martin's Must Reads: Code Name Hélène

“February 29, 1944. I have gone by many names.Some of them are real - but most are carefully constructed personas to get me through checkpoints and across borders. They are lies scribbled on forged travel documents. Typed neatly in government files, Splashed across wanted posters. My identity is an ever-shifting thing that adapts to the need at hand. Tonight, I am Helene.”

I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and those are the opening lines to Ariel Lawhon’s historical novel Code Name Hélène. Hélène’s real name is Nancy Grace August Wake but over the course of several years helping the French resistance she is also known as Madame Andree the fighter, Lucien Carlier the smuggler, Hélène the spy and the White Mouse the target.

This novel is based on the real freedom fighter Nancy Wake, an Australian who married a Frenchman and fought tirelessly for her adopted country. Lawhon says in her notes that she wrote this story because she had never heard of a woman who left her husband to go off to not only fight a war but to lead a group of men and kill a Nazi with her bare hands.

Nancy’s first missions are to deliver fake identity papers to Jews desperate to escape occupied France and then to rescue another freedom fighter from a concentration camp. Finally she’s chosen to lead a group of men to help get needed supplies to those fighting to defeat the Germans and to destroy German supplies and access routes. The Germans become determined to capture the White Mouse and torture her husband to learn her whereabouts.

If you’re interested in reading an historical novel, based on a brave woman’s life, then you must read Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon.

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