Wednesday, February 06, 2019
World at War: Code Name: Lise
First sentence: Major Guthrie looked again at the photographs.
Premise/plot: The subtitle of this one tells you essentially everything you need to know to decide if this book is for you: "the true story of the woman who became WWII's most highly decorated spy." Since I seek out fiction and nonfiction set during this time, it was enough for me to put the book on hold. Odette, the spy, in some ways was your average person. She was married. Her husband was in active service--can't remember which branch now. She had three kids, three YOUNG kids. True, she was a Frenchwoman living in the UK. True, she knew some parts of France quite well and could speak the language fluently without an English accent. But she certainly never saw herself as spy material. But with a little convincing she said yes to serving her adopted country. After some training and a lot of bad luck in actually getting to France, there she was part of the French Resistance. What could go wrong? Just about everything--though not from day one, mission one. For the most part she was a messenger--carrying secret messages back and forth.
My thoughts: I was disappointed. I think my disappointment has to do with the grand book I was promised in the jacket copy. The jacket copy makes the book out to be a SWEEPING romance, a true love story. Two spies fall madly, deeply, passionately in love while they work side by side for the Resistance. He's her Commanding Officer, Peter Churchill. They're arrested together. Though separated for years, neither can forget their *love*...
The story is well-researched. I won't deny that. It is based on a true story. But I found it less thrilling and less romantic than the jacket copy makes it out to be. I didn't find the man to capture them to be so much "cunning" (according to the jacket copy) as lucky. One of the spies in Peter and Odette's circle or ring was just REALLY stupid, clumsy, gullible, immoral. Odette and Peter were aware of this--that their identities were compromised and they were being pursued--but they reckoned on a few more days of safety. This wasn't so much "thrilling cat and mouse chase" as it was YELL AT THE PEOPLE IN THE BOOK.
As for their time in prison and concentration camps...this does make up the majority of the book. I did find both to be strong and resilient--not easily broken. In fact, there was no breaking.
As I mentioned it's based on a true story....and the two did marry after the war...but they didn't stay married. This was no life-consuming LOVE to last the ages. The author hints that perhaps she cheated on him and they then divorced. She did marry a third husband--in the 1950s, I believe.
© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews