The little-known true story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the woman who headed the largest spy network in occupied France during World War II, from the bestselling author of Citizens of London and Last Hope Island
 
In 1941 a thirty-one-year-old Frenchwoman, a young mother born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamour, became the leader of a vast intelligence organization—the only woman to serve as a chef de résistance during the war. Strong-willed, independent, and a lifelong rebel against her country’s conservative, patriarchal society, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was temperamentally made for the job. Her group’s name was Alliance, but the Gestapo dubbed it Noah’s Ark because its agents used the names of animals as their aliases. The name Marie-Madeleine chose for herself was Hedgehog: a tough little animal, unthreatening in appearance, that, as a colleague of hers put it, “even a lion would hesitate to bite.”

No other French spy network lasted as long or supplied as much crucial intelligence—including providing American and British military commanders with a 55-foot-long map of the beaches and roads on which the Allies would land on D-Day—as Alliance. The Gestapo pursued them relentlessly, capturing, torturing, and executing hundreds of its three thousand agents, including Fourcade’s own lover and many of her key spies. Although Fourcade, the mother of two young children, moved her headquarters every few weeks, constantly changing her hair color, clothing, and identity, she was captured twice by the Nazis. Both times she managed to escape—once by slipping naked through the bars of her jail cell—and continued to hold her network together even as it repeatedly threatened to crumble around her.

Now, in this dramatic account of the war that split France in two and forced its people to live side by side with their hated German occupiers, Lynne Olson tells the fascinating story of a woman who stood up for her nation, her fellow citizens, and herself.

Advance praise for Madame Fourcade’s Secret War

“In Madame Fourcade’s Secret War, Lynne Olson tells one of the great stories of the French Resistance, a story of one woman’s courage amid great danger, a story of heroism, defiance, and, ultimately, victory.”—Alan Furst, author of A Hero in France
“In Madame Fourcade’s Secret War, Lynne Olson tells one of the great stories of the French Resistance, a story of one woman’s courage amid great danger, a story of heroism, defiance, and, ultimately, victory.”—Alan Furst, author of A Hero in France
 
“Lynne Olson is at the top of her game, giving us the renowned beauty and elite French socialite Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, who surprised everyone—including herself, perhaps—by becoming one of the most consequential players in the high-stakes spy game in Nazi-occupied France. Fourcade’s nerve, resolve, and extraordinary inner resources shine and inspire here. . . . A fascinating portrait of uncommon audacity.”—Paula McLain, author of Love and Ruin and The Paris Wife
 
“If Lynne Olson had set out to write a novel, she could not have come up with a more fascinating character than Marie-Madeleine Fourcade. This is a case where fact is far more riveting than fiction. Olson chronicles Fourcade’s extraordinary story with her customary eye for every revealing detail and every breathtakingly dangerous twist.”—Andrew Nagorski, author of Hitlerland
 
“In the real-life character of Madame Fourcade, Lynne Olson has found a heroine who seems to come tailor-made for the movie screen: She is beautiful, rich, effortlessly elegant, and an absolutely indomitable spy for the ages. Olson’s clear, unadorned writing style and her meticulous marshaling of facts will keep you on the edge of your seat. For all of us who have wondered what we would do in a time of crisis, Olson holds up Madame Fourcade and her relentless fight for the French Resistance as a model of how to fight back when faced with unthinkable evil. . . . Fascinating and timely.”—Elizabeth Letts, author of The Perfect Horse

“I read this extraordinary book with wonder and admiration, seeing a movie on every page. The canvas is vast, the characters vibrant, the history we thought we knew suddenly as fresh as tomorrow.”—Jay Cocks, screenwriter, The Age of Innocence and Gangs of New York