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Book review: Nancy Wake by Peter Fitzsimons

Photo: Nancy Wake by Peter Fitzsimons

Photo: Nancy Wake by Peter Fitzsimons

I was delighted when my new friend Pamela sent me this superb biography Nancy Wake: The Inspiring Story of One of the War’s Greatest Heroines.

I’d not heard of Nancy Wake. She is an Australian who became a WW2 heroine in Nazi occupied France. A volunteer. She hated seeing what was going on in France. 

Pamela had mentioned that she couldn’t put the book down and had to read it straight through. I was a bit envious and thought,
“I’d love to have the time to be able to read a book straight through.”

I woke early on Sunday morning, a week ago, and reached for Pamela’s book.  Danny was cooking breakfast so I decided to treat myself to an hour in bed. Within a few pages I was gripped. I ate breakfast with the book propped on the tray and decided to give myself another half hour. As the small plastic clock ticked on with alarming speed I extended the range of my sojourn. 
“I just have to read what happens next. I’m planning to clean out the chickens at one o’clock.”

The small minute hand passed two o’clock and then three o’clock

Danny, happy on his favourite football forum was indulgent.
“The chickens can wait until tomorrow. There is nothing urgent on your list. In fact, unless something is sick or dying, there is nothing pressing on most lists.”

Why should I feel bad about lounging in bed? Three other beings were indulging in a day in bed with hotties and the occasional cuddle. The Min Pins love the warmth and comfort and will happily forego their lists for a day in the human dog basket..

I finally finished the book at five pm and tottered downstairs, heady with so much information, awash with tales of Vichy France and the Maquis, where Nancy Wake really made her mark. I was proud too. Nancy had been trained in the UK.  A real fillip in the present crisis. In times like these we need to read about heroines.

The chores were done later in the week and I didn’t reach for another book for seven days. This was no punishment. I just wanted to fully digest what I had read.

Thank you so much Pamela. This biography is a real inspiration. Like you I just couldn’t put it down. Well written and a true insight into a twentieth century heroine who saved thousands of lives and has never cashed in on her triumphs.

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  1. I agree that Nancy Wake is a fascinating subject, but I just don’t like Peter Fitzsimon’s way of writing. I find it too ”ocker’ and slangy! Russell braddon’s book was better, I think. Most Australians like his books, however.

  2. Hello Fiona, just reached the obituary page in the i newspaper to discover Nancy Wake died earlier this week and feel strangely bereft. Perhaps it was the last sentence of the obituary that did it “After D-Day she learned that her husband had been executed for refusing to give any information regarding her whereabouts”. I don’t recall reading that in the biography. There is a rather splendid photograph of her too, looking quite indomitable. I’m really glad that I read the book while she was still alive so it wasn’t just history. RIP Nancy Wake and thank you.

  3. Anne Newland-Tugwell

    Anne 2010
    I am in a book club and when it was my turn to choose a book for the group to read I chose Nancy Wake by Peter Fitzsimons. I have always been fascinated by the things I’ve heard about the “White Mouse” and wanted to learn more about her life. I am the opposite to Pamela in the above comment. Whereas she could not put it down when she started reading it I do not want to finish it! I have chapter 12 and the Epilogue to read and I am feeling sad that soon it will be all over. I hope my book club also loves this book and sympathises with Nancy. What an extraordinary person. It must be an amazing feeling to know that you helped to change the world. Congratulations to Peter for a truly wonderous read. You made it all seem so real with your writing style. Thank you to you both!

  4. Rachael

    Hi, After reading the biography Nancy Wake, I became fixated in this story of a remarkable women during the war. If you want to continue your knowledge of her, she also wrote a book herself called “The white mouse” which is also fantastic. I read this one while traveling through Marseille. I even tried her favourite drink Pastis! Disgusting

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