I must confess, I cannot ‘review’ the incredible biography of Nancy Wake, written in 1956 by Russell Braddon. The writing itself is nothing out of the ordinary, but it is the story that it tells that truly brings this book into its own. For that reason, I cannot write a criticism of it as a piece literature, as it is not a novel but an account of a remarkable, brave, and inspiring woman. It is something that has to be read to be believed, and even after you have closed its cover, you will wonder how on earth a woman, who was less than 30years old by the end of World War Two, managed such feats.
Nancy Wake (or Fiocca, as was her married name) was a young Australian woman, married to a wealthy Frenchman. When the war began, she was in her early 20s, living a luxurious and carefree life. With the rise of Hitler, Nancy’s logical response was to help soldiers and others fleeing the Nazis. Over the course of the war, Nancy took charge of 7,500 members of the Maquis, the name given to French Resistance guerillas. Defying her status, and femininity, she did whatever it took to fight the Germans – on one occasion she cycled over 500miles in search of a radio operator.
With formidable strength, determination, and a constant optimism, Nancy Wake is undoubtedly one of the Special Operations Executive’s finest agents, constantly surprising the men she worked with, whilst never losing her cheeky nature and amicable charm. The book speaks for itself – it tells her story as was recounted by friends, family, and indeed her own recollections, and is a phenomenal story of courage. This summer marks one year since the death of this inspirational woman, and her story should always be remembered. If you want to read something compelling, emotional, and exhilarating, I definitely recommend Nancy Wake: SOE’s Greatest Heroine. It is not just a history book – it is a tale of outstanding human determination.