Book Review Code Name Helene

Code name Helene by Ariel Lawhon

About the book

A rollercoaster ride full of danger and intrigue based on the extraordinary true story of Australia’s most beloved war heroine, Nancy Wake, now optioned for a television series starring Elizabeth Debicki.

In 1936 intrepid young Australian journalist Nancy Wake is living in Paris after witnessing firsthand the terror of Hitler’s rise in Europe, firing her resolve to join the fight to defeat the Nazis. When Nancy falls in love with a handsome French industrialist, no sooner has she become Mrs Henri Fiocca than the Germans invade and Nancy adopts another name, a codename – the first of many.

As the elusive Lucienne Carlier she smuggles people across borders and earns the nickname ‘The White Mouse’, along with a five million franc bounty on her head courtesy of the Gestapo. Forced to flee France for England, Nancy is trained by an elite espionage group under the codename Hélène. Finally, with mission in hand, she is airdropped back into France as the deadly Madame Andrée.

But the closer to liberation France gets, the more exposed Nancy – and the people she loves – will become.

Based on the true story of a woman who saved countless lives, Code Name Hélène is a thrilling tale of unfaltering courage, remarkable sacrifice – and love.


This novel is based on the life and exploits of Australian woman Nancy Wake during WW11. It is a long, well written and researched book beginning with Nancy leaving home at sixteen and finding work in France before the outbreak of the war in Europe. She develops a hatred of the German army even before war is declared. This story is a combination of adventure, suspense and romance about a remarkable woman who was possessed of great courage and capability.

Most of us enjoyed reading her story but found the alternating chapters being set in different time frames confusing to follow and this detracted from our reading experience. For several of us, this was the first time we had read of Nancy’s contribution to the war effort and we enjoyed reading it as historical fiction. 6.5/10

Read by Dundas Readers