Shortly after beginning to read Code Name: Lise by Larry Loftis, I had to stop and double check that this was intended to be non-fiction. The writing was engaging, the story briskly paced, and even when giving brief back story of a new individual or situation, there was a consistent narrative thread. And that feeling continued for much of the book, even through the torture Odette Sansom, code name Lise, endured at the hands of the SS.
This is World War II history that reads like a novel and manages to have a personal feel, even when the narrative seems to become split for a time between Odette, her commander Peter Churchill, and the German ‘super spy catcher’ Hugo Bleicher.
In telling the story of the SPINDLE trio – Odette/Lise the courier, Peter the commander, and their radio-man Arnaud – but focusing primarily on Odette, the author shines a light on a compelling aspect of World War II. But in focusing on Odette, he brings into focus a woman who, despite her ‘nettle rash temperament,’ displays the fortitude, determination, loyalty and optimism that made her a survivor.
This is a story of dedication, bravery, love, and survival. And it is an unflinching look at the horrors and atrocities of World War II. Highly recommended to fiction readers who enjoy stories of the second World War. In Lise, you will find a flawed but very real heroine.
Code Name: Lise: The True Story of the Spy Who Became WWII’s Most Highly Decorated Woman by Larry Loftis | Gallery Books, January 2019 | hardback, 384 pages
This review refers to an Advance Uncorrected Proof won through GoodReads, courtesy of the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.
From the publisher:
From internationally bestselling author of the “gripping” (Michael Connelly, #1 New York Times bestselling author) Into the Lion’s Mouth comes the extraordinary true story of Odette Sansom, the British spy who operated in occupied France and fell in love with her commanding officer during World War II—perfect for fans of Unbroken, The Nightingale, and Code Girls.
The year is 1942, and World War II is in full swing. Odette Sansom decides to follow in her war hero father’s footsteps by becoming an SOE agent to aid Britain and her beloved homeland, France. Five failed attempts and one plane crash later, she finally lands in occupied France to begin her mission. It is here that she meets her commanding officer Captain Peter Churchill.
As they successfully complete mission after mission, Peter and Odette fall in love. All the while, they are being hunted by the cunning German secret police sergeant, Hugo Bleicher, who finally succeeds in capturing them. They are sent to Paris’s Fresnes prison, and from there to concentration camps in Germany where they are starved, beaten, and tortured. But in the face of despair, they never give up hope, their love for each other, or the whereabouts of their colleagues.
In Code Name: Lise, Larry Loftis paints a portrait of true courage, patriotism, and love—of two incredibly heroic people who endured unimaginable horrors and degradations. He seamlessly weaves together the touching romance between Odette and Peter and the thrilling cat and mouse game between them and Sergeant Bleicher.