RESISTANCE, COLLABORATION AND BETRAYAL
Occupied Paris, 1940. A woman in a red hat and a black fur coat hurries down a side-street. She is Mathilde Carre, codenamed ‘the Cat’, later known as Agent Victoire. She is charismatic, daring, and a spy; her story is one of heroism and survival against the odds.
These are the darkest days for France, half-occupied by Nazi Germany, half-governed by the collaborationist Vichy regime; and dark days for Britain, isolated and under threat of invasion. Yet Mathilde is driven by a sense of destiny that she will be her nation’s saviour.
With little training or support, Mathilde and her Polish collaborator, Roman Czerniawski, create a huge web of agents in a matter of weeks to form the first great Allied intelligence network of the Second World War. They risk torture and execution to deliver their coded reports, London’s sole source of reliable information about the Occupation.
But the ‘Big Network’ is threatened at every turn and when the Germans inevitably close in Mathilde makes a desperate compromise. She enters a hall of mirrors in which any bond is doubtful and every action could be fatal. Nobody is certain where her allegiances lie – her German handler, the founder of the Resistance she ensnares and the British who eventually succeed in extracting her on a fast boat all have to make their own calculations. Is she a double, possibly even a triple agent, and, if so, can she be trusted to turn yet again?
Victoire is the story of a passionate, courageous spy but also of a fragile hero, desperate to belong – a portrait of patriotism and survival in momentous times. Drawing on a wide range of new and first-hand material, Roland Philipps has written a dazzling tale of audacity, complicity and the choices made in wartime.
Superb... full of contemporary relevance... Philipps relates the complex narrative of Maclean's treason... with tremendous aplomb, limpidity and acuity (Praise for A Spy Named Orphan) -- William Boyd Brilliantly fluent... fascinating... This biography first grips and then lingers long in the mind. It is a page-turner of the most empathetic kind (Praise for A Spy Named Orphan) -- Rachel Cooke * Guardian * Roland Philipps tells Victoire's story with skill and compassion, and reveals that for all her betrayals, she deserves more understanding than she received in her lifetime -- Artemis Cooper, author of Patrick Leigh Fermor A wonderful, atmospheric book: a miraculous portrait of a flawed human being, and a masterful account of the moral quagmire of wartime France and Britain -- Carmen Callil, author of Bad Faith What a read! What a fascinating character! I was gripped from the first page to the last. A truly astonishing story, meticulously and brilliantly told -- Philippe Sands, author of The Ratline
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