Code Name: Lise by Larry Loftis

Posted August 27, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

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Code Name: Lise

Code Name: Lise

by Larry Loftis

Publisher: Gallery Books on January 15, 2019
Genre: Biography, History, Non-Fiction
Target Age Group: Adult
Rating: ★★★½

Check out this book on Goodreads

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.

 

Being American, I knew nothing about Odette Sansom until I went hunting for books about female spies during WWI and WWII.  Although initially intended as a research project for a WIP, what this instead has done is introduce me to some brave women who, in popular knowledge, have fallen through the cracks.  I wonder how many more like Odette have disappeared through the cracks in history.

As a biography, I feel that Code Name: Lise was only partially successful.  Although Odette Sansom is the title character and subject of this biography, I felt more of the book told Peter Churchill’s POV.  Now, I know with non-fiction this can be tricky, because you’re limited to your source materials.  The end of this book gave me the impression that talking about Sansom and Churchill, particularly Sansom, has been a bit controversial.  They end of this book outlined some scandals and outcries about validity, so between the secretive nature of the work as well as PR needs, it possible that without Churchill’s POV, Loftis just didn’t have enough content to write a full book about Sansom by herself.

It’s still an interesting story, don’t get me wrong.  But I feel a bit misled about the subject.

If you approach Code Name: Lise as more of a historic snapshot of a love story between two people in a war, that happen to also be part of a small spy outfit, well then!  This book will be exactly what you expect.

I thought the way Loftis wrote this book made it very accessible.  For non-fiction, this reads a bit more like a novel, making it very easy to ingest.  I think that those who shy away from non-fiction due to its typical dry nature will enjoy Code Name: Lise, from a stylistic perspective.

Content-wise, other than the love story and the espionage experience (and, really, Odette was a courier, so no sabotage)… it’s important to know that there are scenes in this book that take place at concentration camps.  Trigger warnings for torture, including starvation.  While it’s not very graphic, the existence of these things is delivered in a straightforward way and is disturbing.  While it doesn’t verge on what I’ve read in other Holocaust books, the camps still make up the second half of the book, and I don’t ant anyone to stumble upon them unawares.

Overall this book was fine.  I was content listening to it, and there were moments earlier in the book that I found very impressive, but eventually everything mushed together.  Peter’s story took over, and by the end, my interest waned.

Ratings Breakdown

Writing: ★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★
Sources: ★★★
Detail: ★★★
Delivery: ★★ 1/2
Subject: ★★★★
Narrator: ★★ 1/2
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★ 1/2

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Have you heard of Odette Sansom before?  Do you know of any books about lady spies that you’d recommend reading?  Let me know of them in the comments!

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