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Paris, 1940. A woman in a red hat and a black fur coat hurries down a side-street. She is Mathilde Carré, codenamed 'the cat', known as Agent Victoire. She is a charismatic spy; her story is one of resistance and survival.
These are the darkest days for France, half occupied by Nazi Germany, half run by the collaborationist Vichy regime; and dark days for Britain - isolated and under threat of invasion.
Mathilde and her Polish conspirator, Roman Czerniawski, have risked torture and execution to build the first Allied intelligence network in Occupied France. With no training and little support, they have in a few months developed a huge system of agents. Their coded weekly reports are London's sole lifeline of reliable information. Mathilde is determined to be her nation's saviour, and what the partners build is central to Intelligence and Resistance efforts. It will become the first great spy network of the Second World War.
But when the Germans inevitably close in, Mathilde makes a fateful compromise. She enters a hall of mirrors where every allegiance is doubtful, every action liable to be held against her. Nobody is certain who she is or whom she works for - her German handler, MI5, or SOE, who succeed in exfiltrating her on a fast boat to London. Is she a double agent - and, if so, can she be trusted to turn again?
Victoire is the story of an inspirational and multi-faceted hero: a passionate, courageous spy but one also fragile and desperate to belong. She embodies the moral complexity of Occupation, and the bargaining between high ideals and dirty reality.
Drawing on a wide range of first-hand sources, including recently declassified material, Roland Philipps has written a dazzling tale of audacity, complicity and the choices made in wartime.
© Roland Philipps 2021 (P) Penguin Audio 2021
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
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
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