My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“Life takes guts.” Lucille Ball is quoted to have said. If anyone knows anything about this statement it is those who sacrifice their own safety, comfort, and sanity for that of their country. During World War II thousands came together to do just this. Odette Sansom was one of those.
Odette Sansom is anything but average. Her childhood battles are enough to make most weep. She manages to overcome them and make it to adulthood. Her struggles during childhood may have been what gave her the strength to survive the pain she endured during her imprisonment.
1942, Sansom leaves her children behind and joins the SOE. This would have been considered unconventional at the time for a woman to leave her children and go off to war for some. She is anything but conventional. She refuses to sit in the safety of the British countryside while her friends and family struggle in France.
During SOE training, she learns special hand-to-hand combat, parachute, and weapons training. All of which are new and secret training methods at the time. Her training in the SOE mirrors the training of another unit at the time, the 1st Special Service Force Aka the Devil’s Brigade or “The Black Devil’s” as the German’s called them. (a joint unit of Canadian-U. S members, also protected by secret, activated 9 July 1942.) The training was not average by any standard at the time, even for men. For women to go through it and to excel, took guts.
Sansom is sent to France under the command of Captain Peter Churchill. He adds her to his unit when he sees her merit. They fall in love despite her being married. They complete missions in France. She gets captured by Germans and sent to concentration camps where she suffers unimaginable torture at the hands of the Germans. She doesn’t give up.
Her story doesn’t sound believable. How can one person go through so much and survive? Sansom did, but many did not. Her story is an example of one of the many untold stories of men and women who gave up everything during World War II.
In 1950, Herbert Wilcox directed Anna Neagle in the British war film, Odette. Neagle and Wilcox produced it. A title card at the end of the film quotes Sansom.
Code Name: Lise by Larry Loftis is an extraordinary and detailed story of a courageous mother of three who went on to become an SOE agent, a spy, for Britain and France. This is a great read. Thank you to Anabel Jimenez at Gallery Books, Simon & Schuster, and Larry Loftis for the privilege of reading an advanced reader’s copy!