By Siân Rees
In May 1943, a young Frenchwoman called Lucie Aubrac engineered the escape of her husband, Raymond, from the clutches of Klaus Barbie, the feared Gestapo chief later known as the "Butcher of Lyon." When Raymond was arrested again that June, Lucie mounted a second astonishing rescue, ambushing the prison van that was transporting him. As a founding member and leader of the important French Resistance group Liberation-Sud, Lucie served as a courier, arms carrier, and saboteur who engineered these and other escape plans on behalf of her husband and other Resistance fighters.Spirited out of France with Raymond by the RAF, Lucie arrived in London a heroine. For the postwar generation the couple embodied the spirit of "the real France": the one that resisted, and eventually expelled the Nazis. However, in 1983, Kalus Barbie made the bombshell claim that the Aubracs had become informers in 1943, betraying their comrades. The French press and the couple themselves furiously denounced this as slander, but as worrying inconsistencies were spotted in Lucie's story, doubts emerged that have never quite gone away. Who was Lucie Aubrac? What did she really do in 1943? And was she truly the spirit of la vraie France, or a woman who could not resist casting herself as a heroine? Siân Rees's penetrating, even-handed account draws from letters, newspaper articles, and other archival materials, as well as several interviews, to decipher the truth behind Lucie and her husband's wartime endeavors and near fall from grace. It offers a thrilling portrait of a brave, resourceful woman who went to extraordinary lengths for love and country.