Codename Madeleine by Arthur J Magida

Pub Date: 10 July 2020
publisher; W. W. Norton & Company

Codename Madeleine by Arthur J. Magida is a historical non-fiction biography of female WWII radio operative Noor Inayat Khan. From her privileged childhood living in a Sufi commune in Paris, Noor is described as a prodigious child, gifted at literature, music, and close to her father, and is schooled in the Islamic teachings of (peaceful Islamic mysticism) Sufi. Her father, Inayat khan is a Gandhi-Esque musician, (and descendent of Indian royalty) who tours Europe and America throughout her childhood and early adulthood. At her father's death, Europe collapses into war, and although it's never quite explained, the creatively gifted Noor trains to be a radio operative and code breaker for England’s war effort.

Recruited by the Secret Services to be a code-breaking spy, Noor is soon the only SOE (special operations executive) operative working for England and based in Paris. Flitting from secret hideouts, brazen liaisons with the enemy, secret messages to England, and illicit dispatches soon follow. Due to her (at times) insufficient spy skills, Noor is soon secretly tracked by the Gestapo and captured. In fairness, this is largely due to being double-crossed by an acquaintance, but still, the book does little to dismiss the suggestion that her spy skills weren't exactly top-notch. After a botched escape attempt, Noor is then shipped off to a POW camp in the depths of Nazi Germany. Noor was eventually executed at the infamous Dachau concentration camp in 1944 alongside 3 other females.

Arthur J Madiga writes a fascinating tale of intrigue, espionage, botched spy rings, & heinous war crimes. At the centre of it all, Noor’s story is told with great care, historical fact, and is undoubtedly a homage to her work as a spy who's work was directly linked to the success of the D-Day landings, and it's surprising that Noor isn't more well known within the UK’s national conscience.

Having featured in a recent episode of BBC SCI-FI series DOCTOR WHO, I knew the name but didn't know her story. Arthur J Magida’s superb account of Noor’s life is a compelling read, at times sketchy, but as historical novels go, I rather enjoyed it. I feel that we all should know a little bit more about this war hero! An excellent read. 8/10