2021 Reviews · historical fiction · World War II

Book Review: Liberation by Imogen Kealey

Title: Liberation

Author: Imogen Kealey

Published: March 31st 2020

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Pages: 384

Genres: Fiction, Historical

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 2 stars

The must-read thriller inspired by the true story of Nancy Wake, the most decorated servicewoman of the Second World War, soon to be a major blockbuster film.

Inspired by the incredible true story of the most decorated servicewoman of the second world war.

Nancy Wake was an Australian girl who, aged, 16 ran away from her abusive mother to the other side of the world.

Nancy Wake was a wife who, when her husband was snatched by the Gestapo, fought to be trained by SOE and returned to France to take her revenge.

Nancy Wake was a soldier who led a battalion of 7,000 French Resistance fighters who called her Field Marshall. Who had a 5-million Franc bounty on her head. Who killed a Nazi with her bare hands. Who defeated 22,000 Germans with the loss of only 100 men. Who sold her medals because, “I’ll probably go to hell and they’d melt anyway.”

Discover the roots of her legend in a thriller about one woman’s incredible quest to turn the tide of the war, save the man she loves and take revenge on those who have wronged her.


Master spy, heroine and trailblazer during the war Nancy Wake receives the historical fiction treatment in the first novel by Imogen Kealy. Liberation combines the penmanship of historical fiction writer Imogen Robertson and writer/producer Darby Kealey. This double author construction presents a very stylized presentation of the life of a notorious veteran of the Second World War.

Imogen Kealey’s Liberation aims to illuminate the colourful and dangerous life of real life war heroine Nancy Wake, a journalist turned spy during the Second World War. A woman who attracted the attention of the Nazis for all the wrong reasons, this fearless figure managed to outwit the enemy many times over during the course of the war. There is no doubt that Nancy Wake was a woman who challenged to conventions of her time. In Imogen Kealey’s fictional reconstruction of Nancy Wake’s life, we are provided with an action-adventure style regeneration of this brave woman’s achievements. In her efforts to change the course of the war, Nancy was faced with the unthinkable, yet she succeeded. Liberation is a fictional tribute to this extraordinary woman.

I consider myself a bit of a World War II nut, I love nothing more than to surrender myself to the pages of a quality historical fiction title, biography or nonfiction text set during this period in our not too distant past. There is definitely a huge range of books available to fans of this era which are continually being released. Imogen Kealey’s Liberation is a fictional biography of well-known war heroine Nancy Wake’s life. Liberation is not the first attempt at reproducing this freedom fighter’s life in a fictional format, with another novelisation titled Code Name Helene (currently on my massive tbr pile) also released around the same time as this story. Personally, I have been fascinated by Nancy Wake since I first heard about a meeting between Wake and well-known Australian historian Peter Fitzsimons during an author talk I attended. I have been wanting to access more information on Nancy Wake for some time now, so Liberation definitely appealed.

Unfortunately, I am going to be brutally honest and state outright that I was very disappointed in Liberation. I admit that I had quite high expectations based on my established interest in Nancy Wake. I was also keen to see how Anne Hathaway would present this character theatrically in the upcoming blockbuster movie presentation of this book. However, I immediately took a dislike to the strong action and adventure focus taken to this story. It was a relentless display of guns, violence, bad language, daring stunts and odious characters. This GI Joe style approach to Nancy Wake didn’t sit well with me at all and instead of being in awe of Nancy, I found her just too much to handle. I understand that the authors have taken some liberties with Nancy’s life story and they have adapted areas for the upcoming movie, but in my eyes it turned me off the novel. Most distasteful was the over use of profanities, which I understand was officially deemed as being a characteristic of Nancy Wake’s personality but I think it was over the top. The dialogue was not particularly suited to the historical backdrop of the novel.

There is a four-page Historical Note included at the close of Liberation, which outlines many important aspects of Nancy Wake’s life, along with the historical period presented within the novel. I appreciated this extra snippet of information and it helped me to see that the authors were committed to getting down some vital facts around Nancy Wake in a narrative format. I valued their efforts, but for me there was just too much focus on the action side of things to truly give Nancy Wake’s life the merit it deserves.

Sadly I won’t be recommending this one, but thanks to Liberation I will be seeking out a copy of Peter Fitzsimons 2001 edition of Nancy Wake: A Biography of Our Greatest War Heroine. I was inspired to read more about this fascinating figure from our history books from an alternative point of view.

Liberation by Imogen Kealey is published by Hachette Australia on March 31st 2020. $32.99.


*Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.

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