Shauna Singh Baldwin first heard of the mysterious story of Noor Inayat Khan (codename Madeleine) at The Safe House, an espionage-themed restaurant in Milwaukee.
A former Dutch spy told her of the brave and beautiful Indo-American woman who left her family in London, England to become a spy in Nazi-occupied France during the Second World War.The story immediately intrigued Baldwin, inspiring her to travel to Europe, seek out the places where Noor lived, interview the people who knew her and discover more about the enigmatic woman.
The Giller Prize finalist The Tiger Claw Baldwins follow-up novel to her award-winning What The Body Remembers was born from the silences, conflicting stories and significant gaps she discovered along the way.As the novel begins, were thrown into a bleak German prison cell with Noor, where she is shackled hand and foot and freezing from the winters cold.
Noors captor, Herr Vogel, allows her onionskin paper on which he directs her to write childrens stories.
She does so, but also secretly writes letters to someone she addresses as ma petite, the spirit of the child she had conceived with Armand Rivkin, a French Jewish musician and the love of her life.
Although she must keep the letters hidden from her captor, it is through these words to her unborn child, alternating with a thrilling third-person narrative, that we learn Noors courageous and heartbreaking story.Noors mother is an American from Boston who married a Sufi musician and teacher from India.
She stops seeing Armand, but is devastated and lonely.
Once the war begins, Noors family heads to England while Armands family stays.
When Germany invades France, Noor despairs of ever seeing Armand again, until Kabir unwittingly introduces her to his new friend who is recruiting bilingual women for the resistance.
She will help defeat the Germans, but her true purpose will be to find and reunite with Armand.As a resistance agent, Noor trains to be a radio operator, taking on a second identity Nora Baker one of many names she will eventually assume.
She has secret rendezvous with other agents, transmits messages from various safe houses, and risks capture at every turn.
Noor must wade her way through oppression and hypocrisy from all sides: h her beloved Armand could be killed by the Germans at any time; her French and British colleagues fight the occupation of France while Britain still occupies India; she learns of dark family secrets; and, one by one, members of the spy network are being ratted out by a double agent.
We know from the beginning that Noor will end up imprisoned, but who betrays her?