The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
Historical Fiction – 1917 (World War I) and 1947 (Post-World War II) England and France
From the Author: In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.
1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.
1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.
Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.
My Take: The Alice Network is in one word, phenomenal. At times it is also dark and gritty and emotionally draining. That is the nature of war. But above all it is about conquering the darkness both outside and inside of ourselves, about friendship and family, love and life—about what is worth fighting for. From the minute I picked this book up until the last of its nearly 500 pages, I was blown away.
Charlie and Eve are two quite different women; however, their differences become two sides of the same coin. Both are on similar quests to find answers to the lives they left behind. Except Charlie still believes that there is hope for the future while Eve does not. These two women’s stories flow in and out of one another, switching between 1917 and 1947 until they finally merge and continue to the story’s final climactic moment. Often in dual-timeline novels, one time period is more captivating than the other, but I didn’t feel that with The Alice Network. Both stories held my attention equally. Even the secondary characters drew me in.
As discussed in the author’s note, the amount of research put into accurate depiction of these women’s lives is astounding. I especially enjoyed how Kate Quinn brought together experiences from both world wars. Most novels that I have read fail to mention that WWI ended only twenty years before WWII began, which isn’t much time for personal or economic recovery. Kate Quinn does not shy away from this aspect, acknowledging in detail the ramifications of WWI on her characters’ decisions within and after WWII. She brings forth raw emotions and lays them bare for us to see, creating characters that are both strong and vulnerable and very much humans we can relate to. Simply put, this novel is a beautiful example of what all historical fiction should be. Kate Quinn’s writing is completely spectacular.
Kate Quinn also recently released The Huntress, about WWII Nazi Hunters. More information on her novels can be found here: http://www.katequinnauthor.com/
Content Advisory: Due to the thematic nature of this novel, the story did contain a higher level of mature content than I typically include in books reviewed on this site. Please be advised that there are scenes containing graphic elements related to war, scenes of sexuality (although not explicit enough for me to consider erotica) and some instances of strong profanity. That being said, I found these elements to be, for the most part, used appropriately within the context of the story, and often I felt the gritty nature actually added to its authenticity.
REVIEW TEXT COPYRIGHT 2019 KELSEY GIETL