The Alice Network by Kate Quinn– 528 pages
ARC courtesy of author and Edelweiss
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.
My Review: 5 stars
The Alice Network is a wonderful work of historical fiction about the ring of female spies during WW1. Once again, I am utterly amazed that I’d never heard of these brave, ambitious women who risked their lives daily, in hopes of defeating the Germans. Considering the time period, well before women’s rights had advanced, embedding the more delicate gender under the German’s noses was brilliant.
I’m familiar with Quinn’s work as a long time fan of the Empress of Rome series. Although those take place in the 1st century, she had no problem moving forward in time to the 20th century. Her attention to detail is spot on. I was able to read this book as a movie in my mind it was so good. I applaud her character development as well. Both the protagonists, Eve and Charlie, are flawed and emotionally scarred, yet completely realistic. How they both grew to be better people through their unusual but endearing friendship was well done. I also found it appealing that both characters had a good sense of humor amidst all the despair. Eve’s wit was dry and sarcastic while Charlie and her “little problem” made me warm to her immediately.
This book is long yet reads at a fast and steady pace. I found it refreshing to read about WW1 as it seems so much of the popular historical fiction novels focus on WW2. Knowing that so much of it came from actual history made the book come alive. I’m definitely getting tired of the dual time period books because I usually prefer one storyline to the other. Not in this book; I was happy going to both places and time periods. Learning how this spy network worked, the risks that were taken and the courage it required was astonishing. There is an informative author’s note at the end of the novel that unravels the truths versus the fictitious parts of the book. I spent hours researching the real life players and have attached a picture of the real Louise de Bettignies.
Overall an impressive work of historical fiction that will appeal to many readers and book clubs alike.
Quotes I liked:
Poetry is like passion–it should not be merely pretty; it should overwhelm and bruise.”
-“Hope was such a painful thing, far more painful than rage.”
-“Life is not a math problem.”
-“It’s a very French thing, making obscenity elegant.”
-The two of you are quite a pair. Both barbed-wire knots made out of secrets.”
-“She sounded flat as a printed page.”