Title: The Alice Network
Author: Kate Quinn
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Historical Fiction, World War II
First Publication: 2017
Major Characters: Charlie St. Clair, Rose Fournier, Evelyn Gardiner, Maman St. Clair, Rene’ Bordelou, Finn Kilgore
Theme: Power of Friendship; Forgiveness and Second chances; heroism, revenge, redemption, and courage.
Setting: France & London, England during WWI and WWII
Narrator: Alternating Point of View, The first part is told in the third person, while the second is told in the first person
Book Summary: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
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, code name Alice, 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.
Book Review: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn reads as a fascinating piece of historical fiction torn between the events of World War I and post-World War II France. Despite a few criticisms, it’s quite a page-turning gem that illuminates the unfortunate German-occupied France time periods with real and historical characters brought to life in a believable fashion. If anyone has read Kristin Hannah’s ‘The Nightingale,’ they will enjoy this book, and vice versa.
Chapters alternate between Eve Gardiner in 1915 and Charlie St. Clair in 1947. Eve, recruited into an English led spy network operating against the Kaiser and Germany, has the more enjoyable story-line, in part due to the raw and gripping events she faced as a spy and woman in German occupied territory. The characterization of her stutter and venerability make her enduring to the reader, and as her story progresses in both timelines you can’t help but admire and root for her.
Charlie, while admirable in some respects, isn’t quite the heroine Eve is made out to be. The story begins with her and her mother travelling to Switzerland via the United States looking to remedy an unplanned pregnancy that Charlie has found herself in, and on the stop in England, she runs away to London to the doorstep of Eve, who 30 years after the events in 1915 has become a confrontational alcoholic shocked by her time in the spy network.
“Hope was such a painful thing, far more painful than rage.”
Charlie seeks Eve out due to the notion that Eve may have a lead about her French cousin Rose, who mysteriously disappeared during WWII. Annoying isn’t always the word to describe Charlie, but her jaded aspects, socialite type ignorance, and the fact that she consistently refers to her early pregnancy as the “little problem” gets old at times. She does have admirable aspects, like her knowledge of mathematics and drive for a career, which at that time wasn’t expected for a woman, but she doesn’t come close to the Eve and her incredible story arch.
What Kate Quinn does particularly well in The Alice Network besides writing a convincing story and characters is how she highlights the little known history of female spies during WWI. Some people may be familiar with the SOE during WWII, but the espionage during WWI is just as exciting and heroic if lesser known. As a character, Charlie St. Clair represents the American ignorance of the sorrow and devastation that countries like France faced during WWI, which was eerily similar to Nazi-occupied France 20 years later. As Charlie gets to know Eve and her story, her knowledge of just how tragic that time period was comes to fruition. It’s quite an interesting piece of historical fiction, and one worth reading.
“Poetry is like passion–it should not be merely pretty; it should overwhelm and bruise.”
I found this book to be completely immersive. Charlie is very annoying at times but she is a true to type and such a wonderful contrast to the acerbic Eve, it is a fluff versus steel relationship. It is a serious story but with moments of fun. If you are a fan of historical fiction then this is the perfect book to get your hands on. To discover after reading this book that the spy network was real and that Eve and Lilli were based on fact was fascinating. The danger and threat these people faced at all times must have been horrific. It is said they saved the lives of over 1000 troops.