Book Review // The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Alice Network Book Cover The Alice Network
Kate Quinn
Historical Fiction
William Morrow Publishing
15 hrs. 7 mins.

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.

I hate being honest about this, but I must. It literally took the #RWBookClub – more on this later – on Instagram to finally get me over the hurdle of indecision and pick up – or download in my case – The Alice Network. And, honesty here, I am SO FREAKING HAPPY that I did!

My hurdle was ultimately the historic aspect of the book. I have very few books on my “Absolutely Enjoy List” that feature a historic aspect simply because the author shoves so much history within their writing that I find the original storyline getting lost along the way. What can I say? I read to get lost in a great story!

“Poetry is like passion–it should not be merely pretty; it should overwhelm and bruise.” 

Kate Quinn, The Alice Network

The Alice Network has varied characters, but the adventure is quickly developed around Charlie, Eve, and Finn. Three different people with – in my mind – one purpose among them, finding inner peace.

Charlie, a feisty American, pregnant at 19 and wanting desperately to find her beloved cousin, Rose. Eve, a French spy from the first war, wanting to settle a score. And, last but not least, Finn, a Scotsman that is Eve’s right-hand man with a troubled past that Charlie quickly falls for.

Our trio of characters meet in 1947 and it is definitely not a quick kinship among Charlie and Eve. Theirs is a relationship that needs a lot of growing time within the first part of the book. When you have two very independent women – sometimes it is difficult for them to see help in any form.

The history of The Alice Network unfolds as the Charlie/Eve relationship develops in 1947 with Eve’s stories of the past as a spy in 1915. As the stories are told, Charlie and Eve realize how theirs lives, and history, intertwine. Charlie understands that she will need Eve’s help in finding her cousin, Rose. And yes, ultimately Eve (in some fashion) realizes that it is OK to accept support – even if you don’t acknowledge that acceptance – to lay to rest the ghosts of her past.

So my take: I didn’t fall for the characters, but I did fall for this book. When I really dive in, Charlie was the driver of the story – the one pushing forward towards a resolution – but, I enjoyed the development through Eve’s stories. I found myself wanting to quickly get back to Eve’s storytelling because I wanted to know – WHAT HAPPENED! Charlie’s story just came along for the ride, much like Finn’s.

If you’ve read other reviews that I’ve done, you know that I’m not a fan of books that chapter hop with stories – some work (The Girl on the Train), some don’t (The One Before). This form of storytelling, for me, makes it difficult to have good reading flow and usually results in a choppy story that can’t be put back together. Not so with The Alice Network. As the story unfolds, the timing of when and how Eve shares her life from 1915 works. I wasn’t guessing or confused by the flashbacks or stories being told.

Just a side note – Finn. I haven’t really mentioned Finn because although he is the third member in this frolicking trio, I have sometimes wondered if he was needed at all. I hate writing this because he is sort of the middle man that blends the family the three are becoming, but again, I wonder. It was not at all annoying to have him along for the ride.

Kate Quinn is a native of Southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in classical voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga and two books set in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia.

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