Review: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

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☆☆➹⁀☆ 5 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆

What It’s About:

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.

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My Thoughts:

Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network is fantastic historical fiction. The author expertly weaves together story lines from 1915 and 1947.  Whether readers think it convenient or brilliant, the author ties the quests and ghosts of the two main characters together at the novel’s zenith.

The two main characters narrate the novel.   I found Charlotte “Charlie” St. Clair to be a rather self-absorbed, whiney girl who thinks she is all grown-up.  Over the course of the novel, Charlie also comes to the conclusion that she has not been tested and her complaints/issues pale in comparison to those of her fellow travelers.  She realizes what strength and fortitude it took for Eve and her fellow spies to carry on throughout the war.  Her continued use of the phrase “solve for X” became annoying after the second use. Unfortunately, she repeatedly uses the phrase every time she has a real life problem/puzzle.   It was hard to get behind this character and care about her <i>troubles</i>, and at times, I was tempted to skip ahead to the next chapter.

The most interesting part of The Alice Network is Eve Gardiner’s story.  She is a survivor of the covert Alice Network of resistance spies.  She is a crass, salty dog, and every inch a battered war hero. Her story had me on edge and my stomach in knots.  The slow unfurling of her activities in WWI was absolutely delicious.

Eve’s hired help, Finn, rounds out the trio on the quest. He is minimally developed, and acts as Eve’s muscle and a love interest for Charlie. I loved Finn’s quintessential calm, cool demeanor.  He is a bit of an outlaw, but a gentleman at heart.

When the trio travel the French countryside in search of Charlie’s beloved cousin, Rose, the pace of the story speeds up quite a bit.  From Lille to Limoge and finally Grasse, the three become covert agents in search not only for Charlie’s cousin, but also Eve’s nemesis.  The excitement of the hunt along with the rich historical information enthralled me.

Jean Zimmerman summed up the book the best when she reviewed this book for NPR, “In The Alice Network, the lives of two indomitable women intertwine in a plot crackling with suspense. We root for Charlie and Eve, and cheer when they triumph.”

The audiobook is excellently narrated by Saskia Maarleveld.

For more information on the network of spies that inspired this book, check out these websites:

Remembrance Trails

Western Front Association

 

About the Author: Kate Quinn is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction. A native of southern California, she attended Boston University where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. She has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with “The Alice Network” and “The Huntress.” All have been translated into multiple languages. Kate and her husband now live in San Diego with two rescue dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.

 

 

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