Welcome to a weekly post, Throwback Thursday. This weekly book review post is a way to share some old favourites, books that were published over a year ago and most importantly those books that have been languishing on the to be read pile for far too long!
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.
US based historical fiction author Kate Quinn pays homage to the brave female spies that operated during the Great War in her 2017 published novel, The Alice Network. These fearless female resistance fighters are given the recognition they deserve through Kate Quinn’s fiction blended with fact novel. The Alice Network was a real life underground spy operative group, that served in occupied France in World War I. The Alice Network is a compelling tale of duty, sacrifice, love, loyalty and bravery.
The Alice Network is a moving story, filled with tense moments of espionage, intrigue and courage. The story unfolds in two timelines. The first is set in post World War II and follows the trials of Charlie St Clair, an American college student who finds herself pregnant and unmarried. Charlie flees to Europe in a desperate bid to find her lost cousin, Rose. Charlie’s journey leads her to Eve, a woman damaged by the impact of the Great War. As Charlie connects with Eve, we learn of Eve’s incredible life story. Eve worked as a spy operative in war-torn France as part of the ‘Alice Network’. This group of female spies managed to outwit the enemy during the perilous times of the Great War. Decades later, Eve struggles to comprehend her time in the war as part of The Alice Network. Eve has become a recluse and drunk, but the presence of Charlie St Clair changes Eve for the better and together they unlock the secrets of the past.
The Alice Network is my first nod to the work of experienced historical fiction novelist Kate Quinn and it also forms part of an author challenge I am completing this year. I am a big fan of anything Great War and World War II related, so the opportunity to read a book that combines both these moments in history was very much welcomed. The Alice Network is a dual time frame narrative, set in 1915, during the Great War and again in 1947, just following the close of World War II. Both time periods were captured expertly by this experienced historical fiction novelist. I will admit that I erred towards to Great War storyline slightly more. However, there is great value in the 1947 narrative thread, as it efficiently propels the reader back to the past.
For lovers of spy stories, intrigue, suspense and espionage, this novel will hold great appeal. In addition, the two main character arcs are genuine, realistic and full of historical interest. Quinn’s approach to the character of Eve is admirable, although this woman is clearly damaged in the 1947 storyline, Quinn manages to resurrect her amazing qualities and achievements during the war. This helps guide us to Eve’s state of mind in 1947. Despite Eve’s broken frame, this character drew nothing but respect from me as a reader. Charlie’s story is interesting, her determination and fiery nature makes her quite the crusader. Charlie’s loyalty and genuine care for her cousin Rose’s fate was endearing. I particularly liked the way she interacted with Eve and the secondary characters that appear in The Alice Network.
There is no doubt that Kate Quinn has embarked on a huge undertaking in terms of the research she has compiled to inform her novel. I was suitably impressed by the historical detail included in this novel and it is presented in a way that ensures the reader is not bogged down by dry facts. Instead, the historical storyline is authentic and convincing. I’m confident it will drive any reader of this novel to seek out more information on the famous female spy network that led the charge during the war. If you have an appreciation of war history, spies and female involvement in the war be sure to turn to the detailed author’s note based at the close of this novel. What makes The Alice Network extra special was the inclusion of real life figures and spy operatives within this tale, which interact with Quinn’s fictional characters. It was a great touch.
My own personal motivation for flicking the pages of The Alice Network at such a solid pace was initially Charlie’s search for her cousin Rose. However, once Eve appeared, I was invested in her story so much more. The Alice Network is a consistent read, it is historically well informed and it is filled by characters that we care about. More importantly, The Alice Network exposes a segment of history that is worthy of our full attention. These gallant women put their lives on the line time and time again for the sake of their country and peace across the globe. They should not be forgotten.
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn was published on 22nd May 2017 by Harper Collins Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Alice Network, Kate Quinn here.
*Book ‘Q’ of the a-z author challenge 2018