Female Spies! World Wars! France!
It’s 1947 and American socialite Charlotte (Charlie) St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried and yearning to break free of her conservative, proper family. While in Europe with her mother to have an abortion (at her family’s insistence) she breaks off and decides to go on an adventure to seek out her best friend/cousin Rose, who went missing in France during World War 2. The only clues she has are to her wearabouts take Charlie to London to the home of Eve Gardiner, who may have some information about Rose.
Eve Gardiner is a cantankerous drunk, determined to drink away all the memories of her past life and the betrayal that nearly ended it. In World War 1, Eve Gardiner is recruited to work as a spy in Nazi occupied France in order to take information she learns about the Germans and relay it back to the Allies. She is trained by Lili, code name Alice (based on a real woman), the queen of spies, who has an entire secret network of female spies across Europe. When Charlie knocks on her door, the memories she’s been trying to forget flood back, and Eve must relive her past in order to (reluctantly) help Charlie find out the truth.
I read this as part of my library book club and although I am so tired of reading WWII historical fiction, this one was surprisingly worth it. The story jumping back and forth in time was a nice plot device and kept the story moving along quite quickly. That being said this book is WAY too long, coming in at 500 pages. There is absolutely no need for the length and another run through of editing could have done the book wonders. One of my biggest issues with this book is that, because of the length, the more “boring” sections of the book (Charlie’s story) felt eons longer because of how many pages there were. Eve’s WWI story was absolutely fascinating and I was in love with her tale. I could have read an entire book of her spy story alone, but I kept getting taken out of it when we jumped back to Charlie. Although I liked Charlie, she felt very whiny to me and the romance she was a part of did come off as a bit forced. The moment the male character was introduced, I knew he would be set up as a love interest for Charlie, regardless of if they had any on the page chemistry, and I was right.
Overall though, I really enjoyed this book and it gave me a lot more knowledge about spies and the role of women in WW1. I especially enjoyed that this book focused on the roles those in France played, as I am an American woman and the majority of text I’ve read about the world wars has circulated around the US/German perspectives. There is a massacre that takes place in the book that is truly horrendous, and I had no idea it was a real event until this novel. Part of that is due to my acknowledged ignorance surrounding that time period, but I also had never heard of it mentioned before in any texts I’ve read for school, so it was fascinating to learn about. Great read if you’re a historical fiction fan, although a tad long. I would absolutely read another Kate Quinn novel!
Title: The Alice Network
Author: Kate Quinn
Three Descriptors: Compelling, richly-detailed, descriptive,
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