You can probably tell by now: I am turning into a big historical fiction fan. This last year has moved me in and out of some extraordinary pages, highlighting truly remarkable stories about some of the lesser-known aspects of women at war. Reading books like “The Flight Girls,” “The Lilac Girls,” and others have taught me about how resilient women were in the effort, stepping up in a multitude of different ways to provide for their families, their future, their country.
This book was no exception. “The Alice Network,” by bestselling author Kate Quinn, is a story about how two women band together in the most unlikely circumstances to better understand the past, uncover silver linings in their future.
The year is 1947: Charlie St. Clair is nineteen, pregnant, and crossing the Atlantic with her mother to take care of her “predicament.” Her family doesn’t understand her at all: Her mother, an elite socialite who cannot bear to let her daughter go on pregnant and unwed, her father, angry and disappointed beyond speaking terms. But Charlie doesn’t care about any of that, her mind is elsewhere. All she sees are ghosts, faces that pull her back to a time where someone loved her very much and accepted her wild, unconventional ways. Charlie’s older cousin Rose disappeared in Nazi- occupied France during World War II and everyone else has given up on the search to find her; It seems as though Charlie is the only one, still haunted. With that, she breaks free from her mother’s grasp and flees to figure out Rose’s whereabouts for herself.
Eve Gardiner was once the best in the business, recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I. This secret society of women did dangerous work, taking jobs behind enemy lines to get intel for the United States military. Undercover and sliding secrets to safety became Eve’s way of life until one day she was caught, exposed and forced to give up everything that she had worked so hard to achieve. Drunk and decaying in her dilapidated London residency, Eve survives in the shadows until she receives a knock at her door. The young woman before her says a name that she recognizes, asks for help in her search for the truth.
Neither Eve or Charlie know what secrets might emerge from opening Pandora’s box to the past, but together, they begin a journey toward discovery.
Without giving away too many spoilers, I will say with confidence that this book has all of the right elements of a great historical fiction story: The author, Kate Quinn, added just enough details about the war, the Alice Network operation… she sprinkled in a love story, added haunting memories, threw in a dash of suspense… At 503 pages, she definitely crafted something special.
Final Score: 4.5 I have read quite a few WWII historical fiction novels lately and this one stands out on the list. Personality development was outstanding; I fell in love with each character despite their flaws, their varying temperaments. Even Eve, the most crass, stubborn, bullish woman, was a beautiful hero, raw and memorable, when she let her true colors show.
BEST FOR: Girl Power readers and Historical Fiction fans. This book also had characteristics of a suspense novel, which I liked as well. There was a lot of depth in the pages that caused me to move through them quickly.
NOT GOOD FOR: Those who want a straightforward storyline. This book bounces through time and space in the best of ways. Kate Quinn excels at keeping a sweeping tale on track, but it is a novel that flip-flops from one perspective to the next.
IF THIS BOOK/ AUTHOR WAS A HIGH SCHOOL STEREOTYPE: Charlie and Eve are definitely “Unlikely Friends” but would be found in the yearbook, nonetheless, side by side and smiling.
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