Author: Kate Quinn
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Historical Fiction, World War II
First Publication: 2017
Major Characters: Charlie St. Clair, Rose Fournier, Evelyn Gardiner, Maman St. Clair, Rene’ Bordelou, Finn Kilgore
Theme: Power of Friendship; Forgiveness and Second chances; heroism, revenge, redemption, and courage.
Setting: France & London, England during WWI and WWII
Narrator: Alternating Point of View, The first part is told in the third person, while the second is told in the first person
Book Summary: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
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, code name Alice, 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.
Book Review: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn is written around the historical spy ring run by ‘Alice DuBois’, the Queen of Spies, during World War I. Our two main characters are Evelyn, a former member of the Alice Network and now an embittered hermit, and Charlie St Clair, a disgraced and pregnant American college student.
Told with two voices, one of whom is Eve, a waitress in a restaurant in WWI rural France, a place where the Nazi’s come to dine and talk about their plans over delicious meals, wine and cognac. Eve is an English woman, recruited because she is fluent in French and German, she becomes part of the Alice Network run by Lilli, these young women put their lives in danger every day. Eve’s story is incredibly horrific and tragic but she is a survivor and as an older woman nurses a rage which is something to behold.
“There are two kinds of flowers when it comes to women,” Eve said. “The kind that sit safe in a beautiful vase, or the kind that survive in any conditions . . . even in evil. Lili was the latter. Which are you?”
The other voice is the slightly vacuous Charlie St. Clair, rich, rebellious girl who is bent on going to France to discover what has happened to her beloved cousin. She has duped her mother by taking off while in London enroute to get an abortion in Switzerland. Charlie finds Eve because of a clue and a tenuous link and each woman with their own purpose is going to go to France on the search for Charlie’s cousin, but of course Eve has other reasons to be involved in the search. It is 1947, the war is just over and France is in disarray as they try to rebuild the country. As they travel the country in an elderly car which comes complete with a very attractive driver, they are sharing their histories.
The two tales are equally engrossing, and even more so when they finally converge. The characters are distinct and lovingly crafted. I rarely read anything with characters as vivid as Kate Quinn’s. And her descriptions of France during World War I and after World War II are lush without bogging down the narrative.
As beautiful as the writing is, The Alice Network by Kate Quinn also has unflinching depictions of wartime violence and how alone spies were then (and undoubtedly still are now), especially if they’re compromised. There’s a frank, well-crafted build up from Eve’s fierce patriotism to her cynicism and self-loathing, and a sense that those who survive that life without losing themselves are unbelievably rare.