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, 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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Book Review by gammyjill
American author Kate Quinn’s new historical novel “The Alice Network”, is set in two times – 1915 and 1947 – and the two stories are told in alternating chapters. The first one is told in the third person, while the second is told in the first person. That’s a tricky maneuver for the best writer, but Quinn carries off one section quite well, while doing not as well in the other. The first story is about a British spy network – the “Alice Network” -operating in German-occupied northwestern France. Most of the agents were women and they were led by a real character, Louise de Bettignies, whose code name was “Lili”. She was joined by fictional British/French Evelyn Gardiner, whose code name was “Marguerite”. Marguerite was posted to work in a French collaborator’s restaurant in Lille, serving the German diners and picking up tidbits along the way she’d pass to Lili, her British handler.
The second story is set in 1947 and is the story about Evelyn Gardiner – now aged – and Charlotte St Clair – a 19 year old American who has come over to France with her mother to obtain a safe, legal abortion in Switzerland. She meets up with Eve and Eve’s chauffeur, a Scot soldier named Finn. They are all looking for something, someone, in post-WW2 France. The second part is definitely the weaker of the two sections. Somehow, Eve – who was drawn really well in the first section – has devolved a bit into a caricature in this section and neither Finn or Charlie seem too real, either. I’m giving the book 4 stars because the first part is 5 star, while the second is 3 star.
By the way, Kate Quinn writes about a real incident that happened in a small town outside of Limoges a few days after the DDay landings in Normandy. The Germans destroyed a village called Oradour-sur-Glane and murdered most of the residents. All told, over 600 people were murdered by a detachment of the Waffin-SS, who were looking for French partisans, supposedly operating out of the village. If you’re interested in knowing more about this heinous crime, please look into Ethan Mordden’s marvelous short novel, “One Day in France”. It was published in 2015 and is still in print.
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“This fast-paced story offers courageous heroines, villains you love to hate, and dramatic life-or-death stakes. A compelling blend of historical fiction, mystery, and women’s fiction, Quinn’s complex story and engaging characters have something to offer just about everyone.” (Library Journal (starred review))
“Amazing historical fiction… a must read!” (Historical Novel Society, Editor’s Choice)
“…Kate Quinn announces herself as one of the best artists of the genre. The plotting is seamless, the pace breathtaking, and the prose is both vivid and laced with just the right amount of details. Fans of historical fiction, spy fiction and thrilling drama will love every moment…” (BookPage)
“Lovingly crafted and brimming with details, readers are sure to be held in Quinn’s grip watching as the characters evolve. Powerful reading you can’t put down!” (RT Book Reviews (top pick))
“Kate Quinn delivers an enthralling tale filled with breath-taking narrative that will make the reader feel as if they’re in the back of the roadster, riding along with the raucous Eve and courageous Charlie on their clandestine adventures. Suspenseful and engrossing, THE ALICE NETWORK is a must-read!” (Heather Webb, Author of Rodin’s Lover)
“Kate Quinn strums the chords of every human emotion with two storylines that race over continents and through decades to converge in one explosive ending.” (Marci Jefferson, author of Enchantress of Paris)
“The Alice Network… perfectly balances a propulsive plot, faultlessly observed period detail, and a cast of characters so vividly drawn that I half expected to blink and see them standing in front of me. This is historical fiction at its best–thrilling, affecting, revelatory.” (Jennifer Robson, international bestselling author of Moonlight Over Paris)
“Both funny and heartbreaking, this epic journey of two courageous women is an unforgettable tale of little-known wartime glory and sacrifice. Quinn knocks it out of the park with this spectacular book!” (Stephanie Dray, author of America’s First Daughter)
“A powerful story filled with daring and intrigue, The Alice Network will hook readers from the first page and take them on an unforgettable journey.” (Chanel Cleeton, author of Next Year in Havana)
“Line for line, one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Loyal and brave, the women of THE ALICE NETWORK are brilliantly revealed by Kate Quinn’s exquisite storytelling and prose. I loved every word! A must read for fans of WWI and WWII fiction.” (Renee Rosen, author of Windy City Blues)
Originally published: 6 June 2017
Nominations: Audie Award for Best Female Narrator, Goodreads Choice Awards Best Historical Fiction
Genres: Historical Fiction, War story, Spy fiction