Why: Joli put this book in my line of vision and, as she predicted, I jumped at the chance to read another wartime novel. Just when I think I’ve read all the different views or spins one can take, an author produces another work that teaches me and expands my horizons. Kate Quinn and her book The Alice Network deliver us into the life of female espionage during WWI and then ties it into life in post-WWII Europe. Suffice it to say, it didn’t take much arm twisting to pick up this title!
Numbers didn’t lie; there was always an answer, and the answer was either right or wrong. Simple. But nothing in life was simple, and there was no answer here to solve for.
Story: The world may be recovering from World World II, but ghosts of the dead and missing linger in the hearts of many of the living. To ease her mind, Charlie St. Claire devises a plan to seek out her missing cousin, Rose. Rose is presumed dead by the family, but Charlie cannot believe it. To find her, Charlie must enlist the assistance of the surly and gnarled Eve Gardiner. Eve has her own demons to exorcise after working as a spy during WWI, and her story blends into Charlie’s as the women – and their handsome, ex-convict, former soldier, Scotsman driver – travel through time (figuratively) and the countrysides of Europe (literally). Seeking peace, revenge, and closure, this odd little trio is going to see their journey through come hell or high water.
“Yes [I’m afraid], just like everybody else. But only after the danger is done – before that, fear is an indulgence.”
Opinion: This is another novel that jumps back and forth in time, a trait I haven’t been a fan of in the past. After reading The Dressmaker’s Dowry, however, I had more hope and I’m glad I persevered. The construction is done masterfully so that the time hopping blends in to the narrative seamlessly. In hindsight, it is so simple that I picture it like two lines that start far apart and get closer and closer until they finally come together. That is not to demean the quality of the writing in the least, however, as Quinn’s writing is vivid, engaging and descriptive!
While there are many reasons I thoroughly enjoyed The Alice Network, it is the layers of narrative and themes that I want to mention briefly. This is not just the retelling of two women’s lives. Readers learn more about the mysterious Scotsman, Finn, and his tale. There are cousin Rose and Charlie’s brother. Eve’s friends Lili and Violette. Beyond those are the generalized – but not overlooked – experiences of so many thousands of people in war-torn Europe. Quinn’s inclusion of these levels of grief and courage, desolation and determination, provide a depth to the novel that makes it come alive and resonate deeply.
“We are not flowers to be plucked and shielded, Captain. We are flowers who flourish in evil.”
Recommendation: Read this book! It has been one of my favorites of the year so far. The paperback copy is almost 500 pages, but do not be deterred! Chapters are short and attainable, and the action is well-paced and meaningful – no dull or dry set-up passages. There is a little romance, lots of drama, and plenty of mystery and intrigue. I tend to like “happy” books, but this was my perfect emotional rollercoaster. It’s cliche and hard for me to say this, but…there truly is something for everyone in this book.
“Poetry is like passion – it should not be merely pretty; it should overwhelm and bruise.”
Journaling Prompts: (If you haven’t read any of my other reviews, I enjoy putting together a few questions about the book for those that have already read, or choose to read the book after viewing this post! There are also some great questions at the end of this book, a couple are paraphrased below and noted with an asterisk!)
- Each of the three main characters wants to fix things. What does “fixing” mean to Charlie, to Eve and to Finn?
- Physical appearance is important throughout this book. Using Charlie as an example, how does her physical appearance reflect her growth as a person throughout the book? What other examples can you come up with?
- *How does friendship, and especially female friendship direct the course of this novel? How do some of these friendships change over time?
- *Finn Kilgore and Captain Cameron have very similar stories. How are they similar and why do their lives have such different outcomes?
- Have you heard the phrase “poetic justice”? Describe how this phrase applies to the character of Rene Bordelon.
- How did you feel as you finished this book?
Special thanks to TLC Book Tours for the book in exchange for my honest review! Also, if you’d like to check out the junket that I was lucky enough to be a part of with Kate Quinn herself, check that out HERE! (Spoiler alert – she’s amazing!!)