Review published on August 15, 2017.
This novel is based on the true life experiences of British female spies stationed in France during World War 1. However, it begins in 1947, with a young American girl, Charlie, desperate to find out what happened to her French cousin Rose, who has not been heard from since the end of the war. She travels to London with her mother, for an entirely different reason, but ends up at the door of Eve Gardiner, one of the original spies in the Alice Network. Charlie hopes that Eve will help her find Rose.
The novel alternates between the events in France in 1915, with Eve as one of the central characters and Charlie’s quest in 1947. I found the 1915 part of the story really interesting and dramatic. The women involved in the Alice Network were brave and true to life. This is probably because Kate Quinn drew upon the letters and diaries of the actual women involved. The part of the book set in 1947 wasn’t quite so convincing. It was written as a first-person narrative with Charlie as the narrator and she could be a bit irritating!
The author interweaves the two storylines well and provides some tense moments in both narratives. Eve is the more complex character, both in 1915 and 1947. The main male character in 1915, Rene Bordelon, is an interesting study of complete narcissism and self interest. However, the main male character in 1947, Eve’s chauffer and handyman Finn, is a more two-dimensional romantic lead.
There are many novels now set during one or other of the world wars, but this is the first I’ve read that focuses on the role of female spies in this way. Sebastian Faulkes did it to some extent with Charlotte Gray and it could be interesting to compare the two novels. This novel would work well as a book group read.
Maddy Broome 3/4
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
William Morrow Paperbacks 9780062654199 pbk Jul 2017
Cheltenham Literature Festival 2017 – line-up and Q&A
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