We. Love. Historical. Fiction.
I knew that The Alice Network by Kate Quinn had to be a pick for our book club. The reviews were great, every other book nerd I know recommended it, and again, our club loves historical fiction. It’s an entertaining way to learn about events and facts, especially if you are not a huge fan of nonfiction.
And once again, we were not disappointed. We loved The Alice Network!
This book takes place in both World War I and II.
We start in England in 1947. Meet Charlie, an American collegiate who is journeying to France with her mother for a “procedure.” She is pregnant out of wedlock, confused about her situation and her life, and still reeling from her losses in the war. Her brother fought and survived the war but cannot cope with life afterward; he kills himself shortly after his return. Her French cousin Rose disappears and is presumed dead by the family.
Charlie feels a strong need to find Rose. She is led by one clue: a name and an address for an Eve Gardiner, a former government employee who processed Rose’s emigration paperwork. She barges into Eve’s life (literally, into her house), hoping for assistance.
Meet Eve, a veteran spy from World War I. She is a broken woman; a heavy drinker; and not interested in helping Charlie at all. Until Charlie mentions that her cousin worked at a cafe in Limoges for a Monsieur René. Eve recognizes that name; it is an old enemy from the war. She forms an agreement with Charlie and with the assistance of her hired man Finn, the trio heads off to France.
The search for Rose is the crux of this story, but there is so much more to this book. Friendships, relationships, societal standards, war, espionage, love, and loss …it is a story of life during and after a war and a time in history that is difficult to imagine.
In their search for Rose, Charlie and Eve find themselves both at odds and connecting to one another. They are wholly different people but as they delve deeper into their task, similarities emerge.
We find out that Eve was a part of The Alice Network, a real-life underground organization of spies in World War I. These daring people infiltrated occupied towns in France, gaining information for the British Army. During her time, Eve infiltrated as a server in a restaurant owned by René Bordelon. He was a known Nazi sympathizer and collaborator. She did whatever it took to gain valuable information, going to lengths she did not like to think about.
She eventually found herself in a romantic relationship with René, despite her disgust of the man, and found herself in a similar situation to Charlie. Eve and Charlie were both chastised for being pregnant out of wedlock; both were also forced to make difficult decisions about their bodies and their futures. These two women were stubborn, intelligent, and determined.
We were endeared with Charlie and Eve, but our book club members also fell in love with Finn.
Like the women, he also was damaged by war. He was haunted by the things he had seen and done in war, so he could empathize with Eve. He also connected with Charlie as someone who was lost and unsure of the future. He was constantly fixing things; whether it was his broken down Lagonda car or breakfast for Eve after a hard night, Finn was always putting things and people back together.
Ashley, a book club member, stated that he was her favorite character: “I personally adored Finn. His ability to love the ‘broken’ while being broken himself was what intrigued me about him the most.”
My greatest takeaway from The Alice Network was about the damages of war.
As I said before, this book took place in both World Wars. Kate Quinn shows how the actions of one war easily carried over into another. The world was a different place then, but the damages and repercussions of war during this time can be seen today. The three main characters – Charlie, Eve, and Finn – are all changed by war, no matter if they were on the front lines or left behind to wait and worry.
War touches us all. Yet no matter how the characters’ lives are touched by war (and ours, as military spouses and families), the way we live and survive after a war is still undetermined. The characters were imperfect and flawed and also redeemable and honorable. I think all of us can take a note from these fictional characters: No matter the damages or the choices, there is life after; a life worth living and loving.
Want to know how The Alice Network ends? You will have to read it for yourself. If I did not express it enough, we loved this book!
Come back next month as we read, “The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls” by Anissa Gray!
Comment below and let us know what you thought of the book!