Friday, July 14, 2017

Review: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Title: The Alice Network
Series: Standalone
Author: Kate Quinn
Release date: June 6, 2017
Cliffhanger: No
Rating:  5 stars
Join Kate Quinn, author of The Alice Network, for a special Goodreads chat on June 20th! Just visit Kate’s author page on Goodreads and submit a question for her to answer.

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 matter where it leads.


The Alice Network is one of the most brilliant and inspired books I have ever read. Yes, those are some tall words, but I say that with no hesitation or second thought. I feel like it's an impossible feat to sit here and adequately explain all of the reasons why you should NEED TO READ THIS.

Let's get this straight right from the start. This is not for the faint of heart. It's a labyrinth of raw, all-consuming emotion that will cut your nerves down to the quick. If you don't want to be up late at night, frantic and edgily consuming this story, do not open this one up. Do I regret reading this? Not for a second. I guarantee it will take you on the most unhinged ride of your life. Inside the excruciating suspense soaked pages, you're given an inspirational story about a group of cunning women fighting impossible odds. An uplifting affirmation of the power of friendship, love, and sacrifice. Seamlessly told in a wonderfully humorous narrative that will make you fall in love with these beautifully flawed characters.

In 1947, present time, we're introduced to an American student named Charlie St. Clair. Her gift for mathematics and quick wit were frowned on by her parents rather than encouraged. She's never quite fit in, or cared about the marriage race that every "good girl" aspires to win. When she falls pregnant at college, her already limited choices dwindle down to none.

I was just numb. I couldn’t believe in this baby, because it had changed nothing. Only my whole life.

Her brother's suicide after WII left an indelible mark on her, and the disappearance of her beloved cousin Rose had led her down a path of self-destruction that she couldn't seem to recover from. So when her mother pressures her on a trip to Europe to get rid of the "Little Problem" she seizes the opportunity to escape and hunt down the one woman who may be able to help her. The profanity spitting, gun wielding, crass and bitter alcoholic who wants nothing to do with her. Eve Gardiner.

They were far from instant best friends, in fact, I'd go so far as to say that they could barely tolerate each other's presence. But by the end, they became more than friends, they became family in the truest sense of the word. Both learning from one another, and experiencing tremendous growth in character.

This book is composed of alternate past and present stories of these two exceptional women. One who has faced unimaginable devastation, and lived to harbor the pain with liquor and a viciously sharp tongue. The other who has experienced her own tragedies and is trying valiantly to surface through the numbness. If she could just find her cousin, maybe hope could be restored. Maybe her failures won't be as insurmountable as they seem. Charlie isn't to be swayed, and the three of them barrel towards an uncertain resolution in ravaged, post war France.

“I want to hear the rest of your story."
"It’s not a pretty story," she said. “And it lacks an ending.”
“So write the ending now.”

In 1915, during a time when every woman was overlooked, underestimated, and stuffed into a tiny box of limitations, Eve wanted more out of life than societal precepts allowed. Desperate to make a difference in the war, and earn the respect that she had always been denied, she jumped at the rare chance that fell into her lap.

Eve joined the Alice Network and became a spy and her life would never be the same again. As her mysterious history unravels, the knot in your chest will helplessly tighten. The evil that she faces with nothing more than wits and bravado was chilling. Lili and Violette played pivotal roles in Eve's history and were riveting to read about.

Lili in particular as the head of the Alice Network was a central character, and based on the real life French spy Louise de Bettignies. Many scenes from the book were pulled from real recorded historical incidents, yet it wasn't glorified in typical Hollywood fashion through a rose colored lens. We saw the gritty realities as they would have experienced them. These women should be remembered for their bravery and contribution, and after reading The Alice Network, I think I can safely say that the author shed the illuminating light on them that they deserve.

"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.”

The two alternating timelines run parallel to one another, until they reach the end of their search for Rose. As they head to their final climactic resolution, I guarantee, you will not be able to set this book down. Kate Quinn is nothing short of a master storyteller. She illustrated so vividly how damaging war is, not only for those who fight in the thick of it, but for their families and generations to follow. Psychologically, physically, and financially. Historical fact and fiction were merged so flawlessly with precise attention to detail, it was as if I had been swept right inside this book. Experiencing every tragedy and victory as it occurred.

For you romance lovers out there, there IS romance involved and it made this reader more than satisfied. It wasn't the main focus of the story, but significant enough to stand out and I wouldn't change a thing. Even if you don't typically read this genre, like me, I urge you to take a leap of faith and give it a chance. This is landing not only on my 2017 favorites, but my all time favorites shelf.
Enough said.


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