Title: The Alice Network
Author: Kate Quin
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 6, 2017)
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Historical Fiction
Trigger Warnings: Abortion, Suicidal Ideation
In 1947, Charlie St. Cloud’s mother brings her to Europe for a “Swiss Vacation.” Charlie, however, has something else in mind. Haunted by the mysterious disappearance of her French cousin, Rose, during WWII, Charlies sets off to determine if Rose is still alive. With only two pieces of information – the name of a bureau clerk, Evelyn Gardiner, and the name of a restaurant in Limoges owned by a Monsieur Rene, Le Lethe – Charlie finds Ms. Gardiner. 50 years of age and a drunkard, Eve is nothing how Charlie expected. When Charlie informs Eve about Le Lethe, Eve is thrown for a loop. During the Great War, in 1915, Eve worked at Monsieur René Bourdelin’s Le Lethe, in Lille… as an undercover spy. The trio, Charlie, Eve, and Eve’s driver Finn Kilgore, a Scotsman with a criminal record, embark on wild goose chase across the French countryside in search of answers. Not just for what happened to Rose, but what really caused the collapse of The Alice Network.
I received The Alice Network as a Christmas gift from one of my best friends. She knew how much I loved receiving my Book of the Month boxes; and when she saw this was a Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club Pick and Heather’s Pick (the CEO of Chapters), she thought I would enjoy it. Thankfully, K was right. I do not think she knew it at the time, but I adore a good Historical Fiction novel (those of you who read my As Bright as Heaven review know this). The Alice Network was no exception.
Covering two stories in one, The Alice Network did a great job of linking the lives of both Charlie and Eve. Both stories were delicately driven. Charlie’s was a coming-of-age story as she transitions from an upper-class college student to a 19-year-old mother. Eve’s, on the other hand, was a story of bravery as she transitioned from wall-flower to femme fatal. However, from what I gathered on Goodreads, most readers pitted the two women against each other and preferred one story greatly over the other. The overall opinion being how Eve had a 5-star storyline because Charlie was a whiny, selfish, brat (three things I never considered while reading this novel) and deserved a 2-star storyline.
Personally, I enjoyed Charlie’s section more than Eve’s. I do not know if it had to do with the fact that I am only a year out of University, and could relate to Charlie’s character more. Those who described Charlie as a whiny, selfish brat tended to be around 40-years-old. How she presented herself, and her actions were reminiscent of my friends and myself at her age. I did not think Charlie was being overly bratty or selfish, I thought she was a 19-year-old girl acting the way any typical 19-year old college girl would. I would not classify being concerned about how you are going to raise a child alone after being ostracized from your family, as whiny or bratty. I also would not classify hoping to find the only family member you think would accept and love you in this situation as selfish.
Now, because I liked Charlie’s section more than Eve’s section does not mean I did not like Eve’s storyline. I was pleased with the idea of Eve wanting to prove she was more than her speech impediment. Becoming a spy, let alone a female spy, at that time was dirty work. This is why her friendships with Lili and Violette were crucial to her character. To quote GoT’s “A Targaryen [spy] alone in the world is a terrible thing.” If Eve had zero contact to either of them the entire time she was there, I do not believe Eve would have lasted. She needed someone to trust in her world of deceit to stay sane. What I did not like about Eve’s storyline was any time René talked. I know he was the “bad guy” but I have never despised a character more than René. I had to really struggle to continue with the book when he gained a more active role. Often skimming through Eve’s chapters as fast as I could.
Overall, I rated The Alice Network3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads, although I would really rate The Alice Network as a 3.5-star book. Although it was a struggle to finish at times, I would recommend The Alice Network to those that enjoy Historical Fiction. However, if Historical Fiction is not normally your thing, I wouldn’t start The Alice Network anytime soon. The ending was the perfect amount of kitschy, with all the sadness that surrounded the characters. Also, I appreciated the way that Kate Quinn focused on a such a small aspect of history. Her author’s note added more to the story in my opinion. It was nice to learn which items she gathered from historical records and which ones she took creative liberties regarding. If you do choose to read The Alice Network, do NOT skip over the author’s note.
Sidenote: For those of you that enjoy Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions (like me) it is hard not to think of Kilgore Trout any time Finn’s last name (Kilgore) is mentioned.
Eve didn’t want to think about René Bordelon. She’d been trying to keep out of his way since the night he walked her home; at Le Lethe she whisked away plates, poured schnapps, and listend. She even managed to compile a report on this German ace pilot Max Immelmann – all while trying to keep out of her employer’s sight. But he let her know he was still watching her, waiting for an answer.”
–The Alice Network by Kate Quinn