Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres to read. When I saw The Alice Network by Kate Quinn advertised in Book Page, I put it on reserve at my local library. By the way, if you are an avid reader and want to know what's new in the world of books. pick up the free monthly edition at your local library (if they have it) or check it online.
The novel is based on actual women who were spies in France during WWI but the story itself, while filled with real events and people, is fiction. Evelyn Gardiner lived in a time when women were rarely given an opportunity to do courageous, patriotic things. By chance, she was recruited as a spy by the British army. After training, she went to France and worked with a French woman, nicknamed Lili, who was the queen of spies at the time. She and her comrades became known as the Alice Network.
The book opens in 1947 when Charlotte St. Clair, a 19 year old American is brought to England by her mother to take care of Charlotte, or Charlie as she prefers, 'little problem' in Switzerland. Charlie is pregnant, a not to be tolerated situation at that time. She is still suffering from the aftermath of her older brother's suicide after he returned from WWII fighting and the disappearance of a beloved French cousin named Rose.
Charlie flees her mother and the posh hotel to search for her cousin. She cannot get money from her trust fund as she is a single woman--a sign of the times, so she pawns her grandmother's pearls, then heads to the home of Eve Gardiner, former spy with a name that she hopes will make Eve help her search.
She finds a disheveled shell of a woman who is drunk more than sober, haunted by what happened 30 years earlier in WWI. Finn Gilgore, a Scotsman with a somewhat tarnished background, works for and watches over Eve. The three eventually team up and head to France and the search is on.
The story moves seamlessly back and forth from 1915, when Eve was recruited to spy for the British, to 1947 when Charlie starts her search and tries to figure out what to do about the 'little problem.'
The book hooked me right away. It's fast-paced, humorous at times and heart rending, as well. It offers plenty of tension making it hard to put down. Toss in a bit of romance and revenge and you couldn't ask for more in one book. The horrors of war are present throughout and perhaps not for the faint of heart. Kate Quinn has given us a fine story with a cast of memorable characters.
This is a book that the reader will not easily forget. I give it 5 stars. I will definitely look for earlier books written by Kate Quinn.