Wednesday, January 16, 2019

"The Alice Network" by Kate Quinn

"The Alice Network" by Kate Quinn has been in my TBR pile for a while now. The premise (female spies in World War I ) sounded intriguing, it was a "Heather's Pick" (personally endorsed by the CEO) at our national mega-bookstore chain (also a featured pick from actress Reese Witherspoon's book club), and it was on sale, lol. It also happens to be this month's pick for one of the local library book clubs I'm hoping to join, and so I picked it up about a week ago and started to read.

The book actually interweaves the stories of two different women from two different eras:  Evelyn (Eve) Gardiner, who is recruited to become a spy in 1915 wartime France, and Charlotte "Charlie" St. Clair, in 1947, a wealthy American college girl who is pregnant, unmarried and desperately searching for her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in France during the Nazi occupation. The structure goes back & forth between the two women's story lines. Both are interesting, but Eve's is by far the more compelling. I've heard of Mata Hari, of course, and the book reminded me of Edith Cavell  (there's a mountain named after her in Jasper National Park in Alberta), but I had no idea that so many women were involved in intelligence work in the First World War. Moreover, there's an author's note and appendix at the end that make it surprisingly clear just how much of this book was based in actual historic fact and on actual people.

It's a novel by a woman, about women (strong female, even feminist, characters, at that) -- and yes, there is romance -- but it's far from chick lit. ALI caveat:  the book includes several unplanned pregnancies, abortion, infertility (of a peripheral character -- who later has a baby, of course!), and the death of a baby/child (as recounted by an observer).  The brutality of the German/Nazi regimes during both wars -- including torture and mass murder -- is made abundantly clear.

But is it worth reading? Absolutely. Perhaps it's a bit long (almost 500 pages) -- but the subject matter is really interesting, and it kept me turning the pages, especially towards the end. I gave it four stars on Goodreads. (And note to Hollywood: I think this would make a really great movie or mini-series for TV.)

This was book #3 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 13% of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)


  1. This looks really interesting! Adding to my TBR pile.

  2. I just finished this one! And would definitely second your caveat about the unplanned pregnancies, abortion, etc. The infertility part truly galled me - if I hadn't been reading in e-book form, I probably would actually have winged it across the room because that one section played so much into the "infertile women are crazy/desperate/malignant" trope. Ughhh.

    Overall, I also did like the book for the most part. Definitely a page turner and the history is truly fascinating.

    Congratulations on being ahead for 2019!

    1. Yes! On balance, I enjoyed it a lot, but I thought it needed the disclaimer for my blog readers. ;)

  3. I keep seeing this one in Target, and I keep putting off buying it, but now I am definitely going to add it to my TBR shelf(s). Did you read Lilac Girls? It sounds somewhat similar, but with the espionage part in there. Ugh to the infertility subplot, but I feel like it's IMPOSSIBLE to avoid them. I'm with KatherineA, I'll probably throw my paper copy when I get to it. The rest sounds great though. Woo hoo to being ahead on your goal!