The Alice Network
I’ve started the month with a big reading mood that somehow managed to fade quickly, which resulted in only one read book in March. However, the book was great. I’m talking about a novel, called “The Alice Network”, written by Kate Quinn.
The description seemed promising and I had access to it through my scribd.com membership, so I gave it a try and I was not sorry.
What’s it about
The book follows two main plots that get intertwined. One of them, the one that introduces us into the story, has as the protagonist, a 19-year-old American, Charlie (Charlotte), who is travelling to Europe with her mother, to get rid of a “little problem”(hint hint – it’s a baby). It is 1947, and as she reaches the UK, Charlie, who’s been dreaming of a long-lost cousin, Rose, who lived in France but was lost during WWII, decides to go search for her once best friend. A hint she already had was the name and address of one Evelyn Gardiner.
And so, Charlie ditches her mom and goes off to find the one person who might know something of her Rose. As she meets Evelyn Gardiner (Eve), we are introduced to the second plot where the action takes place in WWI and has Eve as the protagonist, then only 22 years old.
We find out that Eve was recruited by the British Intelligence as a spy and sent to France, in Lille, a town occupied at the time by the Germans. She gets a cover job there as a waitress in a restaurant that hosts Germans every night. She, of course, also gets a new identity, in the person of Marguerite Le François, and becomes part of the Alice Network. It appears that the “Alice Network” was actually a real network of spies, led by Alice Dubois (her real name – Louise de Bettignies).
We get one chapter of each plot at a time, as Charlie convinces Eve to help her find Rose. The two ladies, along with Eve’s driver, Finn, a Scottish man, go on a road trip through France, visiting some of Eve’s old friends and following any clues they get on Rose’s whereabouts. As they travel, Charlie decides to keep the baby and the three: Eve, Finn and Charlie become close.
Eve’s story unfolds in parallel and we find out about the restaurant owner, Rene Bordelon, who makes Eve (Marguerite) his lover. This way, Eve gets even more insight into German plans and manages to deliver important information to the British. Furthermore, as both stories unfold, we realise that Bordelon is also linked to Rose, so now the group is looking for both René and Rose.
This part contains spoilers
In case you were wondering, we do get some spice too, as Charlie and Finn become closer and fall in love. However, Charlie doesn’t find Rose (SPOILER ALERT!!!) or at least not alive. And as they find out this, Eve on the other side finds out that Rene Bordelon had been guilty of Rose’s death. This makes the women’s resolve to find the heinous man who has destroyed Eve’s youth and has led to the death of Charlie’s cousin and make him pay.
When they finally did, they discovered he was living as well as always and was in no way regretting his past deeds. The women go head to head with Rene and manage to get their revenge.
The overall vibe
Overall, the book gives the feeling of a movie or a tv-series. I felt it was very visual, from the first pages where we get a glimpse at Dior’s “new look” from 1947 to the gruesome details of torture from Eve’s story. So, I would expect to see it on screen soon. The two plots complement but also oppose each other in terms of style. Eve’s story is dark and gloomy, intense and sad. Charlie’s story, although also sad, gives the feel (at least in some parts) of a chick-lit novel. This is why some might prefer one story over the other. However, to me, Charlie’s story, though not as intense and impressive, came in just at the right time, allowing me to take a breath and unclasp my fingers.
In terms of characters, Charlie is likable enough, though at times a bit of a spoiled brat. However, we give her a pass, since she’s only 19. She does evolve during their adventures and becomes a better person by the end of the book.
Eve is the type of very unlikeable person. However, she’s a good and intelligent person and as we discover her story as a spy, she really grows into the readers’ eyes and hearts (or at least into mine).
Finn, the rugged Scotsman, is the ideal male character/love interest. He’s mysterious at first, has a bad past (a former prisoner), he’s kind but blunt, has a rugged appearance that for some reason seems to appeal to Charlie and female readers as a rule. Big plus – he’s also highly sensitive. So, you got it – mostly what now is considered to be a cliche, but I liked him.
Rene – the bad guy. The very bad guy. The one you really get to hate. Because he is truly despicable. And I think the reason we’re pushed to hate him is not just because he is bad, but because he is a believable kind of bad, the kind that could actually exist, that you could actually encounter.
All in all, I’m not sure for how long this story will stay in my mind, it might not be one of those truly memorable books, but when I read it I was completely enthralled and for that, I thank the author and give the book a 5/5 rating. I recommend it for people who enjoy fiction, historical fiction, war fiction, and even chick lit.