An American college student embarks on a journey to find her beloved cousin who went missing in France during World War II in “The Alice Network,” an astonishing story of female spies and human resilience.
The strength of the human spirit, the families we forge in extraordinary circumstances, trust, greed, and above all guilt and retribution are woven into a tale set in post WWII France, where young Charlie seeks an audience with the aged Evelyn Gardiner, the last person to have a connection with her older cousin Rose. Charlie and Evelyn begin working together, aided by the dashing Scotsman Finn, to track down Rose, exposing dark secrets in Charlie’s family while also showcasing the skills left over from Eve’s days spying for England in the depths of German-occupied France.
The setting is stark, as there is little joy to be found in France as Eve’s story unfolds. Her devotion to her craft sprung from heartache — due to her stutter, most people overlook her or think her daft. As a result she is desperate to prove herself, both as a person just as capable as others, and as a SPY, serving her country in a way that is tougher than combat, what the men are allowed to do, all while wearing skirts and hiding her true identity.
Kate Quinn’s book has affected me for so many reasons, and the most obvious one is the characters. They leap off the page, their laughs and voices distinctive, their eyes glistening, their accents echoing in my mind. She has crafted fully fleshed out and incredible characters to tell her tale… and most of them were true. These people were REAL. Not all of them, but she has woven together a cast that has the strongest personalities–that hate, love, fight, and keep fighting–and I found myself hanging on every set of dialogue and description. I laughed at the jokes, and cried openly in a few scenes, ripped apart by the tragedy written on the page that occurred in real life.
Books that switch between narrators are sometimes tough for me to enjoy, but that was not the case with “The Alice Network.” The transition from Charlie to Eve and back was really natural, and I found myself emotionally invested in both time periods. As the novel steamed along to its conclusion, I was struck by this line from Charlie, which I thought nicely summed up some of the emotions of the book:
“I didn’t listen to any of their whispered French gallantries, just closed my eyes and moved my feet and tried to… Well, not forget my hovering cloud of grief, but at least dance under it. My feet might be heavy now, but maybe someday I could dance my way out from under the cloud.”