“The Alice Network,” by Kate Quinn, closely follows two women in consecutive generations as they each grapple with the implications of the world wars. This historical novel takes place in Europe as the pair travel through France to confront the ghosts of their past, while still healing from loss and love.
Eve Gardiner has a deep desire to contribute to the war effort when she is recruited to be a spy in World War I. Eve refuses to let her stutter and gender stop her from serving her country. As Eve risks her humanity to gather intel, she finally realizes the core aspects of what it means to be alive at all. She can’t imagine living another life as she develops a deep bond with two other female spies. However, her fragile world comes crashing down when she is inevitably caught by the German police.
Charlie St. Clair is a reckless teenager failing to deal with tremendous loss and change. As she sets off on a journey to find her lost cousin, Rose, two years after World War II has ended, she is unprepared for the truth she uncovers. Although Charlie does not know what the real world entails, her courage and tenacity are an inspiration for every ambitious teenager.
There was a noticeable lack of action with Charlie’s storyline compared to the tense circumstances of Eve’s double life. As Eve battles a sociopathic employer and borderline starvation, Charlie’s angst often pales in comparison. However, as the two women come together for the same cause, the audience cannot help but root for them both.
Quinn’s vivid descriptions allow the reader to feel fully immersed in the culture and society of post-war Europe. Descriptions of foggy London and the lavender scent of Grasse, France leave the audience captivated and wanting to see more of Europe through this lens — not to mention how each character’s incredible depth makes the reader personally invested with each character. It is hard to put the book down when Quinn’s charismatic heroines remind us of all that we hope to be in life: daring, devoted, and dignified.
After reading about the awful conditions and inhumane treatment during both wars, I find myself being thankful for the era I live in, in which democracy and freedom reign. Although the pandemic is a constant strain of grief and fear, it allows most of us to realize what is important in life. In a time when it’s all about the little things, I’m reminded of the strength of my ancestors during such an uncertain time.
I found “The Alice Network” to be an incredibly captivating read. It wasn’t until I finished the book, teary-eyed and full of heartbreak, that I learned “The Alice Network” was largely based on true events. The brave women who risked their lives every day, fighting for freedom and victory, inspired me to think about the battles we still fight today.
The COVID-19 pandemic made heroes of ordinary individuals. It alienated us from our closest friends and colleagues, and I couldn’t help but draw strength from the way women banded together during the war even when they had everything to lose. No one knew when the world wars would end, but there was always hope for a better future. A future that would come, eventually. For that reason, this book gave me the much-needed ambition to work towards that future, because it will come, eventually.