Tuesday 3 July 2018

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Alice Network starts in 1949, just after the end of the second world war. Charlie St. Clair is on a break from college, pregnant, and with her mother, an upstanding beacon of American society, and determined to help sort out 'the problem'. As they get closer to their European destination, Charlie keeps seeing her cousin, Rose, who disappeared during the war, and who Charlie believes may still be  alive.

The series of clues she has already uncovered take her to Eve Gardiner, who's got her own set of war stories. She was there, part of The Alice Network, a group of female spies active in WW2.

The 500 or so pages take us on a nostalgic and sometimes hilarious journey, back to the war days, back to France and the remnants and remains of the devastation. It's obvious that Eve must confront all her internal ravages, although she seems determined not to. Finn, the Scottish driver/butler/general assistant provides most of the comic relief, and he is delightful. The book races towards the astonishing and satisfying conclusion.

This book needs a violence, sex and language warning. It's graphic, and hectic, and sensitive readers will need to close their eyes/skip some passages. However, I felt it was highly appropriate for the times. In my opinion, too much of history, especially when women are written about, is easily glossed over, readily moved on from, so that the battles can be described, and the "real action" told. The truth is, there were other stories too, and what I enjoyed about these ones was seeing how they changed the course of history. Readers who tell me they've "had enough of reading WW2 stories" will be missing out if they don't read this one.

Alice Quinn has written a lot. About ancient Rome (The Empress of Rome series), The Borgias, and some collaborative works, which include Troy, Pompeii and more ancient history. I've loved all I've read so far. She has a real talent for making history come alive, for seeing the story and elaborating it, and telling it in a way that I like to read it. 

Here's the book trailer for this one, which is my second favourite so far.

5 stars

ISBN: 9780062654199

You may also enjoy Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate or The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.

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