Monday, October 29, 2018

Book Review: The Alice Network

By Melissa Amster

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie's parents banish her to Europe to have her "little problem" taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she's recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she's trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the "Queen of Spies", who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy's nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn't heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the matter where it leads. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

I will admit that I was hesitant to read The Alice Network for a while. Perhaps it was the length or I just wasn't in the mood for another war-themed novel. However, some of my reader friends, including the Book Sage, encouraged me to give it a go. When I got my copy, I added it to my TBR pile right away and when I finally got around to picking it up, I found that I had trouble putting it down!

Both Charlie and Eve's narratives are enthralling and kept me on my toes. I appreciated their different perspectives, based on their situations. It turns out that 54 year-old Eve was just as fascinating as 22 year-old Eve. It took me slightly longer to warm to Charlie, but she easily won me over after a few of her chapters. I liked how the women eventually started working as a team for the greater good. Toss in Finn, and they made quite an interesting team. Lili and Eve were also a great team during WWI. I could see why Eve was so fascinated by Lili and how she evolved as a result of Lili's mentorship.

There are so many twists, turns, and surprises throughout the story. It gripped me and didn't let go, even after I turned the last page. It was interesting to learn from the author notes how much was based on fact and what was fictionalized. Even as the novel is giving a history lesson, it feels like a fun way to learn something new. My only minor complaint is that it went on a bit long, at 500 pages. However, there's a lot to pack in and the story moved quickly for the most part.

I've been recommending The Alice Network while I was reading it and would definitely encourage others not to wait any longer than I did to get started!

Movie casting suggestions (because if this made it into Reese's book club, there's a good chance it will be optioned for film):
Eve (1915): Florence Pugh
Eve (1947): Gina McKee
Charlie: Alexis G. Zall
Finn: Rafi Gavron
Lili: Mélanie Laurent
René: Matthias Schoenaerts

See how Kate Quinn would cast her novel.


The Book Sage said...

REALLY glad you finally got to it. It's one of the few books I've ever read in which not one person has not loved it. It's crazy. And thanks for the shout-out. It's pretty lopsided (1 rec from me and approx. 500 from you!). But I'm glad you liked it.

Michele Morin said...

This does sound good!
I usually enjoy books set in this era, and this sounds like a strong female protagonist.