“I must not fear anything, she reminded herself. Or I will fail.”
I’m calling it right now: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn is going to be one of my favorite books for 2018. I know we’re barely two months into the year, but I’m confident in my proclamation.
The Alice Network follows Evelyn (Eve) Gardiner and Charlotte (Charlie) St. Clair when their worlds collide in 1947 France. Charlie is fleeing her parents after accidentally getting pregnant, and she’s on a mission to find out what happened to her cousin Rose, who disappeared during World War II. Eve is hiding out, regularly drinking herself into oblivion, trying to forget the memories that haunt from her time as a spy in the first World War. In a saga going back and forth between 1947 and Eve’s spy activities in 1915, these two women pursue answers, hoping that what they find will set them free.
Coming in right at 500 pages, I thought I’d be working through this book for weeks. However, the story is so gripping and perfectly paced that I finished it in six days. The story only got better the farther I got into the book. I can honestly say there was not ever a point where I got bored or the story seemed to lag – it’s that tautly written.
Perhaps one of my favorite elements of this story is the feminist undertones. Eve and Charlie both live in a time where women were treated vastly different. They were expected to be respectable, virtuous housewives and mothers and little else. Both of them eschew those expectations as much as possible – Eve by becoming a spy and Charlie by refusing to have her unintended pregnancy “taken care of.”
There is a point early on in the book where Charlie tries to make a withdrawal from a French bank account in her name. It contains the contents of a trust fund set up by her grandmother, but she also had been working and contributing to it for years. The banker, however, would not agree to her withdrawal without first calling Charlie’s father and obtaining his consent. *cue my inner rage*
Coincidentally, I finished this book the day before I had an appointment to get my taxes done. Now, I don’t particularly enjoy doing my taxes (as I’m sure most people don’t). However, I had a new appreciation for the fact that I have complete and total control over every cent I make. No one gets a say in how I choose to allocate my resources, something women certainly had more trouble doing 60-plus years ago. It’s an empowering thought that can easily get lost and ignored in the stress of paying bills, saving for the future and dealing with unexpected expenses.
The story is littered with other small (or perhaps not-so-small) indignities like the one Charlies experiences at the bank. Eve and her fellow female spies consistently face questions of their endurance and ability to handle the stressors of war, even though they’re doing their jobs well and bringing a wealth of invaluable information to the allied powers.
The strength these women show is makes this book so powerful. Like many in war time, they put their country and freedom above their personal well-being. Moreover, they did it with very little appreciation and had their abilities questioned constantly.
If you love strong women, historical fiction, and espionage, The Alice Network needs to be on your TBR.
Have you read The Alice Network? What did you think of it? Let’s discuss!