Tinker, Tailor, Ladies, Spies: The Alice Network | 2017
"I want to prove myself capable, to everyone who ever thought me simpleminded or weak because I cannot speak straight. I want to f-f-f--I want to f-f-f-f--" She hung on the word so badly her cheeks heated dully, but he didn't rush to finish her sentence in that way that most people did, the way that filled her with fury. He just sat quietly until she slammed a fist against her skirted knee and the word broke free. She spit it out through clenched teeth, with enough vehemence to startle the cat out of the room. "I want to fight."
The Alice Network, pg. 33
The Sum of It:
Kate Quinn's The Alice Network begins by introducing us to the beautiful mind of Charlie St. Clair. In many ways, Charlie is very honest about herself - she loves math, thinks her figure too awkwardly skinny for 1940s fashion, and believes in tipping your waitress. But Charlie is also harboring a secret - she's three months pregnant. Her French mother has brought her to Europe from America to travel to Switzerland for "An Appointment" to take care of her "Little Problem." Unmarried and forced to abandon her university math studies, Charlie seems resigned to her mother's solution to her Little Problem, but as she and her mother get off the boat in England, Charlie has something bigger pressing on her mind - the whereabouts of her missing French cousin, Rose.
In a moment of #YOLO, Charlie sneaks away from her mother and sets off for London with basically nothing but her grandmother's heirloom pearls and an address for a woman who may know something about Rose's whereabouts. In London, Charlie meets the prickly, raging alcoholic Eve Gardiner, who grumpily declines to help Charlie with her cousin-finding adventures (cannot wait to see Frances McDormand #slay this part in the eventual film adaptation). But Charlie is desperate, and manages to pique Eve's interest with a mention of Rose's last known place of employment - a restaurant that Eve knows only too well. In order to help Charlie, Eve takes her, and us, on a journey through her past, back to 1915 where a young, fierce Eve sets off on a mission of her own to serve her country as a British spy.
The B & C Treatment:
I am a huge fan of historical fiction, and, in particular, those about the early 20th century. Kate Quinn has done a wonderful job of creating not one, but two beautifully intricate plots that meld together as Eve's early history as a British spy part of the Alice Network influences Charlie's journey to find her cousin. Quinn notes at the end of the book that she wanted to use this book to bring awareness to the real group of brave women who faced danger every day as part of the REAL LIFE Alice Network during World War I. In my opinion, Quinn does just that by paying homage to their legacy, while at the same time weaving a fictional tale of intrigue, romance, and living life after enduring the horrors of war. Quinn's prose is approachable, but has depth and I found myself up late several nights in a row, desperate to know how this story ends.
Overall, I heartily recommend The Alice Network - a book best read with your group of gal pals and a desire to learn about some truly badass ladies.
You may like The Alice Network if you like:
- Historical fiction with female leads a la The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave.