The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, published by HarperCollins on 6th June 2017
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. 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 truth ...no matter where it leads.
I've read a few of Kate Quinn's previous books and really enjoyed them, so I was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of 'The Alice Network'. I used to read a lot more historical fiction than I do now but I still enjoy delving into the past and revisiting key historical periods. This is also a Reese Witherspoon book club pick, so I was intrigued to see what it was going to be like.
Set in 1947, the opening part of the story is told from the perspective of Charlie St Clair, an American girl travelling with her mother to have her unplanned pregnancy taken care of. Headstrong Charlie however has other ideas. She wants to use the opportunity for the trip to track down her cousin Rose, who disappeared during World War II.
Charlie's quest brings her into contact with Eve Gardiner. The story jumps between the two women, as well as different time frames, to show Eve's life as a spy against the Germans in France in 1915, when she was part of the infamous 'Alice network'. To start with, I didn't particularly take to Eve but as I learnt more about her and her past, I came to admire her enormously. We see her taking huge personal risks to help the war effort and her bravery and strength are traits which shine through again and again. I loved the stories of both women and the way that they intertwined. Kate Quinn did a brilliant job of blending everything together so seamlessly which made the whole book a real joy to read.
'The Alice Network' is a tremendous story and an example of historical fiction at its very best. Tense, gripping and exciting but also with moments of true horror, it had me utterly engrossed. Love, loss, life and sacrifice all feature heavily within the pages, making it an emotional read from start to finish. I implore you to pick up this book because it deserves all the plaudits it has already got and more.