Kate Quinn has been on my radar for some time now. She writes a lot about Ancient Rome, a period in which I’ve always had more than a passing interest, and about the Borgias – my first book was set in 16th-century England, and 15th-century Italy isn’t all that different.
Strangely enough, though, the first Kate Quinn book I ended up reading was a dual-timeline story revolving around World Wars I and II – neither of which I’ve ever had any kind of interest. But this book, The Alice Network, was an excellent first choice. Because if an author can pull me into a story set against a backdrop that has normally bored me to tears, and keep me up turning pages, it bodes will for my reaction to her other books.
I really did love The Alice Network. It tells the story of two women, thirty years apart, whose fates become inextricably entwined by the atrocities committed by a French man working for the Germans. In 1915, British orphan Eve Gardiner is recruited to join a network of female spies based in France. The Alice Network is tasked with collecting information that can aid the Allied Powers in winning the war. As a waitress working in a restaurant that caters to German soldiers, the information she gains is invaluable – even if it means she has to get into bed, literally, with the enemy.
In 1947, unwed and pregnant, Charlotte St. Clair makes a pit stop in England on her way to Switzerland for a procedure to take care of her “problem”. Plagued by the desire to locate her cousin, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France, and with only a name written on a scrap of paper to guide her, she ends up on Eve’s doorstep in London on a rainy night. Eve wants nothing more than to turn her away, but she’s plagued with the memory of what happened to her – and her own act of betrayal – in France. Realizing that her chance for revenge has finally arrived, she accompanies Charlie to France and together they hunt for answers.
This is a story brimming with intrigue, action, betrayal, and romance. The Alice Network was a real thing, and some of the characters are based on real people whose contributions and sacrifices might otherwise be forgotten.