Category: Historical Fiction
Synopsis (Goodreads): 1947. 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 truth …no matter where it leads.
I love historical fiction and I’ve always been drawn to stories set around the World Wars, the ones with a human element that enable you to relate more and that evoke a better sense of time and place.
The Alice Network ticked all the boxes for me – it had a wonderful story with great characters and truly wonderful writing. It was set between the two World Wars and focused on the largely overlooked (and hence forgotten) story of one of the most successful female spy networks set up by the British in occupied France.
I loved getting to know the characters in this novel…they had a depth and complexity that the author gradually unveiled at a pace that kept you constantly engaged. Charlie, Lili and Eve were all strong, wonderful women, and the evilness of Rene was unmasked in a harrowing and totally gripping manner.
The underlying historical basis of the story was well-researched and the author did a great job in blending it with the fictional element in a convincing way – you got a real sense of the time and place of both periods covered. War stories and histories have traditionally been male-dominated with the presence and/or influence of women largely secondary so kudos to the author for bringing into the light the actions of some of the unsung heroes of the World War era in such a creative yet authentic manner.
One of my favourite quotes from the book highlights the spirit of the book and was when Lili told Eve, “If we were ordinary, we’d be reusing our tea leaves and rolling bandages to support the war effort , not carrying out Lugers and smuggling coded messages in our hairpins. Steel blades such as you and I do not measure against the standards for ordinary women”.
This is the kind of book with the kind of story that you can read in one sitting..curled up in an armchair by a fire with a glass of red wine (heaven!). Wholeheartedly recommend.