In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.
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. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, code name Alice, 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.
Welcome back to another buddy read at Down The Rabbit Hole! Today we have another Kate Quinn for you: The Alice Network. Having massively enjoyed The Rose Code in our last buddy read, we were excited to try yet another one of these fantastic historical fictions. As you may already be able to tell, this one did not quite meet the mark in the same way. Nevertheless, below we will take turns explaining our views on various aspects of the book. Hope you enjoy our dual take on this story!
A: If I could name a highlight for this book, it would be the well researched history into WWI that made this book feel alive off the pages during certain moments. I was excited for any tidbit of spycraft work our protagonist took part in during the war, and the attention to detail could definitely be seen. I don’t read a whole lot of world war fictions, but I must say, I’m pretty sure the effortless feel of bringing me back to the mid-1910s was due to an excellent writer knowing her research material well.
F: For me, I’d have to say that once again Kate Quinn delivered on the historical elements. The very same things I fell in love with in The Rose Code were definitely present here. The elements of historical realism were very convincing, and you really do feel like you’ve been brought back 80-100 years. I loved seeing all the interactions of the past and how different life was just in the little things, and contrasted with the present really makes for a sharp boundary. Nothing but praise for Quinn’s masterfully researched and executed historical elements in this novel once again.
F: If the historical elements are the shining glory of this novel, then I would have to say the characters come second to that. This is mainly a character-driven book, taking place in the POV of our two protagonists, in the present and in the past (World War I/II era). Unfortunately, we don’t get to witness as much of “The Alice Network” in the past as I’d like. However, the characters were overall very well-written, particularly Eve, and I felt that the relationships (or the allusions to) were fairly well done and played out naturally. Of course, this also left me wanting a little bit more from the plot since the characters and historical elements were good.
A: Of the two protagonists, I’m particularly more fond of Eve as well. She was a complex lady, and we definitely see her character development arc come out from the naive, enthusiastic girl who signed up for spycraft, to the bitter old woman we meet in the present day. Obviously, this was due to whatever happened to her and the Alice Network, but we only get to piece things together slowly. I had a little more trouble loving Charlie since she felt a little too single-mindedly focused in finding her cousin that nothing else really shone through about her character. When you take away this one element about her, there’s not a lot left to feel super interested in her story.
Plot and Suspense
A: The pacing wasn’t as good as I had hoped it would be. I didn’t love the present day chapters as much since it mainly focused on the hunt for Rose. The historical POV from Eve was the best, but even then, I had hoped for more action as part of a spy network. Unfortunately, we were denied a lot of that since her mission focused on a singular task more than playing a larger role in the network. And though there was hints of an underlying betrayal to the network, I found how it all came to light super anti-climactic and would’ve preferred a bunch of other theories I came up with.
F: Unfortunately, this is where the story really fell flat for the both of us. I also mostly enjoyed the historical POV from Eve, but it left me wanting more as well. Maybe I’m comparing too much with The Rose Code, where I really got a glimpse into the whole spy network and all its workings. I definitely felt that the modern day POV was not that exciting and therefore the drive wasn’t really there for me to propel me forward through the book. I wanted more and more of Eve’s historical POV, and the modern day one just felt too unimportant in comparison.
F: I really enjoyed the setting overall as well as the characters. That being said, the plot and suspense really fell flat for me. In that sense, it was a bit forced, though I would say the plot generally supported the growth of the characters. I would rather have the characters’ growth driving the plot though, rather than the plot being used to supplement character growth. This is all personal preference though, so you may very well enjoy what I’ve just described. If you are into character-driven historical fictions, this may be the book for you!
A: We really wanted to love this one, but my expectations were so high after The Rose Code. If it had balanced out better between a plot-driven story and a character-driven story, I think things would’ve been a lot different.
Some things I would change if I could, if I may? (So sorry if you loved this book as it is).
- Have different betrayer(s) than what the story went with
- Include POVs from Lili, the leader of the Alice Network so we would actually see the bigger picture of what they did in the war
- Give Charlie another story arc in addition to her hunt for Rose
That being said, we appreciated the areas that I know deserve the praise. It just could’ve been more after the high bar I’ve come to associate with Kate Quinn. I can see why so many loved it, but our expectations got the best of us.