Book 29 The Alice Network

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn fulfills the “Book with a Three-Word Title”
for the PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge. It’s part of Reese Witherspoon’s book
club. My husband and I read it for a local club. (We met once to talk about the
first section, then things kinda blew up.) But Hubby and I discussed the novel
at length.
I rarely
read historical novels. I’ve dipped my toe a few times in nonfiction (Bryson and
Larson), but usually, I stick to romance, mystery, and sci-fi/fantasy. An old
friend wanted to do a virtual book club to stave off COVID boredom and picked
this novel. Hubby joined the group too, and away we went. (He finished the book
in three days back at the beginning of June.)
The Alice Network takes place in two timelines,
one in World War I and one after World War II. The essence of the tale is
Charlotte (Charlie) St. Clair’s
hunt for her missing cousin in France in 1947. She’s nineteen, in a family way,
and desperate to find her lost friend and confidant. She risks everything by
running from her parents to follow a scrap clue. It leads her to a clerk in London.
The clerk ended up being our second heroine, Eve Gardiner, a veteran of WWI.
Eve is tough, sour, angry, and broken but agrees to help Charlie.
The two end up in France along with Eve’s driver, Finn, taking them
to various towns in search of Rose. The novel goes back and forth between 1917
and 1947, telling Eve’s origin story and Charlie’s hunt. As time goes, the
stories tie together more and more as the friendship builds despite Eve’s
hostility and Charlie’s naivete. The book is well-written and could pass the
Bechdel, but something was missing.
Here was a tale of loss, family, growing up, hard
times, love, pain, acceptance. And I didn’t feel many of the emotions. I’m a romance author, and I
strive in my books to ensure the reader is feeling what my characters are
feeling. I think the author missed some great cues to get us deeper into Eve
and Charlie’s heads. At points, I dismissed Charlie’s story as I felt nothing
for her character. I didn’t experience the deep pain of losing her best friend,
the fear of becoming an unwed mother, the desperation to find answers. She
seemed like a teen who was rebelling without passion.
As for Eve, there was more emotion, mostly because
Eve had a worse time of it. But again, the author failed to put us in her shoes
fully. Hubby and I talked about the lack of deep point of view. I said it
seemed like Eve was skating through. He pointed out how Eve had to be a perfect
waitress and mistress with the threat of death hanging over her at every
moment. Any wrong move and the Germans would arrest her. Though that was true,
I never felt her fear. I saw the love she had for Lily and the disgust for René,
but never the pain and torture of dealing with spying deep in German territory.
Another issue I had with the book was the creativity.
The three principal characters all get pregnant. Really? No other ideas for
young women fighting a war? All three—Rose, Eve, and Charlie—are with child and
not married (it was the forties and 1910s, but still.) Women can have many
things to deal with besides babies.
Money, men, jobs, personal health, mental health, family, friends, sexuality,
education could have used instead of three pregnancies. Yes, I get
gynecological health was an issue back then, and perhaps the author tried to
parallel the women with the concept. But I didn’t see any big insights.
The novel had meat but no spice. Amazon lists book
clubs and awards, but the author, in writing about amazing women during war,
forgot they were women and left out most of the feels. In fact, I didn’t realize a woman wrote the
book until I glanced back at the cover after reading it. 
I give The
Alice Network
by Kate Quinn Four English Spies.

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