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.
Synopsis from Goodreads
Yep, this book came out a year ago and I'm very behind in reading it, but my mentality has always been that it's better late then never! And I hope that you share this belief because if you haven't read The Alice Network yet, it should definitely go on your TBR list immediately. This novel was a wonderful blending of two women from different decades who come together for a common goal. Espionage and the spying game has never captured my attention like The Alice Network has.
Eve and Charlie are very different women and live through their twenties in very different decades, yet I loved them both and the unbreakable bond they form with each other. Eve's history as a spy in WW1 German-occupied France was intense to say the least, as well as completely eye-opening to a part of history I knew nothing about. She's abrasive and smart, and decides to use her intelligence and gift of languages (and lying) to aid the war effort. She takes a bit longer to warm up to (at least for me), but her relationships with Lili and Rene are equally engaging and terrifying because it's not clear where any of these characters will end up.
I found Charlie easier to like right away because there's a sweetness to her that covers an iron will that she simply needs to develop. I loved getting to know her, seeing Eve and Fin through her eyes, and the fact that she is not a perfect character. She makes choices that she needs to figure out how to live with and would honestly result in slut-shaming today, let alone in the 1940s; but she learns that she's strong enough to live with her choices without shame. I thought she was wonderful and I loved her relationships with the other characters.
Shedding Light on Women in History
I'm going to excuse my lack of education on female spies during World War One and blame it on the fact that we don't really learn much about British espionage in Canada. Disappointingly, I have actually taken a Modern Espionage course in university, and that still didn't have any information about women as intelligence officers! That said, I'm go incredibly happy that Quinn has written this book and shed some light on the role of women in the Great War. Eve is a very strong woman who finally finds a purpose and passion, although it is not an easy experience for her by any means. The chapter describing her abortion showed her incredible strength, both as a woman and as a spy during the war. It's hard to imagine the number of women who were forced into situations like this; sleeping with the enemy or raped by them, only to face the decision of either keeping the baby and being publicly shamed the rest of their lives or having a secret abortion (because it was illegal) where the risk of death was very high. History is not often kind to women, especially women who go against social norms, and The Alice Network shows us how much we owe to women like Eve, Lilli, and Violet, because they were willing to risk everything for their countries.
Reading the Author's Notes
I love reading the Author's Notes at the end of books, especially in historical fiction, because they often go into detail about their own research or how/why they decided to write this specific story. In this case, Quinn goes into further detail about what life for female spies would have been like in the 1900s. I specifically loved how she explained how women were sometimes forced to sleep with the enemy, but could never tell their male coordinators because they would be deemed untrustworthy and essentially be slut-shamed. I love learning about history, and was not surprised to read about this double standard, but it did give me an even grater respect (if that's possible) for all the women who would have signed up for this role, knowing that there was a risk that they would be deemed "tainted" if anything sexual was discovered about them. These women had to walk an incredibly thin tightrope, and were able to do so while also gaining information for their home country. I'd encourage everyone to read the Author's Notes in The Alice Network and in other books because it's worth understanding why inspired the author and (if a historical novel) what other information can they give us.
I'm so happy I finally read this book and absolutely loved the story that Quinn told. The Alice Network was a beautiful melding of two different woman and two different time periods, yet somehow it felt very contemporary because the themes are as relevant today as they were in the past. I'd highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in history, in espionage, or simply want to read more about how women truly have influenced and shaped our world history.
FINAL RATING: 5/5
Hi, I'm Alexandra! I love reading (largely YA fiction, but sometimes I'll read "adult" books), playing board games, Nutella, and binge-watching TV shows on Netflix with my husband.
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