Friday, 4 August 2017

Review: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn


THE ALICE NETWORK (2017)
William Morrow Publishing  528 pages

It’s 1947. The Second World War has ended and American socialite Charlie St. Clair is unmarried and pregnant. After she’s shipped off to Europe by her family to have her ‘little problem’ taken care of, Charlie decides to take matters in to her own hands and head to London. She is clinging on to a small hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi occupied France, may still be alive and she thinks she’s found the person who will have the answers. Meanwhile, former British spy Evelyn Gardiner spends her days drunk and alone, still haunted by what she endured during her espionage in the First War. That is until a young American shows up at her door uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in years. This meeting forces two unlikely women together as they go in search of the truth, no matter what the cost.

Historical fiction is by far my favourite genre to read, yet I haven’t read many books set during and around the world wars. It’s not really a period I reach for when I want to get my teeth in to a good historical novel. With The Alice Network however, I made an exception and the payoff couldn’t have been better. I've been a fan of Kate Quinn for years and I've been anxiously waiting the release of this book for months, although I’ll admit I was a bit tentative when I found out she’d branched out from her usual stories set in Ancient Rome and Renaissance Italy to write something completely different. But from the first page I knew I had nothing to worry about because this had me hooked from start to finish. It’s raw and brutal and utterly mesmerising. This is historical fiction at its very best.

The story is brilliantly paced, each chapter alternating between Charlie’s story in 1947 and Eve’s espionage in France in 1915. Both women have their own stories to tell but you know ultimately that both narratives will come together and Quinn weaves them together masterfully. Some parts of the narrative were slower than others but even when events weren’t unfolding on the page at rapid speed I was always engrossed in the story, wanting more and more from the next chapter. Quinn’s signature style is abundant throughout and it’s laced with her usual humour which had me crying one moment and gasping the next.

Quinn is undoubtedly a masterful storyteller, but it’s her characters which never cease to amaze me. The Alice Network is influenced by real events and so some of the characters are based on real people, who Quinn fleshes out wonderfully. Charlie and Eve came alive on the page and the supporting characters were all equally brilliant. The whole plot is wrapped in secrets and gradually both Eve and Charlie uncover the truth – I can’t say any more than that but both timelines come together wonderfully. The story and the characters have stuck with me long after I turned the final page and I won’t be forgetting it anytime soon. 

If you’re looking for a gripping page turner then look no further. This book captivated me and left me on the edge of my seat. It’s compassionate, emotional, and an enthralling reading experience I would whole heartedly recommend. It was everything I wanted it to be and more.

Overall rating: 5 stars
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