Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!
Last week, I announced how the A to Z Challenge was likely to impact my British Isles Friday posts. Anne shared her first A to Z post, A is for Addiscombe, about her ancestor’s experience at a military academy for the East India Company in the 1830s. Tina reviewed Post Cards from a Stranger by Imogen Clark — she didn’t like it quite as much as previous books by the same author, so she linked to some of those reviews.
Book: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication date: 2017
Source: ebook borrowed from the library
Summary: Nineteen-year-old Charlotte St. Clair has a Little Problem. She’s traveling with her mother to Europe in 1947 to have the Little Problem taken care of before it becomes an embarrassment in her parents’ social set in the US.
Charlotte, however, has a different reason to go to Europe. Everyone believes that her beloved cousin, Rose, died during World War II. Rose went missing but Charlotte is unwilling to give up on her even though it’s been more than two years since VE Day.
Charlotte has one clue. The name and London address of a woman, Evelyn Gardiner, who signed some paperwork regarding Rose. At that address, Charlotte discovers a bad-tempered, drunk woman with a Luger.
Thoughts: While I was reading The Alice Network, every spare moment was spent devouring this story.
I was skeptical for a few pages when it appeared that young ‘Charlie’ was going to be stuck with her socialite mother. But that encumbrance to a good story was ditched pretty quickly in favor of the damaged Evelyn Gardiner and her Scottish employee who had his own secrets. These three intriguing characters butt heads in many ways, but all find reasons to take a journey together.
That journey takes the reader into a spy network in World War I and through the post-WWII devastation in England and France. Both timelines are brought to life in vivid detail with unique characters and a compelling plot that reveals a new secret around every corner.
A review of The Alice Network works for British Isles Friday, even though most of the scenes happen in various French towns and the French countryside. There are some memorable scenes in England, too. Two of the three main characters are British. Evelyn Gardiner is English and her driver and man-of-all-trades, Finn Kilgore, is Scottish. Kate Quinn, the author, is American, but she clearly loves to research events, places, and people.
Appeal: Read The Alice Network if World War I or World War II (or both) are eras that you enjoy learning about from novels. This book is also a great way to experience a fantasy journey through France — open a map to follow along. If you love a book with unusual characters and a quick-paced plot, The Alice Network is for you, too.
Challenges: This book counts in both of my reading challenges this year.
The Alice Network has two historical timelines, one during World War I and a second in 1947, during the aftermath of World War II. I’m often startled by how close those two wars were to each other, so I appreciate a novel that makes that point very clear. Maybe it will stick in my brain this time.
I did a little research before I chose to include The Alice Network in the Diversity Reading Challenge. One of the main characters, Evelyn Gardiner, has a stutter, but I wouldn’t include the book for this challenge unless I had reason to believe that the author drew on personal experience and good evidence.
According to The Author’s Note, Quinn’s husband, who has a stutter, suggested this trait for Evelyn and assisted in making sure that it was represented well. I checked to see if anyone in the stuttering community has written about the novel, but I didn’t find anything — let me know if you find that and I’ll link to it from here.
I appreciated that the author showed Evelyn’s preference for people who didn’t interrupt her. That was a skill I learned a few years ago in order to be a better friend to a (then) new acquaintance who stutters. My new skill improved my conversational abilities with other people, too — I was alarmed to discover that I had a bad habit of finishing other people’s sentences in order to rush the discussion along. I’m a better listener, now.
Reviews: I’m sure that I first heard about this book from Tina. She also couldn’t put The Alice Network down when she read it.
Have you read this book? What did you think?