Historical fiction is all about blending the original with the familiar, about those delicate new stitches woven into the tapestry. The best practitioners of this often subtle art can sew those new threads without ever breaking the pattern, until the new and the old, the real and the fictional, are one and the same. With her latest novel, Kate Quinn announces herself as one of the best artists of the genre.
The Alice Network jumps deftly and briskly between two tumultuous periods of European history: 1947, in the wake of the second world war; and 1915, in the heat of the first. After World War II, Charlie St. Clair—a young American woman being shuffled off to Europe by her family due to a surprise pregnancy—is searching for her lost French cousin, and her quest leads her to the London doorstep of a prickly, drunken woman named Eve Gardiner.
In 1915, a much younger Eve is working as a file girl for the war effort when her multilingual skills and ability to go unnoticed (helped by her stammer) earn her the opportunity to work as a spy in German-occupied France. Eve wants to be on the front lines, but she may be unprepared for how far she’ll have to go.
Quinn’s novel links the two women across time, as it becomes clear that something from Eve’s dark past lingers in Charlie’s present. The plotting is seamless, the pace breathtaking, and the prose is both vivid and laced with just the right amount of detail. Charlie is a fiercely entertaining narrator, and Eve is one of the most complex and rewarding characters you’ll find in a new novel this year.
Fans of historical fiction, spy fiction and thrilling drama will love every moment of The Alice Network. It’s a masterful novel that will leave you craving more.