Cristina Reads Too Much: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Getting around to reading a book (other than a textbook) can be tough in college, we know this.  When you’re cramming in between classes, Her Campus Lasell’s got you covered.  

Introducing Cristina Reads Too Much, a weekly segment where we break down and spill the tea about the best books RN and give our honest reviews and ratings. 

The Rundown:

This much-beloved historical novel follows two young women during World War I and the aftermath of World War II whose narratives mirror each other.  In 1947, 19-year-old American college girl Charlotte “Charlie” St. Clair is pregnant out of wedlock and about to be disowned by her parents, but also holding out hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared three years earlier in Nazi-occupied France, is still alive.  Charlie’s mother arranges for them to take a “Swiss vacation” so she can get an abortion, and during a stopover in London, Charlie uses what little information she has about Rose’s disappearance to attempt to find her. A letter leads her to the home of a middle-aged woman named Eve Gardner, who Charlie believes knows somebody who can aid in her search for Rose.  Eve initially refuses to help Charlie but eventually comes around. Through Eve’s chapters of the story, we learn how she became the seemingly unfeeling but ultimately kind and fiercely intelligent fifty-something whom Charlie meets. Three decades earlier in 1915, in the midst of the First World War, 21-year-old Eve is recruited to work as a spy for the Alice Network.  Under the codename Marguerite, Eve assumes the role of a woman down on her luck and desperate for work. She takes up jobs in cafes and restaurants that German soldiers frequent, and in doing so is able to overhear bits and pieces of valuable information. Much like Charlie, Eve finds herself haunted by the disappearance of someone she cared deeply about--the director of the Alice Network and her best friend, Lili--and finds herself pregnant out of wedlock.  After a betrayal tears the Alice Network apart, Eve secluded herself in a dilapidated house on the outskirts of London, until Charlie barges into her life with a story more reflective of her own than she could ever imagine. 

My Thoughts:

Heartbreaking, powerful, and thought-provoking, The Alice Network is an utterly poignant story about friendship, love, and the strength of women. It’s a hefty read at over 500 pages, but the plot moves fast and kept me engaged.  I like how the story is told both from Eve’s and Charlie’s perspectives in 1915 and 1947, but I must admit I’m confused as to why Charlie’s chapters are written in the first person and Eve’s are written in the third person.  I definitely would have liked to get into Eve’s head a bit more! While the story is mostly fictional, the Alice Network was real and it was interesting to read about. If you like reading about women in history or stories about women in general, you’ll love The Alice Network. 

My rating:

4.5 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“There are two kinds of flowers when it comes to women...The kind that sit safe in a beautiful vase, or the kind that survive in any conditions . . . even in evil.”