In the throes of World War I, a female spy ring, run by the daring multi-lingual Louise de Bettignies moves through German-occupied France, free France, Belgium, England, and the Netherlands passing reports and information all under the noses of the Germans. Young and smart Eve Gardiner wishes for a life more than as a filing clerk. She is excited to be recruited to work for the spy ring as she is half French and can speak both French and German. Her looks make her appear younger and her stutter has many believing she is an idiot. She is anything but an idiot. She works in the restaurant of a collaborator gathering information from the German patrons and sending it along to England. In order to stay safe and keep gathering information, Eve finds herself going further down the rabbit hole of deception.
In 1947, Charlotte, “Charlie”, St. Clair is an unmarried and pregnant college student. Her mother takes her to Europe to get rid of the “little problem,” but as soon as their boat lands in England, Charlie escapes looking for the only lead she has in the disappearance of her beloved cousin Rose in France during WWII. Her lead is a name, Evelyn Gardiner. Evelyn is an old, drunken woman, who does not seem helpful at all. Her driver and man of all works, Finn, is the only person who can settle her down. Charlie eventually gets her to help and together, the three misfits set off for France to see if they can track down Rose. Will they find Rose? What is Finn’s back story? What happened to Eve to turn her from a young daring spy to a bitter old woman? How did Charlie get into her predicament?
I loved both the 1915 and the 1947 storylines. The book alternated each chapter between the two timelines and did a marvelous job of navigating both worlds and tying the storylines together. I loved learning the back stories of the three main characters and their growth throughout the novel. I especially loved getting to the end of the novel and reading in the afterword how besides these three characters, many of the other characters and situations were all too true. I also especially loved the story of Louise de Bettignies. I’m not sure why I never learned about her before, but I’m glad to know of her now! I’m intrigued by how much information the spies were able to send to the allies and all of the innovative ways they were able to do it.
Overall, The Alice Network was a wonderful historical fiction novel that seamlessly blended fact with fiction and tied together two equally intriguing narratives set during WWI and directly after WWII. The characters were riveting, especially the villain, Rene. I would love to see this novel as a movie.
Book Source: Review Copy from William Morrow as a part of the TLC Book Tour. See the Schedule Here!