Let’s get this out-of-the-way right now because I have some things to say.
Note: This review is 100% my opinion and may contain spoilers.
I have never returned anything late to my library. If I can’t renew it, I’ll just bring it back and get back in line to borrow it again. I was halfway through this book on the day it was due back. I wanted to know what the answers to the never-ending questions were. I was interested. And, I had been 50th in line to get the damn thing so I figured I could swing a 25 cent late fee to finish it up.
I should have just brought it back and grabbed another book. However, then! You would not have the pleasure of reading my review which I will say right now, is not a positive one. So, if you don’t want to hear why I did not enjoy this book then scoot. If you doooo want to hear it–here we go.
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
This novel is told in two alternating perspectives. The first, is Charlie in 1947 and the second is Eve in 1915. The book takes place in France. And if you haven’t figured it out from the dates given, Eve’s narration is during WWI and Charlie;s from just after WWII.
Now the synopsis for this book was amazing. Female spies during the World Wars, Really!?! I mean, from a historical standpoint, that has the potential to be the most interesting story. You don’t hear about the women who spied on the Germans anywhere near as the Turncoats or the men who fought the Germans. To say I was pumped to read this book is an understatement. And then, I actually read it.
Charlie St. Cloud is 20 years old. She is from an affluent family. And she has found herself unwed and pregnant in 1947. Charlie is fucking annoying and I quickly disliked her. Oh and I have reasons!
First of all, she is incredibly naïve(true to someone of her age) but, believes she knows more than anyone else. The author gave her a talent with numbers but I’m honestly not sure why as all she ever did with it was argue checks at restaurants. She abandons her mother without so much as a note to go on a search for her missing cousin Rose. Now, her mother and father are sending her away to a center to have her “Little Problem” taken care of.
Let’s just pause right there. For the majority of Charlie’s story, she refers to her pregnancy as her “Little Problem.” REALLY!? I mean, sure she can be scared and not sure about it but why, if your parents are such an issue for you would you adopt the name they are using for the situation. Especially since you randomly decide to keep this baby and then still go on calling her Little Problem. Not sure any child wants to brought into the world being known as the “problem.: UGH!
Charlie herself is sooooo self loathing that anytime she is given a moment to describe herself she tears herself down. Not one time does she refer to herself in a positive manner except to say that she is good with numbers and quick-witted. Not to mention the umber of times she refers to HERSELF as a whore. OMG. That drove me insane.
She did sleep with a lot of boys at her school. She is unwed and pregnant. She does not know who the father is. Does that mean you should continue calling yourself a whore over and over and over. And I do mean, over and over because it is in her narrative CONSTANTLY.
Now, I did like that the women in this novel were sexual however, I could have done with something that made sense. I mean, a woman can be sexual without her grieving (Charlie) or trying to gain information (Eve). A woman does not have to throw herself on every attractive male because she’s previously had sex (Charlie) and is therefore no longer worthy of more. Yeah.
While I’m on that topic. Finn is a Scottish solider who is essentially Eve’s assistant. During Charlie’s search for her cousin Rose, she
stalks locates Eve and they end up on this convoluted search together with Finn as Eve is not able to drive or do much more than bitch due to her injuries and age (ohhhh we’ll get to her in a minute). Finn is a brooding character and for one whole chapter he thwarts Charlie’s suuuuuuuper forward advances. I mean, she literally has a sip of liquor and then jumps on him saying he can have her since she’s already stuck with her problem. Yeah, cause that’s attractive. Not to mention, he is quite a bit older than Charlie. I’m no stickler for age differences but it’s just weird to have a romance between these two IMO.
Which leads to the thing I was most annoyed with and the moment I actually considered just giving up on the book as a whole.
Without having the label for it, Finn suffers from PTSD, much like Charlie’s brother did when he committed suicide (oh yeah! there’s a little bit of everything thrown into this just shy of 500 pages mess). Finn’s PTSD causes him to go into blind rages. In particular, in the scene where Charlie finally finds out what happened to her cousin Rose (Spoiler alert: Nazis killed her and bonus! the same guy Eve hates is involved! How convenient.) Finn is brought back to his own time as a solider and is taken by emotion and then, has one of these rages. During this, he is beating on a particularly racist dick that was sitting at another table (possibly working at the café they were at. I’m not even sure at this point) and Charlie is trying to stop him. And! He punches her in the face.
Let’ me say that again, Finn PUNCHES Charlie in the face. Then he runs away all ashamed of his behavior and obviously to calm down. What does she do? She goes after him, strokes his face, and then jumps on him.She jumps on him. Because if a man punches me in the face my reaction is to have sex with him. In a car no less.
I already did not like Charlie, at this point, I just gave up on all hope of her story arc going anywhere I cared about. Not to mention, this is a little over halfway through the book and we’ve solved the mystery we set out to. THERE WERE STILL 100 PAGES LEFT.
Let’s move on to Eve, shall we?
Eve is an English woman. She is multi-lingual. Super smart. And has a stutter. She had trouble finding work and wants to find a way to fight in this crazy war in 1915. So boom! She gets recruited as a spy and popped into a café where she works for Rene this really smarmy profiteer.
All of the narrative that is from Eve’s perspective save the very end of the book is in 1915 and it is used as a response to whatever behavior she has displayed in the Charlie narrated 1947 chapters. Confused, yet?
So Eve is a spitfire and her chapters were far more interesting than Charlie’s because come on, she was a spy! Infinitely more interesting than anything going on in the Charlie chapters. In fact, had this novel been just the Eve tale, I think it would have been a better novel all around. Not sure it would have garnered much more rating wise from me but I may have enjoyed it more.
Don’t get me wrong though, I have issues with her too. Really, I have issues with the depiction of women in this entire story.
In this case, Eve as a spy is placed as a server in the café that Rene owns. He forces his authority and connection to the Germans on her and they end up in a sexual relationship. In the course of the relationship, she gains intel and shares it through the network. In the end, when he figures out she must be a spy (there is an arrest that happens that leads to this assumption) he attempts to gain information he can trade for his life (because you know, Nazi’s aren’t known for being understanding) by torturing Eve and breaking all of her fingers. Which is why the old battle-axe in the 1947 narratives has “claw like hands.”
I said I don’t like the depiction of women in this story, correct? There are three women talked about the most in this novel. Eve-our spy and battle axe; Charlie-our naïve 20 something; and Rose Charlie’s lost cousin.
All three of these women end up pregnant at some point in their tale.
Eve as a result of the sexual relationship she is in with Rene has an at home abortion.
Charlie as a result of her response to grieving her brother’s suicide is going to have a clinical abortion but ends up keeping her baby.
Rose as a result of a loving relationship also keeps her baby.
I understand why it may be important to just talk about the struggles a women who found herself pregnant in the 40’s had. However, was it necessary for everyone to have that struggle. Additionally, did Rose and Charlie’s lives have to parallel to the point that both have disapproving parents, both end up leaving home behind, and they each name their children after each other.
Additionaly, in the case of Eve and Charlie, they are depcited as using sex or being forced to use sex and then that being the way they view sex going forward. There is no growth there.
There is also this underlying theme in each characters existence of guilt.
Eve is convinced by Rene during the torture session that she gave up her friend and fellow spy and blames herself for her friends imprisonment and ultimately her death (which is caused by a disease).
Charlie believes that she should have been able to save both her brother and Rose. Her brother commits suicide after coming home from WWII and Rose, as previously stated, is shot by Nazi’s.
Finn carries around guilt due to his service duties of clearing out concentration camps.
The recruiting Captain is guilty for ever putting Eve in her situation.
Everyone is all guilty all the time. Everything is their fault and they internalize all of it. It’s unhealthy and overused throughout the book.
Let’s talk about that Captain for a minute. So The Alice Network is a network of female spies during the world wars. Mr. Captain man recruits them, collects their intel, and gives them orders. He poses as their Uncle in the grand cover story they all have in which they are all related in some way or servants or whatever. Now this Captain is of course handsome because somehow the women all describe themselves as ugly but the men are all dashing and handsome (Even the profiteering sleezeball!) and he and Eve are in love. No, they are. I mean, that’s what is thrown in the middle of a chapter when Eve is struggling to continue sleeping with Rene. That she is in love with the Captain. Oh OH Oh annnnd turns out he is in love with her too!
Now, he has a wife and children but when Eve seduces him, he ends up sleeping with her. He has apparently, always loved her since they met and when he eventually passes away leaves most of his estate to her (despite having children?). This felt 100% unnecessary. It was like the thought process was, “Shit, I need to explain why Eve has money but never works. I know! The Captain loves her and he’ll leave her lots of money in the end. Boom!”
The culmination of this entire story is the revenge Eve would like to have on Rene for alllllll the crap he put her through, forcing her to turn in her friends, and the whole breaking her hands thing. conveniently, the man behind Rose’s death is , you guessed it, Rene. So! These two women go off and hunt him down to confront him. He’s still sleazy. We still don’t like him. What happens to him isn’t surprising in the end. You know it’s coming. I did like the addition of Charlie leaving a photo of him surrounded by Nazi’s because Nazis are bad and no one likes Nazis.
I gave the book 2 stars on Good Reads and I’ll tell you why. There is an author’s note at the end of the book that explains all of the historical elements in the book and how they tie in. That is the best written, most interesting, and best part of the entire book. For that, and the recommended reading list, I give two stars.
Otherwise, no. Not my favorite. The only shining spot on finishing this read is that I can check off a box on the bingo card I’m completing for my local library. Now, to pay my late fee and move on to something else. Oy.