Today is Halloween and what’s spookier than historical fiction??? They say that history repeats itself, like a broken record stuck on the Halloween theme song. Michael Myers has never looked better:
The Alice Network* by Kate Quinn is extra historical fiction-y because it follows two parallel timelines (no spoilers-- this is “back of the book” stuff). One involves a female-dominated spy ring in World War I; it focuses mainly on Eve, an English native who moves to German-occupied France to spy on some German dudes. The second is set in 1947, where a young woman searches for her missing cousin throughout war-torn, recovering Europe. I’m a big fan of the former thread and less enthused by the latter.
First and foremost: the book is too long. It’s over 500 pages when it doesn’t need to be. The novel’s two threads weave in and out of each other, which provides plenty of material, but not 500 pages worth. Since the book jumps around in time, place, and narration, I was initially worried that I’d get lost in the shuffle; however, Quinn does an excellent job of transitioning between settings in a straightforward, sensible way.
Fictional spies are cool; actual spies are even cooler. The Alice Network is inspired by Louise de Bettignies, a secret agent whose code name was Alice Dubois. Speaking of Dubois, one of the plot points that I found most dubious ended up being an actual event. The novel holds my interest in its historical accuracy and I like Quinn’s focus on women as unlikely yet potent forces during both world wars. On the other hand, some of the inner dialogue is cheesy and, as aforementioned, many chapters are redundant, which leads to unnecessary length. Overall, The Alice Network receives 3 out of 5 camel humps.
*Quinn, Kate. The Alice Network. New York: HarperCollins, 2017. Print.