Finishing this book was a long time coming! I decided to “buddy read” it with a friend so I didn’t get through it at my usual pace. BUT, I’m a terrible person and started reading ahead and finished it about a week and a half ago >.< IT WAS SO GOOD! This is a historical fiction novel that takes place during WWI and WWII in France and flashes back and forth between two main characters to tell the story. We learn about Louise de Bettignies or Alice Dubois–who was a real member of a spy network during WWI.
First we meet Charlie St. Clair. She’s a young woman in college who finds herself unwed and pregnant in a time where such things were unacceptable. Her mother is taking her on a “vacation” to Switzerland where young women can go to have a little operation to undo such predicaments. But Charlie has a hidden agenda for the overseas trip as well. Her cousin, Rose, has disappeared and no one has heard from her in years. After WWII began, her letters became less and less frequent until they stopped altogether. Rose and Charlie’s father made some attempts at tracking her down early on but when they came up empty, they gave up. Charlie isn’t so quick to believe that Rose is gone and she plans on tracking down her cousin. She made some calls before they departed and came up with the name of someone who might be able to point her in the right direction, Evelyn Gardner.
Evelyn Gardner is a fifty-something year old bitter drunk with gnarled hands. She wasn’t always this way, but the war changes people. Eve was recruited as a spy when she was in her early 20s for the a spy ring called The Alice Network. She was plucked from her file room job and sent into the depths of German-occupied France where she is tasked with digging up information against the Germans to feed to back to Europe. She poses as a waitress at a restaurant owned by a known profiteer, where Germans frequent. She’s just plain young girl with a stutter and would not draw any suspicion. Back in those days, no one would suspect a woman of being a spy.
Charlie and Eve’s world collide as they find that they have one person in common–someone from Eve’s past might hold the answers about Charlie’s cousin, Rose.
I am a huge fan of historical fiction. Books based around the wars aren’t typically my jam but this is definitely an exception. It’s really hard to pick whose story I loved more, Eve’s or Charlie’s. Eve’s story touches on the life of Louise de Bettignies–a real woman, though not widely known today, who was a pivotal part of the war efforts for her contributions as a spy. While Eve and Charlie’s characters are fictional, they are so well-developed and you can’t help but come to love them both as you read their stories. This was a book that was SO hard to put down! It physically pained me to pace myself through it, ha. This was my first Kate Quinn novel but based on how this one is written and how much I loved it, I would definitely pick up more of her work. I’d give this book 5 stars for sure.