Tag: Historical Fiction

The Alice Network Book Review

Kate Quinn offers a treat for history buffs and those who like a bit of romance. Her book, The Alice Network, is set in the years immediately following World War II. But, the focus of more than half the book is World War I, also known as The Great War.

Charlie

Alternating chapters reveal the stories of two women. Charlie, short for Charlotte, opens the story in 1947. She is searching for her cousin Rose. The family lost contact with Rose while France was occupied by Germany. Charlie has one lead, Evelyn Gardiner.

Charlie is also running away. Her story is a combination of post war stresses as well as her search for Rose. War has long-lasting consequences for both soldiers and families. Quinn does an outstanding job of conveying post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) throughout Charlie’s tale.

Fans of romance are treated to just a bit as Charlie becomes attracted to Finn Kilgore, employee of Evelyn Gardiner. Kilgore’s background is of a former soldier with some issues. He is struggling a bit but is a rock to both Eve and Charlie.

Eve/Marguerite

Evelyn Gardiner is the protagonist of The Great War story as well as the support Charlie needs in her search for Cousin Rose. Evelyn now known as Eve and sometimes as just Gardiner, is a drunk. But during World War II she served as a spy with the assumed name Marguerite.

Marguerite Le Francois is an integral member of the Alice Network. She is recruited in England but placed in France. Her fluency in English, French, and German makes her an ideal spy. Of course Marguerite is entirely concocted by Quinn. But The Alice Network was real. So too were some of the key supporting figures in the story of Eve. The weaving of fact and fiction is expertly done.

The Alice Network

Throughout history, women have been a party to war. During the Great War, women served as key figures in spy rings operating behind enemy lines. In the chapters focusing on Eve’s storyline, Quinn demonstrates the sacrifices made by these women. Then through Charlie’s story, she gives the readers a glimpse of how long-lasting the impact of war is.

I really enjoyed The Alice Network. The back and forth between storylines worked. Although the reader knows Eve survives World War I since she is still around in 1947, there is still quite a bit of suspense to this novel. I greatly appreciated the author’s notes at the end of the book. Quinn spells out fact from fiction as far as the war events. Those more knowledgeable of The Great War might not appreciate the notes as much.

I strongly recommend this book. The members of The Alice Network went to great lengths to shorten the war. The author does a really good job of showing the impact of war on soldier and civilian as well.

The characters are endearing. The story is suspenseful. The ending is akin to a romance novel even though there is a dose of bittersweet. Kate Quinn has a winner in this well researched and well written book.

New York Station Book Review

Book cover of New York Station and poster of Saratoga racetrack.
New York Station takes place in and around Saratoga Springs.

New York Station by Lawrence Dudley is the perfect example of a writer using current events for inspiration. Recently I have read several books involving fixed elections. New York Station is the best of those. Perhaps the fact the book uses an election prior to the United States’ entry into the Second World War plays a part in my enjoyment. I like historical fiction.

Roy Hawkins is the central character in New York Station. He is half American and half British. Hawkins is a spy for the Brits and the opening scene place him in Paris as the Germans roll in. The main purpose for this setting is to give the character a position in the war as a contrast to the many isolationists later introduced in the book.

The novel’s move to New York establishes Dudley’s point of view. The writing entertains, but I believe the author is also using New York Station as a vehicle to present a case against neutrality. The plot is well-developed and based on fact. A populist movement of non-intervention divided America in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. There are parallels to current events and the author shares those in a subtle way. This is one of the best attributes of the book. Lawrence Dudley definitely has his point of view. He makes his case, but in a way that does not ruin the story.

The action takes place in the summer of 1940. The Nazi’s are trying to rig the Presidential election. Furthermore, the German’s are actively engaging in espionage. Apparently, the United States did not have an organization to track spies at this point in time. Far right leaning activists are also featured. The picture painted has some similarities to the 2016 election. Outside forces want to influence the election process so integral to America’s core belief system. In New York Station much of the scheme is foiled.

Added to the intrigue is a bit of romance and gambling. Hawkins falls for a New York socialite Daisy Van Schenck. Daisy needs money to shore up family losses. The Van Schenck’s did not weather the Great Depression well. Daisy has rented her mansion to the Nazi Party for fundraising purposes. The event does not end well and triggers quite a bit of violence.

Saratoga Springs

Much of the action takes place in and around Saratoga Springs, New York. The racetrack plays a part in the story. Part of the plot revolves around a sure bet. Sure because of cheating. Since New York Station is historical in nature, there is plausibility in the sure bet. Today a sure bet is far more difficult because of racetrack testing.. This is the first scene showing conflict within the lead character.

Hawkins struggles with the violence that occurs, justifying often that the end goal takes precedence. There is some conflict of loyalty, although he seems much more British than American. The author makes good use of secondary characters to shape the actions of his main character.

I found New York Station quite entertaining. The snapshot of Saratoga Springs was quite different from my small experiences with the area. Perhaps the historical angle is responsible or perhaps my point of view differs from the author. However, I believe Dudley has written a book that is thought provoking. When is it okay to stay on the sidelines? How does one know when to take a stance? Does the end justify the means? This is shown through the actions of the characters and is well done. I highly recommend you read New York Station.