Archive | 10:49 AM

Book Club Reflection: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

29 Jun

I think it’s safe to assume my book clubs will continue to meet online until the fall. I can’t say I mind. I like being in my athletic shorts and having a beer. And finishing dinner five minutes before it starts. We were able to attract a lot of new members this month, too. I’m not sure if it’s because the book was available easily online, people are bored, or this was an interesting book to more people, but I didn’t mind. As with my last group, we also had to find some COVID connection. This time, it was how Charlie’s brother’s PTSD seemed to jump to her as if it were a virus that could be transmitted. But we had a lot more to say about Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network than that.

There were a lot of great characters for us to discuss in this one. Eve was a group favorite and we spent a lot of time on how she changed from 1915 to 1947. We talked about two things that seemed to change her. The first was her relationship with Rene and the intimacy she engaged in with him. She seemed to start feeling strongly about herself and what she was doing when she enjoyed their intimate forays. She wanted to hate it because of who Rene was, but she found pleasure at times. What he did to her hands brought out her bitterness toward him. The second event was when she thought she’d betrayed Lily. She saw herself as a failure and couldn’t realize that she might be guiltless. Her job really changed who she was at heart. One member brought up how glossed over her abortion decision was, but felt that it changed how she saw her job and her commitment to it.

Rose’s story was hard for a lot of us to process. We thought it wouldn’t end well but were still wishing for a happy fairy tale ending. We hadn’t heard of the massacre. Besides Finn’s story of the gypsy girl, the survivor’s story was the most haunting moment of the book. One member had done more research and found that there was an elderly survivor in the town who stayed and she had the same name as the character in the book. History shows that there was a woman in the church with a baby who was killed in a similar fashion to Rose. It’s even more horrible when you know it’s true.

Lily was also a historical figure. She was often overlooked during the war because she was a short woman and wasn’t suspected of doing any spying. We were split on if we thought woman would be as effective as spies in modern times. On one side, women are more involved in military activities and are seen as more likely to engage in risky activities. Still, they are a bit more conspicuous than men, but the difference is much smaller than it was 100 years ago.

Rene was hard to read about. He was evil and cruel, seeming to have no respect for human life. One reader felt he was so moralless as to be almost unrealistic. Others felt that there were, unfortunately, people like him in the world. Even worse, we still have people like this in our world. We saw a parallel between his moral hardening between WWI and WWII parallelled with the German its change. We debated if Rene should have faced legal justice, or if the vigilante justice Eve inflicted was right. We weren’t sure that the public would have had the stomach for it at the time after the Nurenberg Trials had been carried out. He was a man of violence and a violent end seems appropriate for him. It was even more appropriate that the statue of Boudelaire was used.

Finn was a welcome character in this book. He was also damaged by war and was very non-judgemental of Eve and Charlie for how the war had affected them. He was parallelled well with Captain Cameron. Eve’s affection for Cameron and Charlie’s affection for Finn were both rooted in mutual trauma but blossomed into something beautiful.

The women in this book had some strong friendships. Eve and Charlie started as enemies but grew to become very trusting and reliant on one another. Lily and Even started as friends and their friendship carried them through some hard times. These friendships were strong like family ties and the women passed no judgments for what had to be done. Charlie’s pregnancy and Eve’s abortion were never questioned on a moral level. These women were thrown together in very intense situations which can help strong relationships form. You understand someone and how they think quickly. They were also fighting the same enemies which gave them something to bond over quickly. Eve, Charlie, and Rose all had overbearing mothers as well. That may be generational, but it’s something that would have helped them bond, too.

This was a great discussion and I’m only sad that I read the book so long ago that I didn’t remember the details well. I’m looking forward to connecting with the group again soon. Maybe we can see each other again in the fall. Until next time, write on.

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