I’m not sure whether to call this “Girl Power: the Novel” or “PTSD: the Novel.”
The Alice Network is a historical fiction novel telling the combined stories of Charlie Sinclair and Evelyn Gardener, who both lost a close, spirited friend to the cruelties of the two world wars. They team up in search of Charlie’s missing cousin, Rose, and in the end discover that their experiences were quite similar, embrace independence, and finally hunt down the person who wronged them both.
Now, I don’t think you should read this book. But in case you feel so inclined, I’ve omitted spoilers as much as possible.
Entertainment: 4/5 Intellect: 3/5 Overall: 7/10
The book gets its name from The Alice Network in World War I, an incredibly efficient network of spies run by a woman with the code name Alice. And, to be honest, The Alice Network is the best part of the book. For a few days, when the book was going over the training of the agents and the clever tactics they used to get past German soldiers, I was really craving some spy stories. I haven’t wanted to be a spy since I was about five, but this book reawakened that side of me.
Unfortunately, the spy part stops becoming the focus very quickly. The plot still revolves around it, but we don’t learn any more clever tricks, and the book becomes increasingly about the cruelty of war, the oppression of women, and the injustice of some men getting away with their crimes–all of which I’ll get to in the intellect section.
There were some other things I liked, as well. I felt like Lily’s kind of character should be tired and cliche by now, but I loved every single scene she was in. And it turns out that she’s based on a real person!
At first I hated Charlie’s portions, but I started really liking Charlie around the time that Eve gave her the full update on her past: Charlie started talking about interesting things. Though I’m still disappointed that they didn’t do more with Charlie’s math skills. Yes, they’re somewhat relevant, but in between the book’s occasional references to it, I completely forget that Charlie went to college. It’s a really great idea, and reminded me of Hidden Figures, but I’m pretty sure that I’ll forget it was even a part of Charlie’s character a few weeks down the line.
While I’m still complaining about characters, can we talk about how the young women kept falling head over heels for Scotsmen? Charlie’s makes sense at the end, but Eve’s seems almost completely pointless. I know I’m just not much for romance at all, but that one just felt out of place.
This book gets a 4 in entertainment for two reasons: the first reason is the spy bit, which addicted me. The second is the last few chapters. I loved the climax. You should have heard me squeal when Rene walked into that restaurant, or when Charlie grabbed the bust. It also had a very nice epilogue that brought everything together, and it felt like a really satisfying ending.
People who have read the book may wonder why I would give the book a 3 in intellect, considering how many obvious themes it has. But the thing is…I already am a feminist, I already know that war is awful, and the book doesn’t go nearly deep enough into bad people getting away with bad things.
The Alice Network focuses a lot on PTSD and how horrible war is. I feel bad for being annoyed by that, and it’s true that anybody in that time period would have had those thoughts on their minds, but…it’s not like I haven’t heard all of that before. Yes, war is bad; yes, people were really shaken by the massive losses and atrocities at the time. So it’s realistic to have those reactions in there, but repeating them over and over again to the audience just feels like a waste of space. It’s not deep. It’s just kind of there.
There was one thing stuck with me, an insight that actually came from the great Lily herself: people give into vice during a war because they don’t know if they’ll live long enough to see the consequences of their actions. Who cares about lung cancer or liver disease if you might not wake up tomorrow, or could get shot at any minute?
That was a really nice little epiphany, and I think it will stick with me for a long time. But one single sentence in the book isn’t enough to warrant a higher score in intellect.
Apart from that, there’s not really much to say. I honestly feel that the book was overall a waste of time, except for that one point that stuck with me. I wouldn’t recommend reading it.