*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Alice Network, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
Have you read any books featured by Reese’s Book Club? (As in Reese Witherspoon. In case you didn’t know, she has a online book club which is part of her company Hello Sunshine and the books they choose get the Reese seal of approval–much like Oprah’s book selections.) Anyway, for me, the books I’ve read have been hit or miss. Lately, though, it seems Reese is hitting it out of the park with titles like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Little Fires Everywhere, and Where the Crawdads Sing.
Needless to say, The Alice Network is a Reese’s Book Club pick and I loved it. The novel is a dual timeline story featuring two women as they deal with both WWI and WWII. It is set primarily in France. When the two women meet in the aftermath of WWII, their stories converge and they set out on a journey of discovery and revenge.
The story features a few rough-around-the-edges characters who use salty language, so if that bothers you alot, take note. However, I was able to push past that and really enjoy the book. There are also some unpleasant scenes, but this is war-time fiction and that shouldn’t be a surprise.
In fact, I’ve read quite a lot of WWII fiction (less WWI fiction) and I have to say that this was one of the only books I can remember feeling excited about throughout the read and happy at the ending. With stories like The Nightingale, the ending was cathartic, but ultimately sad. This is more of an upbeat, thriller-type of women’s fiction. The ending is happy (which some readers did not like, but I did!).
If you’re looking for a book club book that includes a fast-paced plot with some character development, a little romance, and some WWI female spies (based on an actual WWI spy network), then definitely check out The Alice Network. No, the book won’t win a Pulitzer, but I loved it! And, apparently so did Reese!
For food ideas, book club questions and more for The Alice Network, keep reading!
Here’s a brief summary of The Alice Network:
In the 1947 aftermath of World War II, Charlie St. Clair finds herself pregnant, unmarried, and desperate to find her one true ally—her cousin Rose. When Charlie’s parents send her to Europe to take care of her “little problem,” Charlie decides instead to set off on a mission to find Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war.
In 1915, Eve Gardiner longs to join the fight against the Germans. When she’s unexpectedly offered the chance to join the Alice Network, a ring of women spies, she jumps at the chance. Eve soon catches the eye of a German collaborator and she must choose whether she will become his mistress in the hopes of gaining information or abandon her country.
Thirty years later, when Charlie St. Clair stumbles upon Eve in her search to find Rose, she discovers a woman haunted by mistakes and betrayal and surviving in bitter seclusion. Eve is happy to subsist in such a way, until Charlie mentions a name she hasn’t heard in decades and launches a mission for truth…and revenge.
For The Alice Network recipe:
Since this book is dual-timeline and features flashbacks to pre-war times as well as post-war times, it was much easier to find a recipe to work with than other World War books have been. Most books featuring either World War deal extensively with starvation and rations. You can see my posts on In Farleigh Field and The Nightingale where I relate that struggle.
In The Alice Network, there is food mentioned throughout. In fact, one of the main characters runs a restaurant. For the recipe featured here, I decided to make madeleine cookies from Charlie’s favorite memory of Rose. In Chapter 7, when the two girls are left at a restaurant by their absentminded parents, they spend the afternoon waiting for their return, stuffing themselves with piping hot madeleines and sharing secrets.
If you’d like a few other food ideas from The Alice Network to serve your book club, here are several:
- Prosuitto and goat cheese sandwiches (from the same afternoon-Chapter 7)
- Finn’s one-pan breakfast with eggs, bacon, mushrooms, and beans (Chapter 3)
- Baguettes and Jam (Chapter 6–meeting Lili)
- Rene’s Absinthe cocktails (Chapter 24)
- Eve’s Gin cocktails (Chapter 1)
- Lili’s Brandy cocktails (Chapter 6)
Madeleines are soft, cake-like cookies that taste a bit like yellow cake mix often found in U.S. grocery stores, with a hint of extra lemon. They are delicious and beautiful! And, best served warm with a cup of coffee.
Please note that to achieve the shape of the cookie, especially the humped back, which rises in cooking, the dough must be refrigerated for at least an hour before cooking. The cookies were not difficult to make, but may require a test batch to make sure they cook as expected.
They are very French and very tasty. So, if your book club is looking for food ideas for The Alice Network, look no further!
- Madeleine or Mini Muffin Pan
- ½ cup butter melted and cooled
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup flour sifted
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- ½ tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp lemon juice
- Powdered sugar
- Melt butter. Set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, whisk eggs and sugar together until frothy and light yellow, about 3 minutes.
- Add in lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla.
- In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder.
- Add flour mix to the eggs and sugar by folding in.
- Incorporate the cooled butter to the mix, being careful not to over mix.
- Refrigerate for 1 hour or more. This helps the cookies rise into their expected shape when cooked.
- Lightly butter a non-stick madeleine pan (or a non-stick mini muffin pan).
- Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.
- Lightly dust with powdered sugar once the cookies are cooled.
The Alice Network Book Club Questions:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
- This book spans WWI and WWII, covering the aftermath of both wars. In what ways do you think the aftermath of both wars was the same and in what ways do you think that it differed?
- Louise de Bettignies (Lili) was a real life WWI hero who led a network of spies. She was often underestimated because of her stature and gender. If another world war occurred today, do you think the same stereotypes would persist or do you think we’ve moved beyond those blind spots? Why or why not?
- In the beginning Eve sees Charlie as delicate and foolish, but by the end of the book Charlie surprises Eve, even being the one who ultimately rescues her. Why do you think Eve discriminated against Charlie in the same way others had discriminated against her? Talk about how this idea of gender stereotyping/discrimination repeats itself in Rose, Lili, and Violet as well.
- There is a saying that there is a thin line between love and hate. How do you think that the physical intimacy between Rene Bordelon and Eve complicated walking that thin line? Do you think it compromised Eve’s ability to carry out her mission? In what ways did it blind Rene? Do you think that Rene was blinded by “love” or pride?
- Were you surprised at Rose’s fate? Did it disappoint you as a reader? Before reading The Alice Network had you heard of the tragedy of Oradour-sur-Glane?
- Did Lili’s fate surprise or disappoint you? Do you wish Kate Quinn would have rewritten this piece of history or are you glad she stuck to the truth?
- In the book Eve decides to have an abortion, but Charlie decides to keep her baby. While Eve’s reasons are fairly clear-cut, Charlie’s are less so. Why do you think Charlie decided to keep her baby?
- After she is discovered, Eve taunts Rene, telling him that his pride blinded him. How do you think that Eve’s pride factored into her own demise? If Eve had listened to Cameron, what do you think would have happened to Eve? What might have happened differently for Rene?
- In the end, Eve and Charlie end up saving each other. Discuss the ways they rescue one another. Was there anything that surprised you?
- No one in the book was left untouched by war. In what ways do you think that war brought out the best and the worst in each character? Talk about the best things that surfaced in Rose, Lili, Eve, and Charlie. Talk about the worst things brought out in Rene, Cameron, and Charlie’s brother. What about the best things that came out in Rene? Do you think he was evil or only a profiteer (is that a bad thing)? Do you think he really thought he was helping Eve (Marguerite) and, if so, would that make him kind?
Have you read The Alice Network? What did you think? Did it satisfy you or were you left wanting more? What are some similar books you’ve read?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
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Other Books picked by Reese’s Book Club that you might enjoy!