The Alice Network, a suspenseful, dual timeline historical fiction novel, begins in the early 1900s…In 1915, stuttering Eve is identified as a good liar, speaks several languages and is asked to spy on the German soldiers in France during WWl. In 1947, Charlie, a young, pregnant girl is looking for her beloved cousin, Rose, who disappeared in France during WWll. Charlie follows a lead to located someone in London who can help and finds herself on a journey with Eve, now an older, often drunk woman with a secret past. Together with Finn, the driver, they set off to track down Rose and ultimately are faced with old and painful memories. While perseverance and bravery prevail, we learn the history of a women’s spy ring in France, based on real happenings – during challenging, dangerous and secretive times. We follow the wonderful characters through the successes and failures of their lives, as they confront the ghosts of the painful past and unravel the mysteries of the wartime to discover the truth. A fantastic novel, not to be missed.
This is a photo of Louise de Bettignies, known as The Queen of Spies, the real woman who ran the spy ring called the Alice Network, right under the noses of the German soldiers. Kate Quinn’s character, Lili is based on Louise. Should the book become a movie, the author talks about her preferences for the cast. Click the link below to see who she recommends.
Q & A with Kate Quinn
Where do you get your ideas for writing?
KQ: Generally something will hook me—a person, a historical event, a place—and it’s something so interesting, so cool, so off the wall, that I realize it would be a great hook to hang a story on. For The Alice Network it was the realization that there had been this network of WWI spies, many of them women, who had been organized and led by a woman nicknamed “The Queen of Spies”—that was so fascinating to me, I had to write about it!
Writing a story that goes back and forth between two time periods musts be a difficult process. How did you do it?
KQ: Some authors, when writing a dual timeline, write all of one and then all of the other, then go about the work of intercutting them. I might do that in the future for another book, but for The Alice Network, I cut back and forth between the two even while drafting my rough draft. It helped me draw parallels between the two stories that much more easily.
Eve’s hands were a focal point and the cause a mystery throughout the story. The scene where we witness what happened to her was so gruesome and upsetting… how did you come up with it?
KQ: The thing with writing a dual timeline is that the timeline that takes place in the past must still have tension. I can’t keep the reader in suspense about whether Eve survives whatever danger she encounters in WWI, because you see in the second, 1947 timeline that she’s alive. So giving her the disfigured hands was an immediate way to set up a mystery: from the first time Charlie and the reader meet Eve, the question is “What happened to her hands to mak them look that way?” It’s one of the questions that drives tension in the 1915 timeline, since you know at some point you’re going to find out what happened.
Smashing knuckles is a fairly standard torture throughout the ages, I’m sad to say, because people have so many nerve endings in their fingers. Finger injuries are very painful but not life threatening, which is just the kind of injury torturers want to inflict on people from whom the are trying to extract information.
How did you come about including poetry references in your novel?
KQ: I love Baudelaire’s poetry—it’s both lush and disturbing in the imagery, perfect for my villain with his lush, disturbing tastes. And with “Les Fleurs du Mal,” Baudelaire’s most famous volume of poetry, I saw the chance to incorporate the broader metaphor about women as flowers, and my various ladies with their floral names!
Which character did you identify with the most?
KQ: I identified more closely with the young Eve and her struggle with her speech impediment, because my husband has a stutter (it was his idea in part to give Eve her speech impediment) and I have for nearly 20 years watched his frustrations in dealing with the world that makes assumptions about people with stammers.
To commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the death of Louise de Bettignies, France issued a postage stamp with her likeness in 2018.
About the author:
Kate Quinn is a New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written seven historical novels, including the bestselling “The Alice Network,” the Empress of Rome Saga, and the Borgia Chronicle. All have been translated into multiple languages.
Kate and her husband now live in San Diego with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.