The June meeting of the Bridge Cottage Book Club TOMBS & TOMES was held this week on Tuesday 26th June. As the weather was so glorious we held the meeting on the patio of Bridge Cottage overlooking the River Uck. Not all members could make the meeting this month but did send in their review for us to share at the meeting.
Those members in attendance enjoyed a good discussion about our June book pick. ‘The Alice Network’ by Kate Quinn which is a dual timeline historical fiction novel. The premise of the book is indeed based on fact, The Alice Network was a vast intelligence group run by real-life female spy Louise de Bettignies (1880 – 1918) a French secret agent who spied on the Germans for the British during World War I using the pseudonym of Alice Dubois. She could speak French, English, German, and Italian. This network provided important information to the British through occupied Belgium and the Netherlands. The network is estimated to have saved the lives of more than a thousand British soldiers during the 9 months of full operation from January to September 1915.
Kate Quinn interweaves this real life story into her novel telling the story of two women—one in 1915, a female spy named Eve recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and the other Charlie – an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947— these two women are brought together in a story of courage and redemption.
Club members enjoyed learning about the aspects of the World War 1 and felt that Quinn had carried out interesting research in this area, telling the story of these brave female spies, fictionalised within the narrative of her book. Quinn explores the themes of female friendships across the decades through the development of the relationships between characters Lili, Eve and Charlie. All members enjoyed Quinn’s depiction of the 1915 storyline but felt the 1947 story was less captivating and at times seemed less value to the overall plot.
We explored how PTSD was recognised and treated historically, compared to today’s advancement in recognising and treating this trauma. The term “shell shock” came into use to reflect an assumed link between the symptoms and the effects of explosions from artillery shells. The term was first published in 1915 in an article in The Lancet by Charles Myers. Today there are many organisations to support military personnel returning from conflicts that may be suffering from PTSD, such as Combat Stress.
The atrocities at Oradour-sur-Glane were discussed, with some members sharing their own experience of visiting the village left as a memorial to the 642 people massacred by the Germans here on the 10th June 1944.
Members overall thought the book was a good read, it was felt some of the 1947 dialogue was unnecessary but on the whole an interesting and enjoyable read.
TOMBS & TOMES Book Club rating:
See more details and past Book Club reviews HERE.