At the beginning of the summer, I came across a book I have been wanting to read for a long time—The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, which is based on a real-life spy network that operated in German-occupied France during the First World War. I was quickly drawn into the lives of characters Charlie St. Clair, a young woman determined to find her missing cousin Rose, and Eve Gardiner, a World War I spy damaged by a past she can’t forget. It was hard to put this book down, since I wanted to know what would happen next. This powerful story came to me at just the right time, and Eve’s courage, strength, loyalty, and fierceness and Charlie’s sheer determination, loneliness, and hopeful heart will stay with me for a very long while. I’ve put together other books that elicit the same feelings of hope, bravery, and friendship.
In THE ALICE NETWORK, Eve, Charlie, Finn, and Captain Cameron are all searching for something. Charlie for her cousin Rose, Eve for the man who destroyed her life, Finn and Captain Cameron, both former soldiers, searching for peace. For another take on searching, pick up a copy of THE VERDUN AFFAIR by Nick Dybek. Tom, a young American orphaned in World War I, now lives in Verdun, France. A former ambulance driver, he understands the devastation of war and helps grieving families search for their lost loved ones. Sarah Hagen, an American woman, is searching for her missing husband, Lee. Paul, an Austrian journalist, is searching for the person who killed men in his command. The three of them meet when they learn about a man with amnesia who just might be the one that each of them is looking for. This is an unforgettable novel about love and loss and the scars that last after the battle of war has ended.
Hope and connection pulse throughout THE ALICE NETWORK as Charlie yearns to find her missing cousin Rose, whom she loves like a sister. Another similar story of longing and connection is THE YELLOW BIRD SINGS by Jennifer Rosner. In 1941 Poland, Róża and her five-year-old daughter, Shira, flee their home to escape Nazi soldiers. They find shelter in a neighbor’s barn, and their lives go from ones filled with love and music to lives consumed with silence and isolation. Róża and Shira have a strong connection, and even when they are separated, that connection grows even stronger, as does the hope that one day their lives will be filled with music again. A beautifully written story that holds a special place in my heart.
I am drawn to stories of survivors, and in THE ALICE NETWORK Charlie, Eve, and Finn, Eve’s hired man and a former soldier, are all survivors. As I was reading the story, I found myself hoping that one day they would all find the peace they are searching for. THE WORLD THAT WE KNEW by Alice Hoffman is also a story of survival. The story takes place in Berlin during World War II, and Hanni Kohn knows she is running out of time to save her twelve-year-old daughter, Lea, from the Nazis. Hanni must get Lea out of Berlin but cannot go with her. In desperation, she turns to Ettie who is the daughter of a rabbi. Ettie creates a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem, who is sworn to protect Lea and bring her to safety.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * LONGLISTED FOR THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL
On the brink of World War II, with the Nazis tightening their grip on Berlin, a mother’s act of courage and love offers her daughter a chance of survival.
“[A] hymn to the power of resistance, perseverance, and enduring love in dark times…gravely beautiful…Hoffman the storyteller continues to dazzle.” —THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
At the time when the world changed, Hanni Kohn knows she must send her twelve-year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. Her desperation leads her to Ettie, the daughter of a rabbi whose years spent eavesdropping on her father enables her to create a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem, who is sworn to protect Hanni’s daughter, Lea. Once Ava is brought to life, she and Lea and Ettie become eternally entwined, their paths fated to cross, their fortunes linked.
What does it mean to lose your mother? How much can one person sacrifice for love? In a world where evil can be found at every turn, we meet remarkable characters that take us on a stunning journey of loss and resistance, the fantastical and the mortal, in a place where all roads lead past the Angel of Death and love is never-ending.
One thing that stood out to me while reading THE ALICE NETWORK is how the women in the story supported and mentored each other. In THE SECRETS WE KEPT by Lara Prescott, Irina Drozdova, a young Russian-American secretary, is working for the CIA typing pool when she is recruited to be a spy. Her most important mission deals with the banned novel Doctor Zhivago. Similar to how Eve is mentored by Lili, the Queen of Spies, Irina is mentored by the glamorous Sally Forrester, a seasoned spy who can turn on the charm and get the information she needs from men who can’t keep secrets. Both novels opened my eyes to these remarkable women and their extraordinary friendships.
While reading these books I found that many characters, especially women, felt like they had no purpose and that they did not belong. When Eve joins the ranks of “the Alice Network,” she finally feels like she belongs and has a purpose. In FOR LOVE AND COUNTRY by Candace Waters, Lottie Palmer leaves behind her fiancé and privileged lifestyle to join the Navy WAVES program. Filled with a new purpose to make a difference in the world, Lottie works hard to be the best airline mechanic in her division and becomes one of the only female mechanics assigned to Pearl Harbor. A thought-provoking book about finding your purpose and the life that is uniquely yours.
For fans of Janet Beard’s The Atomic City Girls and Marie Benedict’s The Only Woman in the Room, this powerful, romantic novel tells the story of a woman determined to aid her country, finding love in the midst of tragedy along the way during World War II.
When Lottie Palmer runs away the day before her wedding to join the Navy WAVES program, she not only leaves behind a fiancé, but also the privileged lifestyle that she has known as the daughter of one of the most important manufacturers in Detroit’s auto industry. Spurred by a desire to contribute meaningfully to the war effort, Lottie pours all of her focus and determination into becoming the best airplane mechanic in the division, working harder than she’s ever worked before.
Her grit impresses her handsome instructor, Captain Luke Woodward. But when the war ramps up and she is assigned to Pearl Harbor she must fight her growing feelings for Luke and navigate her role as one of the only female mechanics among a group of men, all while finding out what it means to be your own hero.
Illuminating the story of a woman who sets out to make a difference in the world by following her heart, Candace Waters draws on her extensive research, transporting us from Detroit to New York, and San Diego to Pearl Harbor during the tumultuous time of World War II.
For the characters of THE ALICE NETWORK, taking a stand, being brave, and facing fears defines who they are. THE LIGHT OVER LONDON by Julia Kelly takes place during World War II. It is the tale of nineteen-year-old Louise Keene, who is trapped into marrying a man she does not love. When Louise meets Flight Lieutenant Paul Bolton, who is stationed at a local base, she begins to see that her life could change, but without warning, Paul gets reassigned. Louise decides she wants a larger life and heads to London, where she joins the women's auxiliary branch of the British Army. Louise becomes a gunner girl, which was a very dangerous job. As air raid sirens sounded throughout dark skies, the gunner girls would spot enemy planes as they flew over London. For Louise, it is the hope that she and Paul will have a life together that gets her through the dark nights. I got caught up in Louise’s story and the story of these incredibly brave women who risked their lives every day.
One of the relationships in THE ALICE NETWORK that I liked is the relationship between Charlie and her cousin Rose. More like sisters than cousins, Charlie and Rose have always depended on each other. When Rose goes missing, Charlie makes a promise to do whatever she has to do to find Rose. In THE DAUGHTER’S TALE by Armando Lucas Correa, set during World War II, promises play a very important role—from a promise between a husband and a wife, to promises between a mother and her daughters, to a promise between sisters. A heart-rending story about the promises we make and the promises we keep even when it seems impossible.
From the internationally bestselling author of The German Girl, an unforgettable, “searing” (People) saga exploring a hidden piece of World War II history and the lengths a mother will go to protect her children—perfect for fans of Lilac Girls, We Were the Lucky Ones, and The Alice Network.
Seven decades of secrets unravel with the arrival of a box of letters from the distant past, taking readers on a harrowing journey from Nazi-occupied Berlin, to the South of France, to modern-day New York City.
Berlin, 1939. The dreams that Amanda Sternberg and her husband, Julius, had for their daughters are shattered when the Nazis descend on Berlin, burning down their beloved family bookshop and sending Julius to a concentration camp. Desperate to save her children, Amanda flees toward the South of France. Along the way, a refugee ship headed for Cuba offers another chance at escape and there, at the dock, Amanda is forced to make an impossible choice that will haunt her for the rest of her life. Once in Haute-Vienne, her brief respite is interrupted by the arrival of Nazi forces, and Amanda finds herself in a labor camp where she must once again make a heroic sacrifice.
New York, 2015. Eighty-year-old Elise Duval receives a call from a woman bearing messages from a time and country that she forced herself to forget. A French Catholic who arrived in New York after World War II, Elise is shocked to discover that the letters were from her mother, written in German during the war. Her mother’s words unlock a floodgate of memories, a lifetime of loss un-grieved, and a chance—at last—for closure.
Based on true events and “breathtakingly threaded together from start to finish with the sound of a beating heart” (The New York Times Book Review), The Daughter’s Tale is an unforgettable family saga of love, survival, and redemption.
Change is an important factor in THE ALICE NETWORK. Charlie and Eve go through many experiences that change them, and these changes bring them closer to who they truly are. THE BOOK OF LOST NAMES by Kristin Harmel is about a woman named Eva Traube Abrams, who is a semi-retired librarian living in Florida. One day, while working in the library, Eva comes across an open magazine and sees an image that stops her in her tracks. The image is of a book that she knows well but has not seen in sixty-five years. Only Eva and one other person know it as The Book of Lost Names. In 1942, after Eva’s father was arrested, she was forced to leave Paris and found safety in a small mountain town. Eva became a forger and helped to change the identities of Jewish children in order to protect them. Eva and another forger, Remy, created a code to change the names of many children. Their hope was that one day the codes would help the children whose names were changed to reclaim their identities. A most powerful story of bravery and love.
“A fascinating, heartrending page-turner that, like the real-life forgers who inspired the novel, should never be forgotten.” —Kristina McMorris, New York Times bestselling author of Sold on a Monday
Inspired by an astonishing true story from World War II, a young woman with a talent for forgery helps hundreds of Jewish children flee the Nazis in this “sweeping and magnificent” (Fiona Davis, bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue) historical novel from the #1 international bestselling author of The Winemaker’s Wife.
Eva Traube Abrams, a semi-retired librarian in Florida, is shelving books when her eyes lock on a photograph in the New York Times. She freezes; it’s an image of a book she hasn’t seen in more than sixty years—a book she recognizes as The Book of Lost Names.
The accompanying article discusses the looting of libraries by the Nazis across Europe during World War II—an experience Eva remembers well—and the search to reunite people with the texts taken from them so long ago. The book in the photograph, an eighteenth-century religious text thought to have been taken from France in the waning days of the war, is one of the most fascinating cases. Now housed in Berlin’s Zentral- und Landesbibliothek library, it appears to contain some sort of code, but researchers don’t know where it came from—or what the code means. Only Eva holds the answer, but does she have the strength to revisit old memories?
As a graduate student in 1942, Eva was forced to flee Paris and find refuge in a small mountain town in the Free Zone, where she began forging identity documents for Jewish children fleeing to neutral Switzerland. But erasing people comes with a price, and along with a mysterious, handsome forger named Rémy, Eva decides she must find a way to preserve the real names of the children who are too young to remember who they really are. The records they keep in The Book of Lost Names will become even more vital when the resistance cell they work for is betrayed and Rémy disappears.
An engaging and evocative novel reminiscent of The Lost Girls of Paris and The Alice Network, The Book of Lost Names is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of bravery and love in the face of evil.
Of course, pick up a copy of THE ALICE NETWORK and treat yourself to a truly wonderful read!!
Photo credit: iStock / Jun