The premise of this book was intriguing, and the dual storylines that help craft this story were done masterfully. I found both of the storylines, one taking place in the midst of WWI, the other being placed two years after the end of WWII, equally interesting.
In the WWI storyline, stammering, innocent-looking Eve gets recruited to be a part of a network of female spies whose mission is to secretly extract information from unsuspecting Germans. She quickly forges a close relationship with the “queen of spies”, Lili (based off of real-life spy Louise de Bettignies), as she goes undercover as a waitress at an upscale French restaurant that caters to Germans. She faces many challenges as she gathers intel, and one has to admire her dedication and grit. Eve was the most complex character of the novel, which might be aided by the fact the reader is exposed to two sides of her: the young spy in one storyline, a haunted old woman in the other.
The other storyline, taking place in 1947, focuses on pregnant Charlie and her search for her beloved cousin Rose, who had gone mysteriously missing during WWII. Charlie possessed many facets to her character that helped give her some depth – I particularly liked that even though she was raised by a wealthy, socially-conscious family that she understood the values of hard work and wasn’t afraid to forge her own path. She is able to get Eve, now a hard, no-nonsense alcoholic, and her (cook? driver? I’m not really sure what exactly his job title was supposed to be), Finn to join in on her search for Rose. This unlikely trio soon embarks on an emotional journey that involves digging up dark memories from Eve’s past.
I did have some problems with certain aspects of this novel. I could not get past how repetitive the writing seemed at points. There were so many times where Charlie imagined that she was seeing Rose that it got to the point where I just skipped these paragraphs since they all delivered the same message. While I liked that Quinn gave Eve a stammer, the presence of it was constantly mentioned in the same manner. I believe I read the description of Eve balling up her fist in frustration to force out a particularly difficult word at least a dozen times.
The relationships between some of the characters felt forced. Most notably, I could not grasp the emotional connection between Charlie and her cousin Rose, even though this relationship is one of the driving forces of the whole plot. The reader is constantly being told how much Charlie loved Rose as her surrogate older sister, but I never really got how their bond could have been so deep.
There were, however, some genuine relationships present that helped make this novel shine. The comradery present between Eve, Lili, and Violette felt authentic, and the bond between Eve and Lili was the strongest in the book in my opinion. I enjoyed watching Charlie gradually warm up to Eve and eventually admire her greatly. And, despite its predictable nature, I grudgingly admit that Charlie and Finn made for a well-matched couple.
This novel had a nice feminist slant that I enjoyed. “Girl power” was definitely a major theme in this book, and I thought it was done well. I thought that Quinn explored the female spy network with great authenticity. She didn’t try to throw a layer of glamor over the dangerous, grueling, and difficult work that these women did in order to help end the war.
Overall, this was a well-researched historical fiction novel with distinct characters and plenty of emotional moments. It made for an engrossing read, and I flew through it, despite it being over five-hundred pages.