Author: Kate Quinn
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Indiebound |Goodreads
Summary: This was everything I look for in historical fiction – two gripping stories about incredible women, loosely based on a true story.
I love dual narrative historical fiction and this was one of the best representatives of that genre that I’ve read. Our story starts in the aftermath of WWII, as pregnant, unmarried Charlie St. Clair struggles to gain some control over life. When her parents send her “to Europe to have her ‘little problem’ taken care of,”(source), she instead sets off to find out whether her missing cousin Rose might still be alive. The only cluse she has leads her to Eve Gardiner, whose time as a spy during WWI turns out to connect to Charlie’s search in surprising ways.
This story won me over within the first page. Even as a reader who sometimes feels like an outlier for not wanting to write, I still wanted to figure out how the author managed to pull me in so quickly. I think part of it had to do with her choice of details. The writing wasn’t overdone, but the author provided enough little details that each scene was convincing. It felt true. I also fell for Charlie right away. She’s clearly dazed by her circumstances, but hasn’t lost her willingness to defy convention for a good cause. She’s also unconventionally into math, which I related to.
The author used the first conversation Charlie has with her mother to establish the historical context and the personal context naturally. Between the conversation and Charlie’s thoughts, we got a clear picture of the times and Charlie’s situation without it ever feeling like an info dump. When we meet Eve a little later, she’s certainly not immediately endearing, but she’s just as intriguing as Charlie. So that’s setting and characters mostly taken care of – both were fantastic. The last thing I want to mention is that there was a great found family component to this story, which I loved.
Last but not least, the plot kept me hooked all the way through. There were several mysteries that made this book nearly impossible to put down. I also enjoyed watching the different characters’ relationships develop. Of course, I was only more excited about this gripping story when I got to the author’s note at the end. It turns out far more of this story was rooted in fact than I would have guessed. The author notes where she’s speculating and where she’s compressed the timeline, always nice to know.
I’d recommend this to anyone else who shares my love of dual narrative historical fiction, learning about women in history, and/or found families.